Hong Kong issue heats up on Korean campuses

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Hong Kong issue heats up on Korean campuses

Tension between Korean and Chinese students is escalating across some universities in Seoul as more Koreans are starting to voice their support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, inviting ire from Chinese nationals who urge them not to interfere in other countries’ business.

Korea University in Seongbuk District, central Seoul, has seen one of the most evident political conflicts so far after a group of Korean students at the university hung a handwritten poster endorsing the Hong Kong democracy movement on the school campus Monday — only to have it torn into pieces and thrown into a nearby trashcan shortly after.

Some students wrote on the school’s community website Koreapas that they saw “students speaking Chinese” tear down the poster.

A group of Chinese students at Korea University hung its own poster on the school campus Tuesday, saying it was the “responsibility” of all Chinese, including those living in Hong Kong, to protect the “national unification and security” of China because Hong Kong is “an inseparable part” of the country.

The Chinese poster denounced Hong Kong protesters as “disturbing the social order” of Hong Kong through “illegal” acts, saying they were mostly “Hong Kong separatists and politicians with an ambition,” not college students, as some media reports indicate.

At Yonsei University in Sinchon, western Seoul, a group of Korean students whose name loosely translates as “Korean Students at Yonsei University Who Support Hong Kong” hung banners at four different locations on the campus on Oct. 24.

A Korean Yonsei undergrad later came forward saying he saw a group of people who said they were Chinese tear down the banners just two hours after they were put up. When he confronted them, they were quoted as telling him to “stay out of other countries’ business” and that “Hong Kong citizens are arousing chaos.”

At Seoul National University in Gwanak District, southern Seoul, a group of Korean students backing the Hong Kong movement hung two large white posters on a wall on the campus and encouraged students to show their support for Hong Kong by posting yellow Post-it notes on them.

But some notes read, “What does this have to do with you Koreans?” and “I hope our Korean friends don’t upset Chinese people’s feelings.”

At Hanyang University, when Korean students hung a poster supporting the democracy movement on the school campus in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul, on Wednesday afternoon, it prompted outrage from a group of Chinese students.

Lee Myoung-jin, a sociology professor at Korea University, said it seemed Chinese students in Korea are “gaining more confidence” as they see their homeland develop and meet more Chinese people studying here, which inspires them to raise their voices even in a foreign land.

“The Hong Kong protests aren’t something you can say are right or wrong. Hong Kong citizens want democracy and independence, while the Chinese don’t want to lose a land they already have experience losing in the past from an external force,” Lee said.

BY LEE BYUNG-JUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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