Moments in life slip by easily and, without a special effort to record them, they can fade away forever. Photographs and text are essential tools for capturing these passing moments and having them last forever as memories. These methods not only describe the situation but also capture vivid feelings, and that is the charm of making a record of events and turning an ordinary day into an unforgettable one. One group of students are making Korea University (KU) shine by recording a daily glimpse into life on campus: the Humans of Korea University (HoKU).
HoKU is a club that depicts the daily lives of KU students by posting interviews with them online. HoKU members want their page to become an exchange diary among KU students, in which anyone, regardless of their background, can share their stories. Diaries generally include not only the writer’s
own story but also their memories about their friends and families. Likewise, HoKU began conducting interviews to record both the daily moments of KU students and the surroundings of the campus, including visitors and shop owners in Anam.
The group originally started in 2015 as a project directed by Korea University Supporting & Planning Agency (KUSPA), a student club which holds cultural events for KU students. HoKU stood on its own in 2017, opening its own Facebook and Instagram accounts. The president of the club, Lee Ji-Hyeon (’17, Korean Languange and Literature) says that through this club, she has been reminded of the fact that KU does not belong to a certain group but to everyone who contributes to KU’s reputation.
Preparing to Capture the Memories of KU
HoKU consists of three teams: editing, photography, and translation. The editing team bears the most responsibility because they create the blueprints for the entire process. The editors of HoKU take a lead role in setting the theme for the upcoming projects, selecting the appropriate interviewees, and posting the interviews. During the interview, photographers accompany the editors and take pictures
of the interviewees. With the help of the translation team, English translations of the interviews are made, and HoKU finally uploads its content to their Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Because the interviews are the main component of the club activity, contacting new interviewees is the most important process. There are two ways to set up interviews: by scheduling an interview beforehand or by finding random people on the street. In the first way, the club selects an interviewee during a team meeting and contacts them in advance. However, HoKU prefers to use impromptu interviews in which the editors go out into the streets and look for interviewees.
“Unlike other media outlets, HoKU has its own uniqueness in that we usually get interviews on-site,” says Han Hee-Kyung (’15, Material Science and Engineering), the Vice President of HoKU, “They are usually more demanding than prepared interviews because everything needs to be arranged on that day, but that is how HoKU receives candid responses.” For instance, the interview with a saxophone player in October 2018 was absolutely unprepared, as one of the editors abruptly decided to interview him by chance because he heard music from the College of Political Science and Economics. They interviewed the saxophone player about why he decided to play the instrument in the building and shared that conversation with the students.
▲ Interview with Lee Ji-Hyeon and Han Hee-Kyung
While their work has received growing interest from students, HoKU is faced with some difficulties, two of which are the limitations of social networking service (SNS) platforms and the difficulty in making sure that readers correctly understand an interviewee’s meaning. As HoKU records its interviews in writing, the editors and translators are always careful not to distort the original message that the interviewees want to portray. When having a conversation, both verbal expressions and non-verbal expressions are important in understanding the speaker’s key points.
This is especially true when they interview foreign students. In addition to translating the intended points, the speaker’s tone and facial expressions are also difficult to describe in writing. As there is no fixed benchmark regarding how to preserve the intentions of the speaker and to help the readers understand the situation, HoKU constantly faces the challenge of accurately conveying the interviewee’s thoughts. Furthermore, as the number of Facebook users is gradually decreasing, HoKU members are having difficulty attracting more people to their account. They hold regular meetings to overcome these problems.
The Strengths of an Intimate KU Diary
Although there are some difficulties, HoKU has attempted to overcome these limitations and become an approachable communication tool for KU students. The main goal of HoKU in 2019 is to experience the daily lives of KU students. They hope to be a friendly and easily approachable channel through which students can ask anything regarding the members or the surroundings of KU. Lee mentions that HoKU members hope that more people recognize them when they are wandering around the campus and are more willingly embrace their activity.
The strength of HoKU is that they are not limited to fixed rules. They have the freedom to brainstorm new projects, meet various people around the campus, and interview them to hear their opinions. They have no criteria for selecting an interviewee, and this unconventionality captures candid moments and helps the readers to vividly experience the atmosphere of KU. By sharing precious moments at KU, the dream of becoming an intimate diary for KU is gradually being realized.