On April 2, the Emergency Measures Committee (EMC) of Hanyang University (HYU) announced on their Facebook page that HYU’s annual spring festival, also known as ‘Rachios’, will not be held this year due to the lack of students willing to organize the festival, and also because there was not enough time for the EMC to educate their new recruits. The EMC is a temporary student union established by low voter turnout. As voter turnout for the Student Union (SU) did not meet required standards, it has created a domino effect which ultimately caused the cancellation of HYU’s spring festival. Thus, HYU students feel disappointed at the continuing problems within the EMC and mostly feel regret about the cancellation of the spring festival.
HYU Students’ Stance
The reasons behind how the students think about the cancellation of the spring festival differs between students. Park Jeong-hyun, a Junior in the Department of Business Administration said: “First of all, I deeply regret that the spring festival was cancelled, but I also understand that the EMC would have struggled to organize a fun festival, and that they have been struggling thus far before writing up the announcement. I have no choice but to accept the decision that has been made by the EMC.” However, Park also talked about things that she wished the EMC had done better. “For instance, even though the EMC called for new members to join the Central Steering Committee (CSC) twice in the beginning of the semester for the spring festival, they never mentioned the benefits students get if they join it. Instead, they only laid out some conditions that students had to keep. Listing out benefits that students would have when they joined the CSC is important because they could act as big motivators for the students.”
Jeon Se-eun, a Sophomore in the Department of Sociology also said: “I don’t really understand the decision they have made because the autumn festival held by the EMC last year went pretty well. I didn’t get much information about the CSC recruitment, nor did I get any information about the SU elections. I personally think that the candidates who ran last semester didn’t promote their election pledges clearly, and I didn’t get enough information on where and when I should vote.” Jeon also said that she could sense the general student body’s interest in the SU was low. “I think it’s because the SU doesn’t think of any activities that can have a direct influence on the students’ life on campus. Also, I believe that the students would have a hard time trusting the EMC due to Lee Gang-hyun’s embezzlement scandal that happened this January. They should work on establishing the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) and work on the auditing process more responsibly this year.”
HYU EMC’s Stance
The EMC was evaluated by many students to have hosted a successful festival last year even though it was not done by the official SU. However, the EMC this year shocked the students by announcing that they would not be able to organize the spring festival this year. As mentioned previously, there was a lack of student volunteers who were willing to work with the EMC to plan the festival. It seems to have failed despite the EMC putting major forces through big changes after Lee’s embezzlement, such as the establishment of a legislative assembly within the SU. In addition to this, the EMC stated several other reasons behind the cancellation of Rachios. Kang Ho-jung, a CSC Representative, explained: “Last year’s festival was run by more than 40 people in four teams: Stage Management, Promotions, Human Rights, and Event Planning. I could work with a minimum number of people when planning but needed more when it actually came to organizing. But this year, there were mainly inexperienced members except for one person, therefore the team could not be established. I felt that in this case, the festival would face many difficulties as they would have trouble negotiating with other companies in regard to issues that could arise due to money or rent problems. The risks were too high to ignore.”
When asked why he felt the CSC recruitment did not go well,he proposed two reasons. “Firstly, I believe that because of the embezzlement issue associated with Lee Gang-hyun, we lost credibility with students. Secondly, I think students feel burdened by the massive workload CSC members must take on. As time goes by, I find that it is very difficult for the SU to satisfy all students’ demands since their interests changed dramatically compared to the past.” Instead of the spring festival, a small-scale festival was held by each department, while some departments decided not to hold a festival this semester. As for funds, the EMC designated 3 million won to be spent from the SU account and negotiated with the Student Support Team at HYU’s Administration Office to receive 10 million won. The leftover money will be used for the autumn festival which the EMC guarantees to hold. The EMC has already begun preparing for the autumn festival, in order to not let down students’ expectations for it. The EMC is planning to collect 2 years of resources and make an official guideline to educate new recruits.
Other Universities’ Stance
Some problems that are like HYU’s situation have also happened before to other universities. For instance, the SU of Seoul National University had a dispute with the National Alliance of Squatters and Evictees (NASE) about safety issues that continuously emerged during the festival. Yonsei University planned events for their students through an EMC for nearly three years, but this year that EMC was replaced with the SU as its voter turnout finally met its required standards. Gangneung-Wonju National University (GWNU) had a similar embezzlement issue like HYU, which was when their SU president embezzled 20 million won on May 2016. At GWNU, the SU also lost students’ support and switched to a SU run by the EMC.
Re-Evaluation on the Concept of the Student Union
In the 1980s, there were many historical student activities that occurred along with the rise of the SU, such as the May 18 Democratization Movement, and the June Democratic Uprising. Unlike the 1980s where the SU took a very important role in society, nowadays, the role of the SU has shrunk into focusing more on students’ welfare, college fees, communication, and others.
As Korea’s democratic society matures and as outstanding scientific technologies developed, students focused more on themselves as individuals, not mainly relying on the SU. Despite it being said that there will be an autumn festival big as last year’s festivals, students must strive to meet the EMC halfway in searching for the glory of the SU.