In South Korea, people tend to associate the word “college festival” with performances by high-profile K-pop stars coupled with alcohol at night. This year, thought-provoking campaigns are making their way into many university compounds as a growing number of students step up to project their voices on pressing social issues during the festival period.
At Sungkyunkwan University’s festival Eskara held on Monday, booths dealing with current social issues captivated a sizable cluster of college students, outsmarting other attractions such as a giant inflatable slide, recreational activities and a flea market.
Students are lined up to enjoy various activities at Sungkyunkwan University's festival Eskara. (Photo by Ahn Sang-yool/The Korea Herald)
The university’s special committee -- formally called SKKU #MeToo #WithYou Special Committee -- held a #MeToo campaign, which collected signatures, and an equality campaign. The two campaigns are considered the first official and concrete action taken by the committee according to its member Noh Seo-young.
With former SKKU professor of Graduate School of Culture Management Nam Jeong-sook at the helm, a group of students formed the committee on March 8. Nam claimed that she had been sexually harassed by another professor at SKKU and was soon notified by the school that she was unqualified for rehiring.
While collecting signatures from the students to support the #MeToo movement, the committee members distributed promotional flyers to publicize their organization and inform the university students of the steps it has taken so far.
SKKU #MeToo #WithYou Special Committee's booth (Photo by Ahn Sang-yool/The Korea Herald)
Running the equality campaign, committee members received memos on sticky notes to hear students’ voices and complaints on inequality on campus to set the direction as an organization.
The 13-member committee was looking to draw public support and involvement by coordinating a host of events.
“The committee included #WithYou in its name to follow up the #MeToo movement with further support. And we’d like to ask for participation from those who visit our booth,” said a third-year student.
Next to SKKU #MeToo #WithYou Committee’s tent, students were testing their general knowledge at the fair hosted by the Student Council for Women of the Liberal Arts College.
Participants were given 16 true or false questions on sex to bid for small prizes.
Two students answer true or false questions from the Student Council for Women of the Liberal Arts College‘s booth. (Photo by Ahn Sang-yool/The Korea Herald)
The 23-year-old council leader Ham Soo-min said the questions were designed to enhance students’ general understanding of sexual relationships and masturbation that remain taboo topics in Korea.
In addition to promoting healthy and safe sex, the council aims to provide an atmosphere more comfortable for women to speak out for their rights in relationships. After the quiz, visitors were given hand-outs which covered women’s rights.
“The council seeks to raise public awareness about sex-related issues and familiarize students with feminism or at least have them understand it is not a concept that belongs to another world,” Ham said.
Since female prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun opened up about sexual harassment in January, the #MeToo movement has gained support from various sectors in South Korea. The movement is having an impact on campus, as well, as many students are backing the #MeToo and #WithYou campaigns to prevent recurrences of sexual assaults and harassment while promoting women’s rights by offering information necessary but often excluded from discussion.
By Ahn Sang-yool (email@example.com