As a Korea University (KU) student, chances are one has heard of ABLE, which is the 50th Korea University Student Union (KUSU). However, it is highly likely that students are not so familiar with names such as, Irum and Seorosori— unless one is a member of the corresponding colleges. These unfamiliar terms are the names that belong to the Student Union of Independent Colleges — College of Business Administration and Liberal Arts respectively. Compared to ABLE which handles various issues related to the entire university, these Student Unions from Independent Colleges are much smaller organizations. Nevertheless, they do play important roles in KU, just like the small yet crucial pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
According to KU, 21,080 undergraduates currently attend the Seoul Campus of KU, and this number is one of the biggest among the four-year-course universities across the country. Since it is nearly impossible to reflect the will of every single student on the school’s policies, KUSU, as a representative of the entire student body, tries to figure out the most utilitarian ways to deal with on-campus issues. Unfortunately, even if KUSU exists for every KU student’s welfare, it is undeniable that the burden is upon the union as they attempt to take care of the matters specific to each and every Independent College. This is where the role of the Student Union of the College kicks in.
There is a total of 16 Independent Colleges at KU. While a few of them have adopted the emergency planning committee system, most of these colleges have their student unions that consist of their own students pursuing their own objectives. Furthermore, student unions exist on the department level as well. These student unions work independently without each other’s assistance. Furthermore, College Student Unions also consist of thoroughly organized departments which manage many different issues.
Student Unions Exerting Effort
Just like the Chongchonggeoreum project, the recent effort in changing the current presidential election system of KU, most projects that are implemented by ABLE cover major issues in KU. However, projects of smaller student unions in Independent Colleges and departments focus more on their students’ daily lives. “This is one of the biggest differences between College Student Unions and KUSU,” said Kim Min-jung (’17, Business Administration), the Head of Division of Finance of Irum.
▲ Kim Min-jung ('17, Business Administration), Photographed by Kim Seung Hye
During the periods in which the mid-term and final examinations are close by, these independent student unions have snacks ready for their students. KUSU also carry out this kind of refreshment event for KU students. However, since the number of snacks that KUSU prepares for the event is limited, they tend to focus more on their own colleges’ refreshment events. Moreover, according to Kim’s explanation of Irum’s past projects, the union has been implementing events such as KU Business School (KUBS) Athletics Competition, baking classes, and various volunteer services affiliated with KT&G (Korea Tobacco & Ginseng).
“KUSU exists for the sake of all KU students so they have difficulties gathering up all the ideas from Independent Colleges, but we do not. It is only the KUBS students who give feedback and suggestions to us,” stated Kim. Just as the KUBS Student Union runs the sound boxes, whose objective is to receive feedback from their students, many other College Student Unions try to make progress by paying their undivided attention towards public opinion. This company-like system of feedback applied to College Student Unions is what makes their projects more effective and meaningful.
Despite all the efforts that College Student Union members make day and night, ordinary students of corresponding colleges seem to be lacking information pertaining to their Student Unions. One student who asked for anonymity said that not much is known about the Student Union’s projects except for the refreshment event during the examination periods. Kim said that one of the greatest difficulties that both the KUSU and College Students Unions go through are the issues they face when notifying students about their achievements.
Moreover, the members of College Student Unions have a lot on their minds about scholarships that they receive from KU. If one serves as a member of College Student Unions, one gets a different scholarship depending on his or her position, but Kim mentioned that what is seen is only the tip of the iceberg. “Some students express envy toward Student Union members of receiving a scholarship from KU. However, I want to stress that the amount of scholarship is not really big enough compared to the amount of work we do as a Student Union member. It is just our passion that keeps us in our position, not the monetary rewards,” stated Kim.
Working for other students seems to be a complicated process for College Student Unions. Since College Student Unions’ budgets are tighter than the that of KUSU, administrators of finance in College Student Unions are required to present a thorough scheme before carrying out their planned projects. Kim demonstrated the whole system of funds being distributed across the division such as validifying the receipts used by the divisions and holding regular meetings for related issues.
Shedding Light on the Assistants
“Frankly speaking, it is hard to serve as a member of a College Student Union. However, I feel proud of myself helping others in need,” said Kim. Just as democracy emphasizes people’s participation in many different issues in the nation, students, as members of KU, ought to be as concerned about their College Student Unions as their representatives. “Student Unions can be criticized by their students for failing to satisfy everyone. Nevertheless, I would appreciate it if students understood that we, as representatives of the student body, are trying our best,” mentioned Kim. For the sake of everyone’s convenience in their everyday lives, having an interest toward Student Unions is the first hurdle. It is time for students to shed light on their own College Student Unions.