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Ewha students call for president to quit

Aug 12,2016
Thousands of Ewha Womans University students and graduates rally on campus in western Seoul Wednesday night, demanding the university president step down. [NEWSIS]
Thousands of Ewha Womans University students and graduates on Wednesday gathered once more on the campus in western Seoul, where a mass student sit-in has been ongoing for weeks, to demand the president to step down.

“It all dates back to July 30, when President Choi Kyung-hee called 1,600 police officers on some 200 students to rescue five university staff from the main hall,” a student spoke into the microphone, her voice ringing across the campus. “The students who have merely been waiting for her at the main hall to meet with her and speak with her were physically and psychologically wounded.”

She continued, “And even after the incident, she spoke first to the press, saying she ‘regrets’ her decision [to call police], and instead of delivering an apology she threatened the students by saying ‘I should have been more strict in handling them earlier on.’”

The thousands gathered on campus seemed united in emotion and energy that night.

“As for the ongoing police investigation into students,” the speaker said, when her voice suddenly broke off. Police said last week that they intend to take judicial action against the students for reportedly locking university staff in the university main hall for two days during their sit-in.

The crowd immediately started to cheer and clap for the speaker. The sheer size of the crowd meant that the cheer that erupted at the front of the line took more than a few moments to travel all the way to the end, trailing in long echoes.

“We cannot trust President Choi anymore,” the student continued. “She has been running the school undemocratically and we demand that she apologize officially and resign!”

With this, the crowd began to march toward the main hall, their voices ringing into the night, “Resign now, resign now!”

Students and graduates used their phones like torches to light up the posters handed out at the gate.

“Your resignation will be your apology,” read a poster, while another read, “Ewha, I’m here for you, sister!”

Often seen in the crowd were mother-daughter pairs, who are either graduates or current students of the university. All were wearing masks, many wearing sunglasses and some even styling special hats usually used by farmers in Korea that cover most of their face.

“We are trying to protect the identities of the students from the authorities’ investigation,” said one of the students to the press, “as well as from other public discrimination against us.”

The sit-in began on July 28, with hundreds of students occupying the university main hall, which houses the president’s office. They requested the president and university end all efforts to establish a new college of continuing education, the “LiFE” College (Light Up Your Future in Ewha).

The college, an initiative led by the Ministry of Education, was to be a four-year college open for people who started working right after high school, and would have offered studies related to new media, health and nutrition, fashion and more. Students called the project a university scheme to “sell degrees,” given that Ewha Womans University already has a continuing education center and that academic programs very similar to the ones planned in the LiFE College already exist.

“The president’s decision to scrap the LiFE College is no longer the solution,” the students said in their press release on Wednesday. Choi announced last week that all plans for the college have been shut down.

“She not only deliberately ignored the voice of students for the past two years on many projects at the university,” it continued, “but showed that she does not care for the students by calling police on them. We cannot trust her anymore.”

Choi requested police cancel all investigations on students, but authorities said they will continue regardless. Groups of professors have since sided with students, publishing joint statements online requesting the president take responsibility for calling the police.

“The sit-in will continue as long as the president does not step down,” students said in their official statement Wednesday.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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