[Opinion] On April 3rd, Jeju’s nature remembers
The SNU Quill Editorial Team
Jeju is a luscious island, full of natural beauties. The black rocks contrast with the green plants that dot the beaches. From palm trees to evergreens, Jeju is the epitome of floral diversity. Although spring is the season of rapseed on Jeju Island, another simpler plant was the focus of my most recent excursion. My sixth visit to the mysterious island centered on Jeju’s mundane bamboo trees. There are many villages and towns in South Korea that are famous for its bamboo forests. Damyang, South Jeolla Province is famous for its tall and never-ending green bamboo forests, while Geojae, South Gyeongsang Province is famous for its seaside bamboo. But Jeju—despite its natural wonders—rarely makes the top ten list of famous bamboo destinations. Jeju’s bamboo forests—albeit less prominent—are the centerpiece of Jeju’s sorrowful past. On my recent trip to the lonely island, I had the privilege of meeting an artist, who spent his days producing artworks that told stories of Jeju’s 4.3 Massacre. Leaning on his workbench with a cigarette in his hand, the artist told me a peculiar story. According to the artist, Jeju’s inhabitant had a culture of growing bamboos in their front yards. For centuries, the inhabitants would weave baskets from the bamboo, storing food in those baskets to survive on the infertile volcanic island. In 1947, only two years after Korea’s liberation from Japan, a myriad of different policies enacted by the US military regime and Korea’s first republic created much dissent on the island. Eventually, the far-left Workers’ Party of South Korea staged a strike on the island. The US’ military regime sought the opportunity to eradicate communist influence and sent down the Northwest Youth Association—a far-right youth organization which ultimately acted as a private pseudo-militia for Korea’s first president. Conflict arose between the two entities, which eventually led to official government intervention, by dispatching the military. Soldiers marched into villages, and over the course of the next seven years, massacred almost 30,000 people—most of whom were not affiliated with Korea’s communist party. A huge portion of Jeju’s population was wiped out. Families grieved, and victims were not even given a proper burial; meanwhile, the government, taking advantage of the island’s isolation, kept the massacre a secret for the next three decades. Entire villages were erased and entire families were uprooted. The bamboo trees growing on the front yards of Jeju residents’ homes soon took over the entire empty village. As the empty houses crumbled, nature took its course, engulfing the village, forming the large bamboo forests that attract millions of tourists in one of the world’s most visited islands. In 2011, Jeju was named one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. It’s aesthetic rock formations, eco-diversity and blue waters attract millions of tourists each year from all over the world. However, we must always remember that in that same space, hundreds of thousands have fallen victim to state violence. The people of Jeju today greet you with a smile. And perhaps Jeju’s 4.3 Massacre is now only a story told in history books—a memory lingering in the corner of one’s head—refusing to bid farewell. However, though memories fade, the bamboo trees remember. It remembers that people once lived among its forests. The caves remember. It recounts that victims once hid in its hospitality, away from the soldiers’ guns and knives. The sea remembers. It remembers the bodies that it once caressed down in its depths. Nature remembers. So, the next time you visit Jeju and pass by a bamboo forest, listen to the song its leaves whisper. Under a cool breeze it will tell you a tale of a once bustling village, lying just beneath your feet. The author is a former Editor-in-Chief and the current Chief Editorial Writer at The SNU Quill. –Ed.
[Opinion] Student Gov. participation: the solution to achieving common good and the protection of personal rights
The SNU Quill Editorial Team
Two years since 2022, when the Student Council had been elected for the first time in three years, the failure to elect a new Student Council has led to the continuation of an acting-Student Council system. The hope that maybe the student society—which had fallen into stagnation since COVID-19—has been revitalized after the resumption of in-person classes was only temporary. Once again, we find ourselves in arduous times. What is the reason behind low student participation? My personal diagnosis is that the expansion of individualistic culture, and the status-quo which arises from that, wherein people put their interests first, is the primary cause. Individual students think negatively of what benefits the representative organization called “Student Council” can bring. That is natural though, as the Student Council was vocal in higher-level discussions up to the early 2010s, and gradually raised agendas that were distant from student lives. It seems the accumulation of such hours has led to the sharp decline in student participation. But the Student Council no longer only vocalizes echoes related to higher-level discussions. <Midnight>, the Student Council elected in 2022, put in much effort to change such paradigms, and <Noon>, the Student Council that followed, worked to continue that transformed paradigm. It tried to take initiative in excavating, asking and solving the adversities—or small dissatisfactions and problems—that individual students felt attending school. It proved the need for its existence by solving problems that were difficult for individuals to tackle, such as wanting more power outlets in classrooms, wanting longer opening hours for the library, creating a new shuttle bus route that takes a left towards the College of Business Administration after passing through the main gate, or solving the problem of Gwanak Mountain’s stray dogs. These were, ultimately, movements to prove that participating in student government can bring great benefits in the areas of personal rights, interests and welfare. Now the Student Council moves in that direction. A Student Council that operates with that standard can sometimes also vocalize society’s problems. It solves diverse problems that we all want resolved, however, are hard for individuals to tackle, but still need to change. And all of this, though it sounds grandiose, starts from a very small movement. That is participating in student government, and being a little more invested. Casting a vote when there are student elections, looking at different student society projects with a more affectionate gaze; from these small things start the assurance and enhancement of one’s individual rights and interests. The author is Seoul National University’s acting-Student Council President, and an undergraduate student at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development. The contribution was submitted in Korean and translated by The SNU Quill. –Ed.
[Opinion] Gaza, “If only I were a candle in the dark”
The SNU Quill Editorial Team
In his travels to Palestine between 2005 and 2008, the South Korean poet and photographer Park No-hae was unsettled by what he witnessed. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, he saw the Israeli-built concrete wall separating the city from Jerusalem. In Salfit, an ancient town in the central part of the occupied West Bank, he saw olive trees, some as old as a thousand years, cut down by the Israeli army to make way for illegal settlement expansion. As he traveled the West Bank, he saw Israeli checkpoints where Palestinians languished in lines for hours and were subjected to humiliating inspections. The parallels between Israeli colonialism in Palestine and Japanese colonialism in Korea would not have been lost on Park, whose parents participated in the struggle for Korea’s independence. To those who have been affected by histories of occupation, colonialism, and apartheid, the story of Palestine is a familiar one. In the words of the South African anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” But one needs not to know colonialism and occupation firsthand to oppose it, and one needs not to have experienced the horrors of war to empathize with the 2.3 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip facing displacement, starvation, and death. For months, people and governments around the world have called for a ceasefire, and protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people have taken place regularly in every corner of the globe. And yet, the carnage continues ahead. Whole families and communities have been wiped out. An entire generation of Palestinian children have been traumatized to their core. Their suffering is indescribable, their anguish unimaginable. Nothing excuses indiscriminate violence and attacks on civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli. The targeting of Israeli civilians in the Hamas-led 7 October attacks can be neither denied nor justified. It is, nevertheless, both possible and necessary to attempt to understand the context of the ongoing violence. We will not find a way toward peace if we do not see the path which has brought us to the present moment. History, as Palestinians would remind us, didn’t begin on 7 October. For decades, Gaza’s refugee camps have been home to people who can testify to a history of dispossession, displacement, and massacre. Many of them are descendants of Palestinians who were driven out of their homes as a consequence of the partition of historic Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. In “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006),” Israeli historian Ilan Pappé chronicles the events of 1947 to 1948 when over 750,000 Palestinians, more than half of the native population, were either expelled or fled from their homes for fear of being killed. Israel’s 1967 military occupation of Gaza and the subsequent creation of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory displaced more Palestinians, exacerbating an already precarious situation. In 2005, Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza, but kept the territory fenced in by barbed wire and concrete walls. Following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, which resulted in a Hamas victory, Israel placed Gaza under a stifling blockade, turning the narrow strip of land into a densely populated open-air prison. The historical context of the ongoing violence also includes what the Jewish-American philosopher Judith Butler describes as Israel’s “systematic devaluation of Palestinian lives.” In “Precarious Life” (2004), Butler discusses how the “dehumanization” of Palestinians at the hands of Israel and its Western allies has rendered Palestinian lives “ungrievable.” This devaluation of Palestinian lives has been on full display during the past six months, as Western countries including the United States and Germany have continued to supply Israel with weapons and diplomatic support in the face of the overwhelming number of displaced, starved, and killed Gazans. Park No-hae’s photographs from Palestine remind us of the humanity of a people whose faces are too often unseen, their voices unheard, their humanity denied, and their deaths either ignored or reduced to mind-numbing statistics. They remind us of the resilience of a people who refuse to be erased, and who continue to cultivate the dream of a future free from occupation, blockade, and forced exile. Perhaps sometime this week, you’ll take a couple of hours out of your day to visit Park’s “Beneath the Olive Tree” exhibition at Ra Gallery. As you view these photos, you’ll be reminded that the humanity of the Palestinian people is intrinsically connected to your own humanity, and you may recall the words of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: "As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others (those who have lost the right to speak). As you think of others far away, think of yourself (say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”)." The author is an Associate Professor at Seoul National University's Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations --Ed.
[80th Edition] Letter from the Editor
Lee Seung-ku
Dear readers, The 80th edition of The SNU Quill knocks on your door under the theme “Boiling Point.” The magazine finds you at a time when the pot full of tumult comes to a simmer. The world has been closely following Madame Disruption’s renowned recipe for crisis which reads as follows: Five parts polarization, three parts fervor, two parts populism, and a pinch of disinformation—the cherry on top. From the Israel-Hamas conflict to the ousting of former US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, the world saw a tumultuous year in 2023. The year was equally disruptive in South Korea, with the death of a teacher sparking nationwide outrage, and governmental policies—including those concerning the 2023 Jamboree and the removal of freedom fighter Hong Beom-do’s statue from Korea’s military academy—deeply polarizing and dividing the population. With major earthquakes in Turkey and Japan, and record temperatures throughout the summer, even Mother Nature seems to be adding her touch. In wake of such critical events, the role of journalism becomes ever-the-more-important. Hence, the editorial staff at The SNU Quill have meticulously selected a series of articles showcasing critical topics that will determine the course of tomorrow’s history. These articles pose pressing questions that are avoided by society for being too difficult or too sensitive. What is the status of minorities in Korea? How do private campus tours impact the students’ perception of outsiders? Why is our campus becoming infiltrated by large franchises while campus unions die out? Where are the social crevices in the debate between teacher’s authority and student rights? These are only some of the questions that this edition fiddles with. We sincerely hope that this selection of articles provides an insightful glimpse into the fault lines within our campus and society. Our magazine itself has seen much change in the past semester. Digital transformation and restructuring have been our key focus. A group of freelance engineers have been revamping our website which we hope will provide a friendlier user experience. A shout out to the outstanding team of engineers led by Cho In-hyuk. The new website will launch within the first half of 2024—something to look out for. Meanwhile, our newly formed Strategic Planning Team has been working arduously to promote our brand and reach. The team’s talented members, led by Cho Sang-hun, have much up their sleeves. For 2024, they are planning more events where you will be able to meet us on and off campus; so please keep an eye out for that too. More information on our upcoming changes can be found in the last two pages of this edition. Amid such changes, I would not have been able to push through this turbulent semester if it were not for our fantastic editorial team. A million thanks to You-jin, Yun-geun, Da-eun, Hyun-kyung, Ji-woo, and Ji-won for helping me persevere. I am always humbled by your support and your love for The SNU Quill. To our subeditors, So-ya, Joo-young, Hae-soo and Hee-seo, thanks for the great support you provided in each of your sections. My deepest gratitude to Hye-rin and Yoo-suk for working so passionately, despite the subpar conditions. And a great magnitude of respect and appreciation to Sang-hun for navigating through the myriad of hurdles that arise when leading a newly formed team. Lastly, a huge thanks to each member of The SNU Quill family for playing their part in bringing this magazine to fruition. You guys are my All-Star team. I would like to conclude this letter with a plea to our readers. Despite being surrounded by a simmering society just about to reach its boiling point, our campus was surprisingly tranquil this year. As classes returned to complete normalcy, Jahayeon was filled with clubs looking for new recruits, while students took naps on bean bag chairs in the newly furbished Grass Plaza. However, under this thinly woven veil lies a great sense of political apathy, showcased by the 2023 student body elections which saw many colleges and departments failing to elect student representatives due to low voter turnouts. The cacophony of voices accompanying the bombardment of information has rendered students to plug in their ears. No one gathers at the Acropolis anymore, even amid the government’s push to reduce research funding. The walls are no longer thickly covered in posters that carry written debates about the most pressing social issues. Everyone is busy living their own lives. But I urge you, dear readers, to keep your ears open, for a neglected pot that boils will surely cause havoc. And I urge you, dear readers, to thirst for information, as knowledge—not ignorance—is bliss. Finally, I urge you, dear readers, to ponder upon the questions posed by society, for the answers lie within each and everyone of us. And in turn, I—and our magazine—promise to quench your thirst for knowledge with thought-provoking and insightful perspectives, in hopes of providing small clues in navigating this boiling world. Your truly, Lee Seung-ku Editor-in-chief The SNU Quill