This blog post by a now-former Korean university student was sent along to me by Roboseyo, who is a friend of the author. The educational ratrace, and the career ratrace following it, do not find favor with her.
On the afternoon of August 10 a handwritten poster went up at the entrance to Korea University. “Today I quit university, I refuse,” it said. Its author was business administration student Kim Ye-seul. She had decided, on her own, to quit school. But it was very shocking and she was severely criticized by our society, which makes an ideology of study. What follows is the text of her poster.
“Today I quit university, I refuse”.
Today I am dropping out of college. I am in my 20s, and walking the tightrope that turns you from a youth to a debtor. I am in my 20s, and something seems wrong, but I am frustrated that I cannot figure it out. My last belief is that I can only follow the other 20-year olds.
Here is my story.
This is my story, but it is not only my story. For 25 years I have been run like a horse on a racetrack. Like a champion horse, I was happy to leave my less-accomplished friends in the dust. I was unhappy when a friend did better than me. Living that way I gained admission to a “top school”.
But strange. Not matter how hard I pushed myself my strength ebbed away and my heart had no more. Right now I’m standing stockstill, considering the racetrack. Where does it end? Seems to me it just gives you the qualification to enter the second gate, “getting a job”. We just get onto a new racetrack where your qualification is ahead of mine, someone else’s is behind mine, and we all compete for new ones. That’s what I’ve realized. What I’ve been chasing after is nothing but an endless track. A track where you can never reach a plateau.
Here is my story
And this is my story but not only my story. The universities are nothing but qualification sellers, face it. Universities have become suppliers of “parts” for global capital and large businesses, stamping their barcodes on your forehead. Your country makes another barcode, making education mandatory for 12 years, pumping out standardized human products.
Business demands new qualifications to reach the top of their pyramid of vanity built on ever-lower prices. And this forces us to go into university, study abroad, enrolling in specialized courses. Vainly fighting this rapidly changing society for a decade, in the end we are worn out and discarded. We are trapped in a vicious cycle, with no way out. The age of freedom would be when globalization, democracy, and individualism urge that the world is ours if we work hard, and qualifications are discarded.
What is a life with no graduation stage? What is a life with no qualifications? The darkness and anxiety of study bring us to our knees again. Another false hope appears, not pointing out the gaps in our thoughts and how we look back. It’s an education problem, a university problem, they say to us.
“If you’re successful you can be a ruler who changes the world,”
“Do what you want. I support you,”
“Claim your rights. Fight!”
And the one that really sticks the knife in, “fine, quit school.”
Everybody knows what the result is. At univerisities that offer no help and ask no questions, centers of “great learning” that actually have none, you cannot ask who you are, why you are alive, what is truth. You cannot search for human friendship and romance. In the purest time of life you cannot dream of resistance. No, it would be good to forget for a long time.
But what is really the result of abandoning all of it? We young people become a debtor generation unable to earn money and then apologize to our parents.
Young people feel helpless wihout the ability to support themselves. It’s depressing to turn twenty years old and yet have no idea what you want to do or what your dream is. We young people are melancholy, wondering how long that time of life will last. I asked for answers from the university and big business and the nation itself, and they told me to go to university. This is their fault.
My anger runs deep. But, I ask, aren’t I also a little responsible? Then is my deep sadness. I can do nothing but confess that I was participant in the process of turning myself into a cheap product when I believed all you had to do was study and work hard to be successful. I confess myself, that one of the most misnamed things in the world is the graduation stage.
So today I quit university. No, I refuse.
As the years add up my youth never bloomed, and will soon be discarded. Because I decided to be a useless person rather than a useful product. Today I need the freedom that comes from that even more than the freedoms brought by them. The road of freedom is a forgotten path to me, and in finding it I will be bruised and beaten. But that is my life, and I will live with that as my purpose.
To escape and rebel.
I intend to speak my beliefs, to act on my beliefs, and to live my life with courage. I will stand before the eyes of my parents who sacrificed to earn my tuition. “I am sorry. It seems to you that I am throwing away my life.” I will say it with tears streaming down, and sigh deeply as I look to the sky of the coming spring.
The enormous pagoda of the university’s money will lose the portion it was getting from me. The pagoda will not notice. But a small crack will appear. A true university student, who abandoned the university, will take the first steps of existence. I mean that today my refusal and my subsequent battles are in front of me.
Yes, “we shall see who is stronger.”