My parents were part of the “Protesting Generation”; they survived through the 1980s, when a city could flood with rivers of blood that fought for democracy without the nation knowing. My dad spoke of the times when he was arrested while protesting and being forcibly enlisted into the military as though it was another funny memory from his youth.
Perhaps these stories, in my mind, had created an idealistic view of a university: the hub of creativity, the bazaar of knowledge, and the crucible of active minds fighting for advancement of society. Living in a world brimming with animosity, I had expected KAIST to live up to my image.
But reality is often disappointing. Korean millenials have shown themeselves to be far more conservative than I expected. It may come as a surprise that young people, especially women, are the ones who oppose refugee immigration in Jeju Island the most. If history is a cycle, then we seem to be on the opposite side of progress at times.
This month, the Herald is all about the weak, the battered, and the ignored. Covering a wide range of topics, we explore women’s rights, a country’s independence, and even left-handed minorities of the world.
It’s a difficult world, and for many, these issues are luxuries that are currently unaffordable with our empty emotional wallets. As people, most are good children, friends, and colleagues. They are not “evil” or “uneducated” but people who — due to lack of experience, information, or time — have not and could not be exposed to others’ worlds.
But it is important to remember that for those who are displaced, it is not a luxury. When their livelihood and rights are being threatened, it is not a luxury. Everyday, they must struggle within and without to survive another day. It is our duty to not just let them survive, but to help them live.
Though the uniformity of Korea may shadow the truth, KAIST is full of sufferers if you know where to look. From the obvious difficulties of international students to the sexual minorities hidden away behind masks of “societal norms”, the person you just ate next to in a cafeteria could be one of them. Some may say we need to focus on improving the life for the majority first, before we could start tackling the “minor” issues. Last year’s queer parade festival controversy provided an insight into KAIST for me: the unsung minorities, the vocal few, and the indifferent majority.
With the economy always teetering on the edge, with our own struggles and problems, with another test and homework right around the corner, it’s hard to care for those we don’t see. But as the saying goes, a penny for a thought — it costs us virtually nothing to hear out the problems of others.
49 more graves have been dug for an ongoing and faceless war. The world continues to dig more, carving gravestones ready to be etched with innocent names. If we could create a world that doesn’t echo “me first” but rather “me, too”, we would not need gravesites for those who have left us too early.
Readers, I ask you for pennies to spare.