[Letters] Don’t fall prey to interest groups

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[Letters] Don’t fall prey to interest groups

I am a second-year college student who, like everyone else in Korea, has been keeping an eye on the current situation regarding tuition and the demonstrations that have been taking place in Seoul. My father was one of the people who led the protests against the government back in Korea’s chaotic 1980s.

It seemed like my grandfather was worried that the “blood” might be running through my veins because he called two weeks ago and asked me if I was joining the protests. I said, “No grandpa, I was not on the streets, I’m not on the streets, and I don’t plan to go, either.” And I did not say that to comfort the old man.

Yes, we all want lower tuition, but not in this way. My university is one of the four universities that went out to Gwanghwamun on the night of June 10 as representatives. Beforehand, the student government officials held a vote asking students to choose whether or not classes should be boycotted on the afternoon of June 10 in order to attend the demonstrations.

Did we simply want to skip class for the cause? The participation rate didn’t reach 30 percent. They couldn’t even open the ballot box because the turnout didn’t reach the mandatory percentage. What made people walk away? Is 70 percent of the entire university wealthy enough to pay nearly 10 million won ($9,290) every year? Certainly not.

According to research by the Korea Student Aid Foundation (Kosaf), 13 percent of students in private universities in Seoul are borrowing money from the foundation which itself borrowed 8.35 trillion won in 2010. The data says one out of 10 students all over Seoul is in debt.

The problem is the lack of communication between the entire student body and the student government officials. What’s been happening in my university lately is that the student government officials haven’t been working inside the university but are rather concentrating on the outside so that literally nothing has changed since they got elected. Their original promises and election pledges included the welfare of students, such as fund-raising for more scholarships, better facilities, approval for longer usage of facilities and so on. It’s almost the end of the semester, and nothing has changed.

The student body has been showing its discontent with the fact that the student government is working for itself, not for the whole. Everyone knows the experience in “leading” such a fight for students’ rights could be a promise for a brighter future - the question is what is the motivation?

If they want contentment, approval, full support and participation in what they are doing, they need to listen to the student body. After all, the student body has elected them over the others so they could fulfill our wishes to the university and the society.

Of course, students want the tuition burden lightened, but at my school we are not willing to follow the lead of individuals who are using the demonstrations and protests to create a reason for their own personal popularity and existence. The ignorant and arrogant connection to the protests of the 1980s where people fought for democracy against a dictatorship should be treated with disdain.

The public shouldn’t fall for the populist ploys of interest groups and student leaders who’ve chosen final exam season to fill the streets. The original intentions are being hijacked (just look at the “MB Out” signs and the anti-American military protesters that have jumped on the bandwagon). What the majority of college students want is a calm and prudent approach to this tuition issue, not some show.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Kim Ji-hyun, a second-year student at a university in Seoul
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