Extinction Strikes: Why the Youth Are Angry

From September 20th to September 27th, over 6 million people around the globe marched out into the streets to demand climate justice. With 2,500 events scheduled in over 150 countries, the protest turned out to be the largest climate mobilization in world history. The events were intentionally scheduled so that the United Nations Climate Action Summit (Sept 23rd) would be sandwiched between the two strikes, pressuring countries to take ambitious and transformative action.

The remarkable factor that distinguishes the climate strike from any other mass socio-political movement is that it is youth-led. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old from Sweden, spearheaded the movement when a couple of years ago, she sacrificed a day of school to stand in front of the Swedish parliament and protest. This solitary ripple has inspired a wave of global protests where the youth are taking charge. Many public schools have been supportive of the student strikersmost notably New York City’s public education system that excused 1.1 million students to join the strike.

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In South Korea, more than 5000 people joined the 9/21 Climate Emergency work strike, and 700 for the 9/27 School Strike. Although the turnout rate was lower than other countries, the strikes were the biggest climate mobilization in Korea’s history, indicating significant and meaningful progress in Korean environmental activism. Below is what a KIS student who participated in the strike had to say. 

“When it comes to climate change, people give up saying “What difference will I make.” But we need to realize that everyone can make a difference. Difference doesn’t mean solving the problem immediately. It means moving forward together.” -Alicia Lee (‘20)

The strike organizers chose the Korean government as their primary target, criticizing the administration’s defeatist claims that they were “already doing everything they could.” In response to the government’s investment in six new coal power plants, strikers gave the government a failing grade in the subject of climate action and demanded that politicians entirely halt coal investment starting from 2020.

During the UN Climate Summit, President Moon failed to announce substantial and concrete climate policy, instead making vague promises about ‘clear skies’ and increasing funding for environmental agencies. His response is lackluster at best, and detrimental at worst. It is far too late to enact tepid, small-scale policies such as “increasing funding.” Because behind its dismissive rhetoric that blames China for the entirety of its climate crises, Korea stands as one of the most environmentally careless nations. Korea is one of the top 4 ‘climate villains,’ a term referring to countries that have been most irresponsible and negligent about responding to climate change. It also is the OECD’s fourth largest emitter of CO2 and has the fastest growing rate of carbon emissions. And despite such outrageously deficient political action, there still seems to be a dire lack of urgency coming from the government. 

Behind closed doors, the government has continuously claimed that fulfilling the conditions of the Paris Agreement is realistically impossible and incompatible with economic development. It seems as if Korea’s environmental policies are a tool for advancing the country’s reputation in the global arena, not a genuine political issue of concern. What we need from politicians is simple: an acknowledgement of the climate crisis and the government’s role in aggravating it. Of course individual citizens’ efforts matter, but there is a firm limit to how much change can be incited solely through grassroots activism. In order for humanity to avoid extinction in the coming 50 years, there is no option other than bold, aggressive, and revolutionary political action. The younger generation deserves to live, and we aren’t going away until those in power value us over economic growth. 

– Yoora Do ‘20

Featured Image: Charles Park ’20

What the Kpop Digital Sex Scandal Reveals to Us

The scandal is more than a simple warning that there are perverts in the industry— it’s a reflection of the deeply entrenched culture of toxic masculinity in South Korea.

For the past few weeks, scandal after scandal in the Kpop industry has thrown an ugly picture of its inner workings in front of thousands. The controversy started gaining momentum with Burning Sun, a popular nightclub owned by Seungri, a member of one of K-pop’s earliest icons Big Bang. In November, a CCTV footage showing a woman being violently pulled away and assaulted by club guards and the police was revealed.

Little did the public know, at the time, that the footage was merely a small tip of a mammoth iceberg: beneath it hid years of un-investigated drug trafficking, tax evasion, prostitution, rape, and pornography distribution. Since this first scandal, major K-Pop idols including Jung Joon-Young and Roy Kim have been accused of belonging to a group chat in which members shared sexual videos of women filmed without consent, leading to an outpour of public apologies and early retirement.

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If you think voyeurism is a newly emerging phenomenon, it’s not. Last year, about 1,600 people were secretly filmed in Korean motel rooms and live-streamed online. Seoul’s public toilets are still plagued with illegal spy cameras that are concealed in the holes of bathroom stalls. What’s most concerning is the overwhelming speed at which hidden pornography spreads; the transmission process is facilitated through forums and websites, namely SoraNet, that are dedicated to uploading illegal upskirting videos, spy camera footage, and revenge porn. Most victims are unaware of such recordings until months or years after the first upload, and in the face of an entire empire that helps the industry flourish, feel too defeated to take legal action.

Recently, Seungri has made a statement about the allegations.

“I admit all my crimes.  I filmed women without their consent and shared it in a social network chat room, and acted without feeling any sense of guilt doing so.”

A key phrase deserves our attention here: “acted without feeling any sense of guilt.” His numbness to the inappropriateness of his actions is not necessarily an indicator that he is psychopathic, but rather a byproduct of a culture that taught him to condone sexual exploitation of women and ignore the importance of consent.

The scandal is more than a simple warning that there are perverts in the industry— it’s a reflection of the deeply entrenched culture of toxic masculinity in South Korea: “the idea that the male role involves violence, dominance, and devaluing women.” Whether it’s from the longstanding Confucianist mantra that explicitly supports male dominance, K-Pop lyrics and music videos that normalize the sexual objectification of women, or high school culture that encourages boys to label anything slightly feminine as ‘gay,’ it is no secret that society breeds a dangerously wrongful understanding of what it means to be masculine.

What does all this have to do with the digital sex scandal? Lots. On the most basic level, voyeurism is grounded in the notion that women are closer to objects than humans- vehicles of pleasure rather than people with dignity. And why wouldn’t male celebrities think this when misogynistic lyrics are embedded in the most popular hip-hop tunes? When two-thirds of female idols are pressured by abusive agents to have sex to further their careers? When entertainment companies bind female singers by stringent contracts that dictate every inch of their movement because they are supposed to be ‘role models’ for the youth within their gender role: dainty, dumb, and sexually attractive?

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Take Irene from Red Velvet. In 2018, many fans launched vitriolic criticism against her for reading a feminist novel, Ji Young: Born 1982 (82년생 김지영). Son Na-Eun from Apink was no exception when she was found sporting a phone case that read “Girls can do anything.” Even when one takes into account that feminism does not have a positive reputation in Korea, it is absurd to think that people were so emotionally invested into one woman’s choice of literature or accessory that they felt a legitimate need to burn pictures of her. Would this have happened to an ordinary female? Possibly, but it is undeniable that male fans’ expectations fueled the fire. It was not only a general distaste for feminism that triggered their anger, but the fact that these idols broke out of their “pretty girl that exists to please you” stereotype and began to demonstrate signs of independent thought.

Whether or not it is a result of K-pop’s pervasive influence in society, this culture persists outside of the industry as well. The uncomfortable truth is that Jung Joon-Young’s group chat is not the only one of its kind: there exist several chatrooms with the same nature in schools, workplaces- our very own community. The sexist, careless, and demeaning rhetoric we heard is not exclusive to these K-pop giants: we hear it in our locker rooms, classrooms, and hallways. Non-consensual filming is not unique to Burning Sun: spy cameras are hidden in thousands of other bathrooms in the streets we roam every day. When a controversy involving high-profile celebrities gives the illusion that the issue is distant, it is critical to notice that the same strands of misogyny are present around us. Yes, massive top-down change in the entertainment industry is imperative, but perhaps we should start by holding those around us accountable and finding hidden traces of toxic masculinity within ourselves.

– Janie Do (‘20)

5 Reasons to Debate

Why should you try out for the debate team, and what are the unique perks of this experience?

Janie Do is a captain of the KIS debate team. -Ed.

It’s that time of the year again: auditions for the debate team. The KIS forensics department offers various styles to choose fromParliamentary, Public Forum, and Lincoln Douglasso that each student is able to explore different methods of debate that best accommodates his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Why should you try out for the team, regardless of how much experience you have?

You are exposed to different viewpoints.
In so many cases, members are forced to argue against their long-standing opinions. Some have been forced to justify positions they consider intolerable in real life, be it regarding  abortion, affirmative action, or capital punishment. By doing so, debate provides an opportunity to think in the shoes of people one fervently disagrees with, and thus fosters the ability to see beyond the echo chamber of ideas one often find one’s self in. It’s a great way to gain a more rounded personality and diversified worldview. Join to broaden your scope of thinking and become a more empathetic person in general.

You garner extensive knowledge about current events.
When preparing your case for a Public Forum debate, debaters have to research for evidence that supports their arguments. In that process, he or she  will be exposed to a wide range of useful knowledge from American politics to recent technological innovations. Especially for Parliamentary debate an impromptu-style  that requires a broad awareness of current events prior to the debateone will have plenty of opportunities to brush up on current events trivia. Being knowledgeable about what is going on around the world not only helps in becoming a better global citizen, but it’ll also pay off in other classes, notably social studies.

You can grow to be an excellent public speaker.
Persuasion is an important life skill. The ability to clearly articulate your opinion and present it in a compelling manner will become useful in both the classroom and the real world, no matter what profession pursued in the future. Learn how to orally defend yourself and become a great public speaker through debate.  

You can build your resume.
This is a relatively superficial reason, but a valid one nevertheless. Because debate is an academic activity, it naturally can boost your resume as you go through various workshops and competitions. Quick thinking, effective argumentation, confident speaking are only a few of the valuable skills that will prepare you for college and beyond.

You get to join the family and make lasting connections with upperclassmen.
Debaters may seem intimidating and overly aggressive on the podium, but they are just as friendly as anyone else in real life. The forensics team is a welcoming family that will be your warmest supporters. It’s a place to build cherished relationships and memories with the upperclassmen and receive valuable advice and feedback.

Everyone interested in trying out must attend a mandatory meeting on February 27. Even for those without any prior experience, this will be a great challenge to become a better critical thinker.

– Janie Do ‘20

Featured image: KIS Forensics Department

Let’s Talk About Sensitivity

“Our generation is too sensitive.”

“These snowflakes are just waiting to get offended.”

A common complaint, but it seems as if the sensitivity epidemic that characterizes our generation has only recently reached its worst stage. Why the sudden boom in the hypersensitive and easily-offended club?

The most basic reason would be that we, as a society, have progressed from the days of silent toleration of subtle discrimination. No longer are we afraid to tackle microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and sneaky sexist language. After all, the dictionary defines sensitivity as “the quality of being aware of and understanding the feelings of other people.”

This recent development reflects our growth, our willingness to act emotionally mature towards others’ struggles. Together, we have learned that lighthearted slurs are slurs nevertheless and that they signify much more than their outwardly connotations. For example, the racial slur ch*nk isn’t just a word or joke— it’s a term that embodies the condescending stares, the mocking “ni-haos,” and the pain of living in a discriminatory society. Sensitivity is precisely what has fueled the realization that such subtle prejudices embedded in language and culture can cause pain that is just as tangible and detrimental as the pain we feel from flagrant exclusion. Thanks to sensitivity, people are  beginning to challenge conversational slurs that were brushed off as “just jokes” in the past. If it is molding our culture to be more aware of inconspicuous marginalization, is it truly fair to argue that being sensitive is all that bad?

Given the miracles that sensitivity has gifted us with, the fact that this quality is being characterized as irrational hyperbolic response is concerning, to say the least. The stigmatization of sensitivity often results in minorities keeping their insecurities to themselves in fear that they will be viewed as thin-skinned. Yes, this shuts down open dialogue.

But more importantly, it causes minorities to feel guilty about events that genuinely bother them. These insecurities are not merely thoughts from an overly sensitive mind; they are rooted in countless years of institutionalized inequality. It is inconsiderate to ridicule these sentiments because it ignores centuries of discrimination, both implicit and explicit, that has led minorities to react against a minute remark. When we pretend that we are unaffected by comments that we have every right to be upset about, we normalize casual injustice a habit that is toxic to the progression and psychology of the minority community.

One’s level of sensitivity should not be a weakness or an “annoying aspect” about one’s self. Everyone has different tolerance levels and feels uncomfortable at different points: what one person thinks is hysterical may offend another’s entire being. My friend’s acceptance of a minor sexist joke does not delegitimize my anger towards it. Minorities have the right to unapologetically express their thoughts, because it is they who have been silenced, not the oppressors.

This is not to say that the only voices that matter are those of marginalized groups. However, it is logical for their voices to carry the most weight in our conversations about social justice, as no other group will be able to understand the experience of first-handedly toiling through a system designed to keep them at the bottom. Their thoughts are valid.

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Image: Medium

“We can’t apply sensitive issues like cultural appropriation to every single minor incident that comes up. There’s no reason why an innocent seven-year-old child dressed up like Moana for Halloween should be bashed for disrespecting islander culture.” – Sujin Park (‘20)

Of course, there is a line where it becomes blatantly unreasonable to get offended, like accusing a child of cultural appropriation for wearing a Disney costume. But the line is blurry, and also a slippery slope. Once we start to support a culture that humiliates these kinds of actions, it quickly spreads to the point where we equate every kind of sensitivityeven the authentic kindswith irrationality. It acts as a hurdle that derails us from the path of progressa path we have only just begun to traverse after centuries of tireless fighting. Where we should draw the line is something I alone cannot definitively answer, but as we navigate through the boundaries, let us remember that considerate discussion, not ridicule, is the way to go.

When we feel uncomfortable, we must be able to call it out without the worry of ruining the atmosphere or being a debbie downer. Sometimes, sensitive snowflakes aren’t being childish or immature, but rather human beings with emotions that are simply a little more fragile than normal.

– Janie Do (‘20)

Featured Image: Hannah Kim (’19)

Is Social Media Ruining Us?

Could digital technology and its facile propagation through social media be numbing our senses about reality, especially when it targets emotionally vulnerable teenagers?

Carolyn Stritch, a 32-year-old blogger, pulled off a hoax. Photoshopping herself in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, she tricked more than 190,000 of her Instagram followers to believe that she went to Disneyland when, in fact, she had been at home the whole time.

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Image: Carolyn Stritch

This seemingly harmless experiment reflects a larger picture of the realities in the digital age: an ability to distort reality for the eyes of the mass public. It is a known fact that the digital world inherently differs from our physical realmits ability to represent the complexities of our lives is limited at best. Could digital technology and its facile propagation through social media be numbing our senses about reality, especially when it targets emotionally vulnerable teenagers?

A phenomenon called Facebook depression is one such piece of evidence; more time spent on social media outlets statistically correlates to low self-esteem and unhappiness. That is, the more we expose ourselves and limit our vision to the positive milestones of others, the more we normalize an “all-high” life. And it is understandable, becauselet’s face itmost, if not, all of our Instagram feeds are a culmination of carefully selected photos of the most aesthetically flawless pictures accompanied by the wittiest captions. Who can deny that these fail to represent even 1% of the mundane chores and ugly breakdowns of our true daily life? When we compare the entirety of our lives to the pinnacle of others’, we become complicit in our own misery.

Social media’s standardization of unrealistic beauty among us paints another unsettling picture of social media. For many, it is second nature to tap on our phones with a few effortless clicks that magically slim our waists, enlarge our eyes, and clear our blemishes. In particular, given the impossibly narrow standard of beauty espoused by the Korean society—pale, white skin topped by a sharp-cut V line and an unusual obsession with double eyelids—tools that expunge every flaw become devastatingly toxic. It leaves no room for diversity and pressures all into a cookie-cutter model of beauty.

The ability to fantasize has always been a part of who we are. As we dream of becoming something we are not, we challenge ourselves to shed off our old skin and become the best version of ourselves. However, new avenues of digital technology have infiltrated reality in ways we had never expected. Perhaps now, we are losing our footing amid the overwhelmingly fictitious world of our own creation. It’s time to own our social media instead of remaining mere slaves to its unrealistic whims and demands. Social media can be more than a competition ground spurring gossip about who lives the most lavish lifeit can be a remarkable avenue through which we share our meaningful projects, candid smiles, and beauty in being our genuine, flawed selves. After all, our lives are authentic, complex, and free of the swing of a cure-all wand.

Featured Image: Hannah Kim (’19)

– Janie Do (‘20)