KAIST Lefthanded is a new student forum that focuses on human rights for minorities, especially sexual, physical, and cultural minorities. They welcome all KAIST students, and is the first forum of its kind at KAIST. The KAIST Herald met with one of its members, Se Won Park, for an interview.
|▲ Se Won Park of KAIST Lefthanded
Could you briefly introduce your forum and your motivation to start one?
The KAIST Minority Forum works to fight for the rights of minorities in our society.Although as of now we do not have a formal English name, but we would like to be known as the KAIST Minority Forum or KAIST Lefthanded. I think that our school is great thanks to its great education, research environments, and organizations such as The KAIST Herald. However, I wondered what exactly it was that our school needed, and I ended up forming our forum with people that shared similar thoughts: we want to create a community at KAIST where no one faces discrimination for being different.
What do you think about the treatment of minorities in Korea?
I believe that the problem of discrimination against minorities spreads beyond Korea. There are minorities in every nation on Earth because two human beings cannot be exactly alike. The issue is how societies accept these differences, and that defines each nation and culture. In that aspect, I think Korea has a long way to go to reach widespread acceptance.
What about at KAIST?
As I have stated before, there are minorities in any society. Along with the existence of minorities comes discrimination against them - KAIST is no exception to this. Students can be heard frequently using discriminatory and offensive terms against people with different sexual orientations. KAIST also has no special services or facilities for people with physical disabilities, making it unsuitable for them to live here. If a person with an injured and unusable leg has to go to a lab that is not on the first floor of a building, he has to use the freight elevator to get to work. Also, we are all too used to the fact that students who do not speak Korean or have a different religion than most are usually treated coldly.
What kinds of activities has your forum carried out? What do you plan to do in the future?
We have made Human Rights Badges and are selling them on campus. All proceeds go to charities dedicated to human rights activities. We plan on hosting formal seminars and forums and invite anyone interested in human rights issues and study these issues together to look for solutions. We have yet to make important changes at KAIST regarding the treatment of minorities, but we certainly hope to make meaningful impact in the future.
How have people reacted in general to your forum and recruiting efforts?
I admit that we would like more students to be interested in us, and the level of participation has been lower than we hoped. However, we will work towards our goals as best as we can. I am not too worried about the level of interest that we have received so far.
Is there anything else you would like other KAIST students to know about your club?
In all honesty, we do not prefer being labeled as “the minority.” Everyone is different by nature, and to call a select few in our society minorities is disconcerting. However, regardless of the terminology, discrimination based on personal differences is unacceptable. There are still laws and policies that are discriminatory towards certain groups of people. KAIST is full of students of various backgrounds. We are of various ethnicities and national backgrounds with different languages; we have different hobbies and majors; some of us are short and others tall; we have various religions and sexual orientations. I believe that when we can accept and acknowledge all our differences, we will create a better community at KAIST. Each of us should be able to have our own identity without fearing discrimination, and I hope that you take interest in our cause and join us.