Seoul National University: Leading the Way for Democracy


(Seoul National University main gate) “A Community of Knowledge and Creativity” (Students’ rally for democracy in 1984) (Left: Paul Jeong Gu JEI, 1944-1999
) (Right: Memorial Tower of April 19 Revolution) (The Bell of Justice at the College of Law) Coming to Korea in the 1980s when I studied here, [Milan Hejtmanek, Ph.D.
former SNU professor of Korean History, Class of 1984]

I remember vividly [Milan Hejtmanek, Ph.D.
former SNU professor of Korean History, Class of 1984]

At the time, Korean students, especially Seoul National students, were fighting for democracy. Kim Hodong, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Seoul National University,
Department of Asian History]

“How can I just stand by and do nothing while the country goes like this?” Kim Hodong, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Seoul National University,
Department of Asian History]

Students embodied this sentiment by voicing their political opinions and expressing themselves in many ways. (Newspaper: Park Jong-chul, the student president of the Department of Linguistics, was arrested, tortured, and killed by the police.)

I remember feeling that (Newspaper: Park Jong-chul, the student president of the Department of Linguistics, was arrested, tortured, and killed by the police.)

the death of my friend Park Jong-chul was not in vain. [YI Hyounju, Department of Linguistics, Class of 1990]

His tragic death brought almost 20,000 students in the rallies in 1987. “The torture and murder of Park Jong-chul (1964-1987) led to the uprising of June 1987;
this played a decisive role in the democratization of the Republic of Korea.” Paul Jeong Gu JEI, “Friend of the Poor”
1944-1999 [SHIN Myung-ja, wife of the late Paul Jeong Gu JEI]

When Jei entered the Cheonggyecheon slums and started the anti-poverty movement, people began to get involved. Students participating in the movement began to work as night teachers and the movement spread to other poverty-hit areas. We were supposed to have building permits, but the county office didn’t even know about us. We were somehow able to make change in this lawless situation. That’s how we made change together. [Paul Jeong Gu JEI, Department of Political Science, Class of 1980]

Starting in Cheonggyechon in Seoul in 1972, he devoted his entire life to protecting the poor and their rights to survival and self-determination. He was called the “friend of the poor” and the “father of the anti-poverty movement.” His role was to help people in the slums find strength in their lives and make it on their own. The notion of doing something meaningful, I think, has served as a powerful and beneficial force in the development of Korean society. “The SNU community was at the forefront of establishing a just society and realizing the dream of democracy.”

Maurice Vega

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