▲ Provisional Student Meeting held in 4.18 Memorial Hall. Photographed By Kim Seung Hyun.
On January 28, a provisional Korea University (KU) Student Representative Meeting took place in the 4.18 Memorial Hall. The meeting’s first agenda was informing the representatives of the newly established Special Committee for the Management of Autonomous Spaces’ direction. Subsequently, the meeting moved on to discussing whether to support KU manual laborers’ struggle against the school administration for replacing the original laborers with workers from another service provider who worked for less hours.
The first agenda was chosen as a response to the administration’s tendency of not sharing information with KUSU, specifically information regarding its plan to construct numerous new buildings. KUSU planned to form a committee for every old building being reformed or new building being constructed and create a separate petition for each to submit to the administration. KUSU explained that this method was devised to keep the lack of information from hindering the student’s demands to be reflected in the construction plans.
The Special Committee for the Management of Autonomous Spaces is exclusively designed to deal with problems arising from President Yeom Jae-ho’s plan to construct new buildings, as stated in his New Year’s Address earlier this year. This committee is divided in to four smaller subsidiary committees for each key building. These buildings are the SK Future Hall, the Communications Building, the Aeginueng Student Center, and the Central Plaza of the Science and Engineering Campus. These plans received a warm reception from the student representatives, with no one impugning KUSU’s report.
The second part of the meeting started by expounding upon the current status of the manual laborers’ struggles. On December 26, 2017, the administration stated that it will begin replacing the original laborers who had contracted to work for eight hours a day with new workers slated to work only three hours a day, purportedly due to the lack of budgets caused by frozen tuition fees.
In response, the KU branch of the manual laborer labor union started rallying against the school administration by holding demonstrations early in the morning and publicly gathering in the Central Plaza. The second agenda of the Student Representative Meeting revolved around whether the student body should support the laborers through a public statement. Unlike the first agenda, this discussion sparked heated debate.
The central point concerned how the student body could intervene in the issue when the administration’s actions were perfectly legal. Specifically, the administration does not employ its manual laborers directly, but through a service provider by the name of C&S Asset Management Company (CNSAMC). From a legal perspective, by terminating the contract with CNSAMC and entering into a new contract with another service that goes by the name Kobi, the administration is not firing any employees but merely changing who decides to employ workers.
While the general consensus acknowledged that the school was abusing the employees through loopholes, there was much back and forth on whether this sentiment should be included in the statement that would go public. Some representatives were concerned with how the student body could not achieve much by denouncing this view of the problem, and argued that KUSU should concur with the laborers over how the administration’s new employment system will undermine the sanitary condition of the campus and exacerbate their educational environment.
However, KUSU emphasized how necessary the statement was to the status quo. The President of the College of Political Science and Economics Yoon Jung-in (’15, Political Science and International Relations) implored, “The changes suggested can be applied later; we should ratify the statement as is.” Rather than being rejected, the statement was revised through discussion until the representatives arrived at a consensus. The revised statement was approved with 58 for, 2 against, and 5 abstaining.