Universities nationwide stage protests

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Universities nationwide stage protests

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Students of Sungkyunkwan University urge an absentee movement on campus in Jongno District, central Seoul, on Thursday in order to pressure President Park Geun-hye to step down. [NEWSIS]

Students of several universities in Seoul joined an absentee movement Thursday to pressure President Park Geun-hye to step down over her friend Choi Soon-sil’s illegal influence over state affairs. This is the first time universities have announced such a movement since the U.S. beef protests in 2008.

Students of Sungkyunkwan University in Jongno District, Seoul, were the first to announce their participation in the absentee movement Thursday afternoon, as they waved picket signs that read “Professor, I can’t make it to class today” and “We can’t put up with you [President Park] any longer.” The students announced, “We are refusing to attend class to fight against injustice, which we did not sign up for when electing the president.”

“Joint absenteeism is the most powerful form of protest I can make as a student,” a participant named Ham Soo-min said. “I want to take the recent university declaration to the next level by actively contributing to the movement myself.”

The university’s declaration last week demanded a thorough investigation into Park and others involved in the allegations. People Talk, a human rights network on Facebook, suggested the movement Sunday and Sungkyunkwan, Kyung Hee, Sogang, Hanyang and Sungkonghoe universities have joined in since then.

“More than 100 universities nationwide issued declarations,” said one People Talk member, “but we hope to take the movement to the street and express our anger more strongly.”

But some universities refused to take part, expressing concern that massive participation can pressure students who are willing to attend class.

Participants left a note on their lecture room that read “I am participating in the 11.10 joint-absentee movement for the resignation of the Park Geun-hye administration,” before joining the rally at 6 p.m. “More than 60 students signed up,” said another member from People Talk Thursday morning, “and we expect more to come, as some universities are discussing whether they should join in.”

During Thursday’s rally, protestors gathered at Changcheon Park in Seodaemun District and walked toward Cheonggye Plaza in Jongno District, Seoul, wearing black and waving their phones to light up the posters. Then they joined a civic activists’ rally, held every day at 7 p.m., to demand the resignation of President Park. Universities in the northeastern and south-central districts of Seoul also plan to participate in the same rally today.

Meanwhile, professors and labor groups nationwide are continuing to issue declarations to demand Park’s resignation. Professors of theology at Yonsei University announced Thursday, “The president denied that she was a cult follower, but we see the truth differently as theology experts. People’s daily lives are being threatened because of the Park administration.”

BY HONG SANG-JI, KIM YU-NA [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]
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