Nov. 19, the school administration removed several “daejabos” which declared support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. According to the university’s official daejabo explaining their stance, the daejabos that were removed came from external groups. They had deemed them disruptive and unfit for the educational environment. In the posting, they revealed the banning of external groups posting daejabos and proceeding with activities that have any relation to the Hong Kong protests. This decision shocked many students as daejabos function as a forum of free student communication.
What is a “daejabo?”
Meaning “large wallposter” in Korean, daejabos are large posters containing messages written in large letters. They are posted across bulletins and highly visible walls throughout the campus grounds to voice opinions and bring attention to important issues. Normally, anybody and everybody in the campus community is allowed to post a daejabo.
What led to this ban?
On the week of the 18th of November, a number of daejabos declaring support for the protesters of Hong Kong were posted throughout the campus. These posters were vandalized–some torn down and some overlaid with anti-Hong Kong messages written in Chinese.
This kind of situation is not limited to the HUFS campus, however. All throughout Korea recently, when a group of university students posted daejabos or put banners up to express their solidarity with Hong Kong, they were met by unfriendly vandalism or personally motivated, unsolicited teardowns.
At HUFS, the vandalized daejabos were fixed with tape and reposted. However, on the 19th, the university took down the daejabos related to Hong Kong. Though the university claims that daejabos posted by external groups were the only ones taken down, there were student witnesses who said anonymously that under instruction of the university, staff indiscriminately tore down other official daejabos. The university’s daejabo took their place.
How did people react?
On the 20th, the day after the removal, the Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) issued a statement on the situation. “In the morning of Nov. 19, excepting the Global Student Council (GSC) election posters, the university removed all posters off the GSC bulletins. The university persisted with the position that they were removing all daejabos related to the ‘Hong Kong democratic struggle’ and the 53rd GSC EPC strongly opposed the removals as daejabos stand for freedom of speech. Despite having voiced strong opposition, the EPC is deeply disappointed in the university’s unilateral enforcement of the removals.” In the statement, the EPC expressed that the university’s actions were undemocratic in nature.
In the morning of the 20th, a few communities within HUFS got together to condemn the actions of the university, holding a press conference. They called for an apology from the university, declaring the actions of the university undemocratic. They contended that while other universities are opening platforms of conversation for the discussion over the support of Hong Kong, HUFS is the only one that has removed the setting for conversation. They asked that the university take back the banning and for such a thing to never happen again.
HUFSans posted subsequent daejabos criticizing the school’s actions. Many condemned the university’s banning. One anonymous posting titled, “An Open Society and its Enemies,” pointed out that the people who posted the daejabos that were removed are ultimately students of HUFS. It also asked the question: “Is the university really going through with this ban to better the educational environment on campus?” This was regarding the school administration’s failures to provide adequate places to study during the currently on-going construction of the new library building. The post expressed that as students were not generally provided with a “healthy education environment” prior to this happening, it is difficult to understand why the school cares suddenly. Besides this, a freshman posted a daejabo titled, “Freedom to HUFS, and HUFS to Freshmen.” The poster expressed the absolute need for the university to redefine who they consider “outsiders,” which was among other actions needed to ensure a safe and unoppressed platform for free speech on campus.
The daejabo poster whose post had been removed reposted a daejabo supporting Hong Kong, right next to the university’s own daejabo. The poster revealed her name and contact, making it clear that she is a HUFSan.
The silencing of a few individuals showed that multitudes will come out to protect the rights of those who are silenced. While the university’s stance remains unchanged at the point The Argus writes this article, the string of events has shown that HUFSans are not afraid to voice their opinions. HUFSans have made it clear that free speech on campus grounds ought to be an indiscriminate right.
The Argus stands in solidarity with free speech.
By Park Chang-hwan
Associate Editor of Theory & Critique Section