A group of University students held a demonstration addressing the recent, ongoing political scandal concerning the South Korean president in front of Nassau Hall on Friday at 2 p.m.
The demonstration was conceived by four Korean students concerned with the current situation in Korea: Sejin Park ’18, Wonshik Shin ’19, Rachel Lim ’18, and Sally Hahn ’19. They, along with other students who have signed the declaration, articulated the group’s “Declaration Regarding the State of Affairs in the Republic of Korea,” first in Korean, then in English. The declaration expressed solidarity with Korean protestors and demanded specific actions from the Korean government in the face of the country’s political scandal.
The scandal, which began in October, centers around South Korean president Park Geun-Hye and her close friend Choi Soon-Sil. Among other things, President Park has been accused of sharing presidential speeches containing confidential information with Choi, who has no government experience or clearance. Choi has been accused of using her connection to the president to pressure corporations into donating to her foundations, from which she is accused of embezzling money for her daughter’s benefit.
“As we were going through the situation in Korea, we thought that we should do something about it. And we noticed that a lot of campuses, other campuses, were doing this, so we said, ‘Let’s gather people who think the same,’” said Lim.
Before the reading of the declaration, handouts containing the declaration in both Korean and English were distributed to the audience of about a dozen attendees.
Minsu Park ’20 started the reading of the declaration in English. He read, "we have witnessed the tragic reality that overshadows the Republic of Korea. President Park has betrayed the trust of the people by abusing the power bestowed upon her.”
DoWon Kim ’18 noted the effects of the scandal on Korea’s democratic foundation. He described the group’s grievances against President Park, and expressed solidarity with Korean protesters.
The group went on to list demands of the Korean government. Hahn demanded President Park’s resignation, adding that the group is “demanding the prosecution investigate the accusations of corruption in strict accordance with the law and without regard for social status.”
The final demand was for the Korean government to pass legislation to “prevent similar misconduct in the future.”
The declaration was undersigned by seventy-three Korean students and alumni of the University, according to the demonstrators.
“We were able to gather a lot of interested [people]—not only undergrads, but grad students and alumni,” said Park.
Erica Choi '18 noted that it is common in Korea for people to issue declarations in response to political scandals.
“The concept is similar to the American open letter, but we want to actually declare it [our letter] publicly,” she said.
Although the physical audience at the demonstration consisted of just around a dozen people, the group’s intended audience was those in Korea. The demonstrators live streamed their reading on Facebook.
Erica Choi noted that there are also Americans who are interested in the issue.
“We’re embracing awareness," she said.
“Given the fact that the recent election showed polarization of the country, I think it’s important to think about what’s happening with democracy in the world and stability. So, we want to encourage students to take interest in an issue like this,” added Lim.