Ewha students enter their 50th day of protests

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Ewha students enter their 50th day of protests

Things are getting messier on the grounds of Ewha Womans University, where the students’ sit-in has reached its 50th day over the Chuseok holiday without a clear end in sight.

“Alone over the holidays? Come join us at the main hall of the university,” read a post on the sit-in’s official Facebook page a day before the holiday season.

The controversial college of continuing education, which sparked the sit-in on July 28, was scrapped by the university president on the seventh day of the sit-in. But instead of going home, thousands of students and graduates gathered at the university to call for the university president to step down. “The university and President Choi Kyung-hee called 1,600 police officers on unarmed students and made the university an unsafe place for the students, who completely lost their trust in the school,” the students said in a press release.

Police entered school grounds on July 30 and rescued five university staff, including trustees, from the main hall that was then occupied by some 200 students. The students have since denied having locked in university staff, saying it was a “confrontation” with the staff to request a time to speak with the president about the college of continuing education.

Students took issue with the fact that the college was being established without agreement by the students, who saw the project as a university scheme to “sell degrees,” given that Ewha Womans University already has a continuing education center and academic programs very similar to the ones planned in the new college.

The students’ call to oust the president has not ebbed over time. Chants of “Out with the president!” echoed throughout the graduation ceremony at the end of last month, and Choi had to abruptly end her prepared speech.

Yet Choi has not voiced any intention to resign from her post, and the battle between the students and the university continues, spreading to areas previously unaccounted for.

For one, police have not given up investigations into the students for reportedly locking in the university staff, despite requests from Choi to drop the charges. Three students, including the president of the student body, were summoned and questioned by police on Sept. 2.

The students, in turn, have lodged civil complaints against the university to the National Assembly and central government.

“We have lodged 1,939 civil complaints to the Ministry of Education, police and other relevant National Assembly committees to look into suspicious conduct of university staff and the board of directors,” the students said in their official statement on Sept. 12, requesting investigation into some shady business deals of the university and the illegality of a commercial building on campus.

A lawyer also sued 10 students for disrupting university administration. Lawyer Kwon Seong-hee, 54, a graduate of Ewha Womans University, sued the students on Sept. 13.

The students will be holding a rally at the university today, on Thursday and on Sept. 27, to demand the university president step down and the university adopt measures to democratize its decision-making process, as well as promising not to press legal charges or take disciplinary action against university staff and students for their participation in the sit-in.

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