▲ KUSA Star:zari’s logo. Provided by KUSA Facebook page.
When Star:zari, the 48th iteration of the Korea University Student Association (KUSA), was launched earlier this year was launched earlier this year, it promised to carry out a host of new projects in a way that the previous KUSA failed to do. Among these projects were plans to create an integrated application that would facilitate studies, the Why Not? Project, which was designed to restore and protect students’ educational rights, and the Dotori Project, which aimed to increase awareness of Korea University’s (KU) dormitory problem. Now that Star:zari’s term is up, it is time to look back at its projects and see which were successful and which were less so.
One thing is for sure; it has not been smooth sailing for Star:zari. During its time in office, Star:zari has been blighted with issue after issue such as the KakaoTalk sexual harassment incident and the Choi Soon-sil scandal, to name a few. Many students harbor animosity toward Star:zari over how they have addressed these issues, as evidenced by the impeachment petition introduced at the end of October; but does Star:zari really deserve all the hate it has received?
A Turbulent Year
It is easy to see why KU students might have such an issue with Star:zari. For instance, many consider the lackluster application project a miscalculation on Star:zari’s part. The integrated application, which was scheduled for release at the start of the second semester, was pushed back to November, irritating those who had been eagerly anticipating its release. When it finally saw the light of day, many students criticized its buggy performance and convoluted user interface.
Another criticism that is often leveled at Star:zari is its mishandling of the Cyber Ko-Yon games. While the Cyber Ko-Yon games have traditionally been hosted by the KU club Deluxe, this year Star:zari took it upon itself to host a similar event. It was later accused of stealing the limelight from Deluxe, coming under particularly heavy fire from the autonomous press Go-zip. Due to the massive uproar in the aftermath of this incident, Star:zari relented, allowing Deluxe to continue hosting the Cyber Ko-Yon games as it has since 2011.
Some students claim that Star:zari is also guilty of a lukewarm response to the KakaoTalk sexual harassment incident. Despite its severity and the extensive ramifications, Star:zari only convened one Central Steering Committee meeting addressing the matter. “Star:zari planned on further dealing with the issue during the Student Representative Meeting this semester,” Park Se Hoon ('13, Political Science and International Relations), the 48th president of KUSA, explained. “Sadly, the meeting fell apart due to the lack of representatives present.”
Though Star:zari fumbled some of its projects, however, there were more positive aspects to be found in others. For one, it adopted a much more active role than previous KUSAs in restoring students’ educational rights with the newly christened Why Not? Project. It even managed to secure a meeting with Yeom Jaeho, the President of KU, concerning this matter. Star:zari also made significant headway against KU’s egregiously high admission fee, a sum of money that freshmen must pay directly to KU in addition to their tuition fees. Eventually, it enlisted the help of Minbyun, a group of probono lawyers, to combat the unpopular policy. “Even though these projects were not, strictly speaking, successful,” President Park commented, “Star:zari prides itself on having raised awareness of these issues, such as the one concerning admission fees, through our projects.”
The Final Storm
Star:zari ironically faced its largest threat a few days before its term came to an end, when it was confronted with the grave prospect of impeachment after mishandling the declaration of state affairs regarding the Choi Soonsil scandal. It has been argued that the declaration, which should have been a statement railing against the shortcomings of the Park Geun Hye administration and representing the views of most, if not all, KU students, was instead occupied with setting forth tangential and controversial political matters. Students also accused Star:zari of yielding leadership to other political groups when it should have spearheaded the declaration itself. This blunder, compounded with Star:zari’s aforementioned missteps, provoked students into signing an impeachment petition posted on the online community Koreapas.
The negative feedback on Star:zari’s declaration of state affairs led to the indefinite postponement of the declaration’s announcement along with the planned press conference. Due to issues with the tenability of the arguments raised against Star:zari, the impeachment petition was ultimately shot down in the third provisional Student Representative Meeting held on October 31. Nonetheless, the petition itself left Star:zari visibly shaken. In a way, the impeachment petition forced Star:zari to atone for its previous mistakes.
“The petition was a potent reminder that Star:zari needed to be careful when dealing with controversial and sensitive subject matter like the Baek Nam-gi incident.” President Park acknowledged. “The petition’s criticism of the Deluxe incident also motivated Star:zari to come up with a manual for how to alleviate tensions between KUSA and autonomous organizations, should the need arise,” he added.
A Fresh Start
▲ President Park Se Hoon reading aloud the declaration of state affairs. Photographed by Kim Seung Hyun.
Communication was the term most often cited when students expressed their grievances with Star:zari, especially during the Student Representative Meetings and in the impeachment petition. Students pointed out that Star:zari seemed unwilling, whether intentionally or not, to communicate with the people that they were supposed to represent. According to those students, this miscommunication was what led to the misunderstanding over the Cyber Ko-Yon games and the impeachment fiasco.
Star:zari, on the other hand, approached the matter of communication from a different perspective. “Communication is not all about maintaining the outward appearance of communication, for instance gathering opinions via Google documents or having babyak with every student,” President Park pointed out. “Star:zari believes true communication should revolve around strengthening the ability of each individual college to properly represent its students, and facilitating the process through which students’ voices can be heard.”
Some people encourage others to recognize that the students themselves are complicit in perpetuating miscommunication. A student from the Department of Classical Chinese noted during the third provisional Student Representative Meeting that less than half of all KU students participated in the KUSA election last year and that they hardly ever turn up to meetings where they can set forth their own opinions. “Students are usually indifferent to campus politics,” he remarked, “but they blame their representatives when things go south.”
Star:zari undoubtedly came up short in many respects, including but not limited to hiccups in communication and unilateral action on KUSA’s part concerning the declaration of state affairs. Yet Star:zari deserves to be commended for bringing attention to subjects that would otherwise have been overlooked. One need only look at the admission fee project and the Dotori Project to observe how the twin issues of the admission fee and KU dormitories were brought to the forefront this year thanks to Star:zari’s efforts. Hopefully, the 49th KUSA will use Star:zari’s experiences as a foundation from which to forge its own unique path forward.