A Conspiracy Theory Worth Looking At

Can Korean media be trusted, or is it just conspiring to deceive the public by covering up political scandals? Read on to learn more.

My mom reads celebrity news every day on Naver, Korea’s biggest search engine. One Thursday night, as I was working on my homework, my mom, who had been on her phone for the past few minutes, read out a comment on an article she’d been reading. “Three new celebrity scandals surfaced today. I guess they’re trying to hide the fact that the government just let the Yemenis stay in our country,” the comment read.

I hadn’t heard about any updates on the Yemeni asylum seekers in Jeju Island until she told me. I did a quick Google search, and sure enough, articles from Time Magazine and the Washington Post popped up.

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Of the over 500 Yemeni asylum seekers who landed in Jeju earlier this year, fleeing what the UN calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, only 339 were allowed to stay in Korea on one-year humanitarian visas. 34 were denied the right to stay, and 85 applicants are still under review. All were denied refugee status.

It took me a while for me to scroll through the results and find any article by a Korean newspaper. I opened up the Korea Herald and searched for “Jeju.” There was one article about the decision on the legal status of the Yemeni asylum seekers from the day before. One dry article about one of the most divisive and controversial issues in Korea today. It was in stark contrast with the biting criticisms by New York Times and its likes; there was no mention of responses from the Korean public, the war in Yemen, the limits that the humanitarian visas placed on the Yemenis’ ability to find work or access healthcare, and the government’s much warmer welcome to North Korean refugees. The Korea Herald uploaded three articles on October 17 and 18 about President Moon’s meeting with the Italian president.

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Korea’s entertainment industry is fraught with sensational (and sometimes baseless) scandals all year round, but the third week of October was an unusually hectic one; the names of a TV producer and an actress suddenly popped up on Naver’s trending searches list, sparking waves of rumors about a possible affair between the two, a member of the popular boy band BIGBANG was caught hugging an actress on a date, and a recently married actor’s was rumored to have an affair with a singer who already has a boyfriend.

The cynical netizen that my mom found isn’t the only one to raise the alarm about the possibility of cover-up by the Korean mass media. Such concerns about government influence on the media is not new; these suspicions were confirmed when “Choigate,” a corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her secret confidante Choi Soon-sil, revealed Park’s blacklist of media and entertainment figures. This list of over 9,000 people included Korean filmmakers, actors, writers, and artists who had either spoken critically of Park or expressed support for rival political parties. The list effectively excluded those listed from state-funded programs.

I’m not too big on conspiracy theories myself, but the possible relationship between celebrity scandals and controversial political scandals or news is worth a closer look. Research by a Korean student at NYU Abu Dhabi revealed that there is, in fact, “more celebrity news on days where there are political scandals,” and it’s not hard to find examples of this happening.

On March 21, 2013, the same day that comedian Kim Yong-man was summoned on charges of illegal sports gambling, the then vice minister of the Ministry of Justice was implicated in a sex scandal. On November 13, 2013, when the minister was cleared of rape charges, a list of celebrities being questioned for illegal gambling was revealed. When former President Lee Myung-bak was accused of corruption? A relationship between Lee Min-ho and Suzy, two A-list celebrities, was brought to light with an exclusive report by Dispatch, a Korean news agency infamous for infringing on celebrities’ right to privacy for the sake of creating sensational rumors.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that many Koreans are doubtful about the reliability of the media industry; according to a Statista survey conducted late last year, only 52% of Koreans trust traditional and online-only media. Despite this skepticism, news consumption rates in Korea still remain relatively high. 71% of Koreans get their news through television at least once a week, and the weekly rates are even higher at 86% for news consumption online; 70% of Koreans get their news from web-portal sites such as Naver or Daum at least once a week.

We’ll never know for sure whether Korean news agencies strategically release celebrity news around the same time that political scandals are revealed, but harboring a healthy skepticism of what could be a modern version of a “circus” set up to distract the citizenry seems appropriate in the Information Age, especially because so many Koreans now get their news online. 

– Kristin Kim ‘20

Featured Image: Chosun Ilbo

Don’t Fall for the CSI Effect

In crime shows, teams of superhero cops are often shown relying heavily on forensic evidence when prosecuting criminals, but how reliable is forensic science in reality?

Crime TV shows like NCIS, Sherlock, and Law and Order have captivated generations of TV viewers. In the spring of 2017, over 96 million in the U.S. said they typically watched mystery/suspense/crime programs on TV. [1] In many popular crime dramas, police officers and private investigators almost never fail to find the true criminal, and forensic evidence is often presented as undeniable proof linking the culprit to the crime. Forensic analysts always succeed in finding a match between the evidence found on the crime scene and the DNA, fingerprint, hair, or even teeth (when looking at bite marks) of the accused, and coroners are able to determine the precise cause and time of death. All conclusions are reached almost immediately in the forensic lab. The reality of criminal investigations, however, is far from what is depicted in these TV shows. 

It is because of the motivation of TV producers to make the story entertaining and fast-paced that many experts express concerns about how the public is affected by exposure to crime shows and other forms of media that depict forensic science as an infallible source of incriminating evidence. They’ve dubbed it the “CSI Effect” after the popular TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, claiming that the exaggerated portrayal of forensic evidence of crime television impacts public perception particularly in the criminal justice system where jurors can be influenced to have unrealistic expectations of forensic science in criminal trials. [2] According to the CSI Effect, consumption of crime media can ultimately affect jurors’ decisions in the conviction or acquittal process. [3]

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A Pew Research Center survey shows that a majority of Americans believe that shows and movies about criminal investigations help or do no harm to their understanding of science. Some experts beg to differ.

Although the CSI Effect is theoretically plausible, empirical research on the phenomenon offers conflicting evidence. [3] While some studies claim that the CSI Effect doesn’t really exist, others have demonstrated that a “pro-defense bias” in which jurors are less likely to convict in the absence of forensic evidence. [4] [5] Several studies examining the CSI Effect have also found proof of advantages for the prosecution when forensic evidence is present such as the bolstering of the credibility of forensic experts and the evidence presented in their testimony. [6]

In criminal cases, the standard that must be met by the prosecution is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, and it is the highest burden of proof that must be met in any trial in the U.S. justice system. Although forensic evidence does not inherently carry more weight than other types of evidence, the overstatement of forensic evidence in various forms of media has the potential to misguide the jury to believe that forensic evidence eliminates any reasonable doubt. It also doesn’t help that jurors can be further deceived by the misleading (or sometimes outright false) testimony of forensic specialists in court.

A report by a Presidential Science Council found that expert witnesses frequently exaggerate the value of their evidence; for instance, some examiners have testified that their conclusions are “100 percent certain” and that their conclusions have an “essentially zero” error rate. [7] Numerous reviews, however, have revealed that such statements are not scientifically defensible because no laboratory test has a zero error rate. [7] A review of expert testimony regarding microscopic hair analysis by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Intelligence in 2012 also found that FBI examiners provided scientifically invalid testimony in more than 90 percent of cases where examiner provided testimony was used as incriminating evidence. [8]

 

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A political cartoon from the University of Texas at Tyler depicting an extreme case of the CSI Effect where a juror asks for incriminating DNA evidence even after the defendant pleads guilty.

One of the key roots of this problem is that the fact that in most criminal cases, forensic laboratories have close ties to the prosecution, which seriously undermines the objectivity of the conclusions made because forensic experts are subject to “subtle cognitive bias and overt pressure from the police.” [7]

There seems to be a great necessity for reform not only in how jurors are instructed to accept different types of forensic evidence but also in how expert witnesses testify and reach their conclusions in laboratories.

 

– Kristin Kim (’20)

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/229108/tv-viewers-who-typically-watch-mystery-suspense-crime-programs-on-tv-usa/
  2. https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.co.kr/&httpsredir=1&article=1102&context=jsbhs
  3. https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4177&context=etd
  4. https://www.nij.gov/journals/259/Pages/csi-effect.aspx
  5. http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1027&context=themis
  6. http://criminology.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264079.001.0001/acrefore-9780190264079-e-40
  7. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST/pcast_forensic_science_report_final.pdf
  8. https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-testimony-on-microscopic-hair-analysis-contained-errors-in-at-least-90-percent-of-cases-in-ongoing-review
  9. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/figure/10.1080/0731129X.2013.817070?scroll=top&needAccess=true

Image sources:

  1. Featured Image – https://www.nbc.com/law-and-order-special-victims-unit
  2. http://go2uttyler.blogspot.com/2013/09/ut-tyler-honors-colloquium-event.html
  3. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/25/shows-and-films-about-crime-medicine-help-foster-a-positive-view-of-scientists-say-many-americans/ft_17-09-21_scienceshows_understanding/

The Rohingya Crisis: An Echo of the Rwandan Genocide

Many global leaders have been pointing fingers at the Burmese government as the Rohingya refugee crisis continues to spark outrage, but what action, if any, has actually been taken by the international community to resolve this crisis?

The world said never again after the infamous Rwandan genocide of 1994 that killed 800,000 people in the span of just a hundred days. The United Nations, as well as individual states, apologized for their failure to take action. But here we are again, in the wake of another humanitarian crisis that bears a striking resemblance to the genocide: the Rohingya crisis.

The Rohingya, often described as “the world’s most persecuted minority,” are an ethnic Muslim group that mainly resides in Myanmar, where a majority of the one million Rohingya live in Rakhine State. They differ from the Buddhist majority ethnically, linguistically, and religiously. Despite many Rohingya tracing their roots in Myanmar back centuries, they are largely considered illegal immigrants, and it is on this basis that the Burmese government does not acknowledge them as one of the nation’s 135 ethnicities, effectively rendering them stateless.  

The Burmese government has institutionalized discrimination against the ethnic group through restrictions on many aspects of everyday life including marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement. The Rohingya must seek permission to marry, which may require them to present photographs of the bride without a headscarf and the groom with a clean-shaven face, practices that conflict with Muslim customs. To move to a new home or travel outside their town, the Rohingya must also gain government approval.

Religious differences, however, are not the only reason why the Rohingya are being persecuted. Rakhine state, home to the majority of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, is rich in minerals; therefore, many have argued that the government has a vested interest in “emptying” the area. The Burmese government recently designated 3 million acres for the development of the area’s resources, but Rakhine state’s citizens have called these schemes “land grabs” for which they receive little to no compensation from the government.

The plight of the Rohingya recently attracted worldwide attention after police posts and army bases were attacked by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group. The military responded by imposing a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, fueled by support from the Buddhist Burmese. They destroyed hundreds of Rohingya Muslims, allegedly opening fire on fleeing civilians and planting landmines near borders used by Rohingya to escape to Bangladesh. Government troops have also been accused of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and other severe human rights abuses. Due to the ceaseless violence in Myanmar, many Southeast Asian nations found themselves in the middle of a refugee crisis in which approximately half of the Rohingya population in Myanmar fled the country; however, it was largely overshadowed by the European refugee crisis that dominated global headlines until very recently when the Rohingya refugee crisis reached a terrible peak.

The state-sponsored discrimination and persecution of the Rohingya have been a decades-long issue, but the scale of the latest violence and allegations that Burmese forces are mining their borders have led to speculation that the military is trying to remove the Rohingya from their country for good. Amidst the conflict, Aung San Suu Kyi, the current leader of Myanmar, has come under heavy scrutiny regarding her inaction. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, she was initially praised for her leading democratic efforts in the country and hailed a Myanmar’s “human-rights icon.” But under her administration, the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims has intensified. She has continuously refused to acknowledge or criticize the deadly campaign against the Rohingya; although she lost a great deal of international support for taking a soft stance and endorsing falsehoods, her words won favor with her local constituents. As a result, some have even called for her Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.

Amidst increasing public uproar, quite a few members of the international community have stepped up to criticize the Burmese government. The UN human rights chief called the military’s brutal campaign “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and President Emmanuel Macron of France has gone so far to call it a “genocide.” However, many prominent international actors have also remained relatively quiet. ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that  Myanmar is a member of, has kept its silence in accordance with its principle of non-interference in national matters even as the implications of the Rohingya refugee crisis continue to expand beyond the country’s borders. Myanmar’s neighbors have also been reluctant to welcome Rohingya refugees into their countries, leaving the already stateless people with no place to go.

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PC: The Swedish Rohingya Association

Lucrative business interests in Myanmar have resulted in a weak response by Muslim-majority countries who are already buckling under their own refugee crisis. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, competes with Russia to be China’s top crude supplier, but it relies on the Burmese government to protect the security of a crucial pipeline that runs through Myanmar. This recently opened pipeline starts in Rakhine state, where most of the Rohingya have been forced to leave, and carries oil from Arab countries to China. This pipeline has been named by experts as one critical reason why Saudi Arabia, a Muslim-majority country with a history of readily welcoming Rohingya Muslims, is being reluctant this time. China and Russia have also remained quiet because of close business and diplomatic ties to the Burmese government, and they’ve vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to resolve the crisis.

As tensions only continue to escalate in Myanmar, many have pointed out the similarities between the Rohingya crisis and the Rwandan Genocide.

  • Atrocities being committed are similar to Rwanda
    • UN efforts vetoed earlier this May by China and Russia in Security Council (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-un/china-russia-block-u-n-council-concern-about-myanmar-violence-idUSKBN16O2J6)
    • US actively backed efforts to pull the few UN Peacekeeping troops out of Rwanda after 10 Belgian soldiers were brutally murdered by Hutu extremists
    • The UN Security Council will decline to respond to the situation with the seriousness it deserves. If a situation is defined by the Council as a “genocide,” then the UN becomes legally bound to intervene, with peace-keeping missions and so on. That is why Western countries will be reluctant initiate such a move, and China, who is building one branch of its New Silk Road infrastructure right through Rakhine State to access the port of Sittwe, will likely veto any such proposal.
  • Peacekeeping troops can actually make a difference!
    • Before peacekeeping troops in Rwanda were pulled out due to pressure from the US, soldiers had strong deterrent effect
      • Rescued Tutsi, opened doors to Tutsi, established defensive positions in city
      • Hutu extremists were generally reluctant to massacre large groups of Tutsi if foreigners (armed or unarmed) were present
        • Didn’t take many UN soldiers to dissuade the Hutu from attacking if they were determined
      • This was why the UNAMIR withdrawal had such a harsh impact on the Rwandan genocide -> Hutu militia now had free reign in country
  • One major difference between the two is in timing!
    • Rwandan genocide only provoked an international response (more than 5,000 peacekeeping troops) that arrived in full months after the genocide had actually ended
    • Although still very late, this has garnered much more public attention during its peak -> still have opportunity to prevent this mass persecution
      • protests in Muslim countries, international condemnation
  • But situation demands stronger response than merely condemning actions of Myanmar gov -> we’ve already had enough of that
    • Atrocities in Bosnia didn’t end without NATO involvement
    • In Washington, Donald Trump’s administration broke its silence on the crisis on Monday, but White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not mention the Rohingya by name and appeared to blame the violence on both sides.
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PC: United Nations
  • Best would be for this response to continue to gain traction -> international condemnation leading to actual action? Like sanctions, negotiations, peacekeeping forces

One can only hope that it will be enough to pressure the international community to organize a realistic, workable solution to this crisis so that the fatal mistakes made during the Rwandan genocide are not repeated.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Image Sources:

Are You Eating Healthy or Dieting?

Dieting and eating healthy. Is there a difference between the two, and if there is, what is the difference between them? Find out more about the implications of these two terms with Blueprint.

Only a few years back, the word “dieting” was completely fine to use; in fact, it was ubiquitous. You would see in-your-face commercials for weight loss programs and dieting pills all over the internet and on television. Over time, however, dieting itself has gradually developed into a taboo of sorts in the online community, and in America, and major diet companies like Weight Watchers watched their member-recruitment rates decline sharply even though more than two-thirds of American adults continued to be what public health officials called “overweight” or “obese”. Cue the entrance of “politically correct dieting”: wellness, otherwise known as eating clean, eating healthy, or getting fit.

So how did this change happen? Well, simply put, people decided dieting wasn’t cool anymore. It was anti-feminist because it put pressure on women to become size 0s and look like the stick-thin models seen in fashion magazines or advertisements. Women, concerned about their weight, often resorted to health-risking dieting practices, sometimes leading to the development of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Weight loss companies were bashed for negatively impacting the self-esteem of people who were perfectly fine the way the way they were.

These anti-dieting sentiments sparked the beginning of the positive-body-image/love-yourself-the-way-you-are/everybody-is-beautiful movements that everybody praised but very few wholeheartedly believed in. Yes, people wanted to love themselves for who they were, and they wanted to not judge others based on their appearances. The conventional (and almost instinctual, subconscious) idea of a “perfect, slim body” that had been ingrained in us since our childhood, however, could not be dismissed at will. But nobody would dare open up about how they truly felt. Instead, they started to hide their shameful desires to lose weight by changing “dieting” to “eating healthy.”

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“Inspirational” quotes like this one can be found all over the Internet. But are they really true? And most importantly, are they positively impacting the body image movement?

People in the social media groove didn’t want to “lose weight” anymore; they wanted to “eat clean” in order to become “fit” and “strong.” They believed that wanting to change one’s body in some sort of way was a sign of giving to societal pressure that showed a lack of self-acceptance because all body types are beautiful and deserve to be accepted. People didn’t want to change their appearance, but they did; they wanted to be thinner (not that there’s anything wrong with being fat), but dieting wasn’t the word to go for anymore.

“Dieting” and “weight loss” were gradually replaced by more politically correct phrases like “eating healthy/clean;” it was now okay to want to develop a healthier lifestyle if the purpose of one’s efforts was to become “more fit,” but not “thinner.” Wanting to become thinner was absolutely unacceptable, so many people (who still wanted to lose weight but didn’t want to seem like they were giving in to societal pressure) rationalized their actions by tweaking the phrasing a little. This change can largely be attributed to the contrast of the connotations surrounding the two phrases, which can also be seen from our fellow KISians’ responses to two simple questions.

1. Anonymous (‘20):

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

Whenever someone tells me they’re going on a diet, I always imagine salads and vegetables, and for some reason, I think of being malnourished.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

To me, eating healthy would be having a balanced diet (avoiding excessive junk food and sugar). On top of that, I believe that a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat is necessary.

2. Alicia Lee (‘20):

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

To be really honest, when I think of the word dieting, I think: running andnot eating snacks. The reason why I want to diet is usually to wear something that I want to because my fashion style is kind of edgy, but in order to pull off those kind of clothes, you have to be somewhat thin and fit. I’m not very fit, so I try to lose weight to wear what I want to.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

When I think of the phrase “eating healthy,” the first thing that comes to my mind is no ice cream! I always fail my diets because I love ice cream, but you can’t eat ice cream when you’re eating healthy! I try to not eat snacks and bread, and I replace all my drinks with water. If I get a craving for food, I just eat nuts and other relatively healthy things. When I think about “eating healthy,” I become really sad, but then I think about clothes and I become happy again!

3. Hope Yoon (‘19)

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

I think of reducing meal sizes and spending more time working out.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

I think of cutting out added sugar, eating more greens and less processed foods.

4. Logan Choi (‘20)

Q: What do you think of when you think of the word “dieting?”

When I think of the word “dieting”, I think of unhealthy dieting, like starving oneself.

Q:What do you think of when you think of the phrase “eating healthy?”

When I think of eating healthy, I think of a balanced diet–a diet in which you can eat everything you want and stay healthy through exercise.

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The shift in wording hasn’t eliminated our desire to lose weight, fueled by continuous societal pressure.

Compared to how KIS students thought of “dieting”, the associations they had with the phrase “eating healthy” proved to be relatively positive; “dieting” reminded people of eating disorders like anorexia, but “eating healthy” evoked images of meals that had a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This stark contrast in connotations is quite ironic because the two are quite similar, if not the same, in actuality. Both want healthier eating and exercising habits, like consuming less sugar and fats, and both lead to eventual weight loss.

So nothing has really changed because of this change in names. In the end, both dieting and eating healthy have the same goals that are simply phrased differently, and the forced political correctness hasn’t positively impacted the body image movement because even though they put up a front of just wanting to become “healthier”, many people still secretly want to lose weight, further complicating the issue. People are more reluctant to reveal their true intentions for making changes in their lifestyle, making it more difficult to determine whether the movement is actually working. This focus on the “war on dieting” needs to be redirected to the “war on negative body image.” The real issue here is not in how we phrase things but how we think about our own bodies, which will not change overnight.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Image Sources:

The Illusionary Satisfaction of #Slacktivism

As slacktivism rose to prominence on social media, numerous hashtag campaigns have come and gone with minimal action being taken. What does it mean to be a slacktivist, and how can we tackle slacktivism to better the promotion of important causes?

Shortly after the Paris terror attacks in 2015, social media platforms were dominated by #prayforparis; the hashtag was used in pictures posted by over 70 million users just on Instagram. Many KIS students took to Facebook to change their profile picture to a temporary one with a tint of the French flag, again using #prayforparis in their caption. Some even wrote paragraphs about the severity of this issue, calling for immediate action. But of these “passionate” supporters of the hashtag, how many actually typed in Google “how to help victims of Paris attacks?” Did they donate to the Red Cross which quickly mobilized volunteers or to French charities like Secours Catholique-Caritas France or the French Secours Populaire which provided aid during local emergencies? Did you?

If you didn’t, you’re not alone; you’re one of numerous slacktivists. Slacktivism is a combination of the two words “slacker” and “activism.” This term was only coined online a few years ago along with the rise of hashtag campaigns. Like the name suggests, slacktivism is a form of activism that requires minimal effort. Slacktivists participate in “feel-good” measures such as liking, tweeting, or sharing to express concern over a social or political issue and then do nothing else. You might have been guilty of that sentiment as well; after posting #remember0416 on the anniversary of the Sewol Ferry incident, you may have mentally patted yourself on the back and thought to yourself, I’m raising awareness about this important issue. Go me!

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Every April, yellow ribbons can be seen on the streets, Instagram, backpacks, and more. By May, they’re all gone.

“Raising awareness” is a phrase often used by slacktivists to justify their actions. And I’m not trying to undermine the progress made by some activists on social media, because activism online can have its benefits too. It’s just that there is a limit to how much we can do to promote an issue on social media. Raising awareness is important, but it isn’t all there is to helping a cause; many people, however, seem to have forgotten that. After basking in the self-satisfaction they feel after retweeting a hashtag, slacktivists believe they have done their job and stop there. They scroll down their news feed and look at all the other people using the hashtag, thinking about how they have now also contributed to the cause.

This belief, however, has become a real threat to the proper development of grassroots movements that are fundamental to healthy democracies. Although the viral nature of these hashtag campaigns is their strength, it ultimately is their downfall. So many of these hashtags come and go within the span of a few weeks, and we soon move on to different, more current issues. During that process, however, many issues slide into obscurity without practical solutions.

Many critics of slacktivism have been quick to make assumptions about teenagers and activism, saying that the whole lot of us are passionate supporters of a cause on social media but not in real life. I asked a few people from KIS to test the stereotype and see if our age group does really have a lot of slacktivists.

1. Anonymous (’20)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

I’ve used the hashtag #alsicebucketchallenge to raise awareness.

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

I researched about ALS out of curiosity because a lot of people were doing the challenge, and I felt like it was worth promoting!

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

No.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I could’ve actually donated to an organization that helps people with ALS, and I hope to do the same thing for causes I want to promote in the future instead of focusing on just raising awareness on social media.

 

2. Anonymous (’19)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

In middle school, I posted on the anniversary of the Sewol ferry incident.

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

I read an article about it. An issue that I didn’t care about before suddenly brought tears to my eyes once I imagined myself in the victims’ situation, or even a survivor’s.

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

Yes.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I wrote an article about it years later to raise awareness about why it was a big controversy that still hasn’t ended, and why the issue still needs attention. A lot of the Sewol ferry incident continues to be about keeping the issue above the surface.

 

3. Jenny Chung (’19)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

Yep!

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

At the time of the events, I felt that I should take part in at least raising awareness for the issue since I knew that I wouldn’t be able to donate money or do much else… I also think that raising awareness for an issue is the first step to resolving it, and social media is a great platform for people to do that easily!

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

Yes.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I participated in school clubs (like Social Justice League and Girl Up) that host events and volunteer instead of opting to just raise awareness for issues! Although my answer to the previous question was yes, I think that I could do more in the future by donating money or actually volunteering as a first-responder to global issues, but that would probably come a few more years in the future!

 

4. Suahn Hur (’20)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

Yes I have — I have changed my profile picture with the French flag tint.

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

As with most issues that are present in society, I thought that raising awareness and reminding of ourselves of such tragic incidents were important.

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

Unfortunately, no.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I think there are such limited ways in which we, as high school students, can reach out to global problems like terrorist attacks (to be specific to the issue I’ve mentioned so far); we can only show that we still care and want to educate ourselves about the ways with which we can hopefully prevent further aggression and digression from status quo. I truly value education and never losing our sensibility surrounding global issues to be vital in improving our society!

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#bringbackour girls became viral after the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram. Three years later, we still haven’t brought back most of our girls.

So for the slacktivists out there roaming the hallways of KIS (yes, I mean you, person reading this article): keep firing away all the hashtags and paragraphs about how angered you are by the bigotry or violence, but don’t let yourself feel satisfied by posting on social media and rationalize your decision because you’re just a student. There are students at KIS who are actively promoting their cause through both hashtags and . One successful case we can always look to is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. After it became viral online, the ALS Foundation raised $12 million and made a huge breakthrough in ALS research earlier this year using the money from the challenge. So after sharing something on Facebook, go read up on the issue. Join an organization, donate, protest, blog, contact your representatives and legislators via email or phone call, and, when you come of age, vote; hashtag activism is only meaningful when it is paired with real-world action.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: https://studybreaks.com/2017/08/10/celebrate-anniversary-ice-bucket-challenge-als/

Sources: http://officiallykmusic.com/never-forget-0416-today-day-remember-sewol-angels/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/three-years-later-a-look-at-the-bringbackourgirls-catch-22

An Honest Guide to Universal Studios Japan

Read on for tips on how to enjoy your time at Universal Studios Japan!

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is one of Osaka’s main attractions, attracting more than 11 million people every year, but it reached the height of its popularity after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) was opened to the public in the summer of 2014. Naturally, as a Harry Potter fan myself, I had to visit USJ when I went to Osaka over the spring break. I did read about USJ before I went there, but most of what I experienced was completely unexpected. To make sure that your time there is as good as it can be, I compiled a short, frank list of tips about Universal Studios Japan and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Before we flew to Osaka, our family wanted to go to USJ on Friday but was unable to make any final decisions because the weather forecasts predicted that it would be a rainy day. We had to go either on Friday or on Saturday. Saturday wasn’t supposed to rain, but we knew that weekends brought more visitors. In the end, we went to USJ on Friday and didn’t regret it. Yes, it rained, but our umbrellas protected us well. Even on a rainy weekday, the park was packed. Everland and Lotte World wouldn’t stand a chance against the swarming crowds of Universal Studios; I don’t want to imagine how many people there would be on sunny weekends. USJ is actually visited by more Japanese people than tourists, so on weekends when there’s no school or work, you can expect to see more visitors than attractions.

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My family arrived to the park at 8 in the morning, thirty minutes before it was to open. We thought that we came pretty early, but when we arrived, we saw huge lines in front of the entrances. We were only able to enter at around 8:45. Most people bought their Studio Passes, or entry tickets, online, so they were able to line up in front of the entrances right away. I would recommend buying your pass beforehand if you don’t want any delays on the day of. Here’s a special tip: the line in the middle moves faster, so if you’re keen on getting in quickly, sneak into that one.

Plus, if you come in around the time that the park opens, you’ll be greeted by all of the USJ workers standing along the edge of the road. The workers really do genuinely seem happy and devoted to USJ, which is quite welcoming for us tourists.

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Express Passes are convenient ticket that let you enjoy popular attractions once with shortened waiting times. They also can be used to guarantee a spot for viewing the parade. Express Passes can be purchased on the day at the park, but are available only while supplies last; most will not be available on the day if they are sold out beforehand. There are different Express Passes that shorten waiting times for different attractions, so make sure to check out the different options before making a final choice.

Many Koreans buy them up to a month in advance because they sell out quickly. My family, again, was not able to buy them earlier because we didn’t know which day we would end up visiting the theme park. When we went to the ticket booth on Friday, we realized that most of the passes were already sold out, so we bought Express Pass 4 ~The Flying Dinosaur~.

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PC: Kristin Kim (’20)

The Express Passes allowed us to enjoy our time there because we never had to wait more than 10 minutes for any of the attractions we rode. The only drawback was that the Express Passes are quite pricey; the cheapest option is 4,500 yen with tax (about $40.51), and the most expensive one is 20,700 yen with tax (about $186.35). To enter the park, however, you also need a separate Studio Pass, which is 7,600 yen with tax (about $68.42) for adults. The waiting times for more popular rides can climb over 100 minutes, so if you don’t mind paying a little extra money, Express Passes will really enhance your experience at USJ. If you have specific attractions that you really want to ride, buying the Express Pass earlier will be a strategic choice.

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One thing I noticed at Universal was that everything is expensive. The passes, the food, the clothes, the souvenirs  – everything was very overpriced. Out of all of the worlds, however, WWOHP had the most expensive items. The Hogwarts robe was over $100, and the wands was also about $50. Universal knew that devoted fans will buy these goods despite the costs, so they set the price very high.

But if you are on a vacation and you don’t plan on coming to Osaka again anytime soon, you might as well spend some money on things you want to buy. Just remember to be aware of how much money you are spending so that you still have enough money to enjoy the rest of your stay at Japan!

If you ever get to visit Universal Studios Japan, just refer to these tips. As a person who was just as confused and uninformed as any other person before this trip, I promise that they will help guide you around the theme park.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: onozomi.com

List headers designed by Crescentia Jung (’19)

Park’s Impeachment & Her Legacy

Learn more about Park’s impeachment and its impacts on South Korea’s future.

Former President Park Geun-hye was a lot of firsts; she was the first female president in South Korea, the first female president popularly elected as head of state in East Asia, and the first democratically elected president to be removed from office in Korea. On March 10, 2017, the Korean constitutional court upheld the impeachment that had been approved by the Korean parliament in a unanimous 8–0 decision, terminating Park’s presidency 11 months early.

During her 2012 presidential campaign, she had an approval rating of 45.5% when competing against all potential candidates because she inherited many supporters from her father, Park Chung-hee. He was a Korean military dictator during the Cold War, and he was the icon of the conservative establishment that collaborated with Washington in pressing a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations. Many elderly citizens talked nostalgically of the past when Park Chung-hee had led Korea through rapid economic development (often called the Miracle on the Han River). They felt they have been left out in today’s prosperous South Korea where Confucian family values have largely vanished and the rate of old-age poverty is the highest among OECD countries. Park Geun-hye’s conservative stance on all issues had reminded them of Park Chung-hee, and so she was sworn in in 2013 with high approval ratings.

However, support for Park Geun-hye followed a downward trend throughout her presidential term. It hit a low in April 2014 after the sinking of the Sewol ferry when the Park administration’s failure to act quickly resulted in systemic lapses was blamed for the Sewol ferry tragedy. Even so, Park’s true fall from grace began on October 24, 2016, when JTBC, a Korean broadcasting company, uncovered a tablet computer belonging to Choi Soon-sil. Choi was a friend of Park who held no official position in the government, yet the documents found on the computer suggested that Choi had received confidential presidential documents and edited key speeches that she was not authorized to handle.

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PC: Global Research

Choi Soon-sil is the daughter of Choi Tae-min, a cult leader that became a mentor to Park after her mother (then the First Lady) was assassinated. Since then, Choi Soon-sil was Park’s confidante, but after Park became president, Choi became one of the most powerful people in Korea; she secretly wielded almost unchecked influence, exerting control over Park’s policy direction, the hiring of government officials, Park’s speeches, and even what she wore.

After Park publicly apologized about the scandal, prosecutors began to question Choi and Lee Jae-yong, the vice chairman of Samsung. Although Park had promised to cut the government’s close ties to Korean conglomerates, or chaebols, it had been evident for a while now that she not only failed in this regard, but actually reinforced the corrupt system. Samsung, among other conglomerates, was thought to have been pressured by Choi to transfer millions of dollars to “nonprofit” foundations (Mir Foundation & K-Sports Foundation) controlled by none other than Choi Soon-sil.  

After a series of mass rallies calling for Park’s impeachment and interrogations of the heads of conglomerates, lawmakers voted to impeach Park among charges of corruption on December 9. Power was immediately transferred to Hwang Kyo-ahn, the prime minister. A pro-Park group, Park Sa Mo (which literally means “the people who love Park Geun-hye) that mostly consists of elderly people held counter-rallies, expressing their disapproval of the motion to impeach their beloved president. Meanwhile, Park blocked investigators from entering the Blue House where she had holed up after the National Assembly motion to impeach her. She refused to be questioned and attended none of the 20 hearings at which the court heard evidence against her, but in the end, the constitutional court voted to uphold the impeachment motion. A snap presidential election is to be held within 60 days, and opposition parties have been rallying support for their candidates.

Park’s downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics from the conservative Saenuri party (which is now called the Liberty Korea Party) to the liberal opposition whose leaders want more diplomatic engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major military confrontation against North Korea and China. Of all the candidates running for the position, Moon Jae-in, a liberal Korean politician, is expected by many to be the front-runner.

Democratic United Party Leader Moon Jae In At Party Headquarters
PC: Fortune

However, many consider the impeachment of park to be a victory of Korean democracy because it was change brought about by a politicized youth. This controversy fostered political awareness in generation that had been showing downward trends in voter turnout all around the world. Although millennials are better educated than past generations, more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and less keen on drugs and alcohol, they lost many of the habits that inclined their parents to vote; they are less likely to watch news on television, read the newspaper or listen to news on radio.

The increasing disparity between the rich and the poor in Korea especially after 1997 Asian currency crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis have led to many young people struggling with precarious working conditions and job insecurity. The mass public demonstrations that ultimately led to Park’s ousting was led by the nation’s youth who have grown increasingly vexed at the corrupt elites who seemed to be above the law. The nation’s youth who were at the forefront of the peaceful protests learned that their actions ultimately could bring about change and even hold to account the most powerful people in the country: Lee Jae-yong and Park Geun-hye.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: CNN

Choi Da-bin: Korea’s Rising Female Sports Star

Read on to see which rising Korean female athletes are most likely to become the next Kim Yuna or Son Yeon-jae.

South Korea has had many male sports celebrities since it started to compete actively in international sporting events; Son Heung Min, Park Ji-sung, Ki Sung-yeong, Park Tae-hwan, and Ahn Jung-Hwan were among the most famous of them all. However, most female athletes were not successful in garnering the public’s attention; that is, until Kim Yuna came along.

No female athlete in the history of Korea has been as idolized as much as the first and only figure skater to have never finished off the podium in her entire career under the current ISU (International Skating Union) judging system. The Korean media had been covering Kim Yuna since she was a junior, but she really started to become popular in 2009, when she broke three world records in the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and World Championships. When she claimed gold in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, she became a household favorite all around the country and received international recognition; even Hillary Clinton praised her record-breaking performance. By the time she retired after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, she had won too many titles to count and was nicknamed “Queen Yuna” or “Queen of the Rink.”

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PC: Today

After Kim Yuna retired three years ago, competition for the top position in the figure skating world has been tough, especially in Korea. However, a couple of young ladies have been rising in prominence: Choi Da-bin, You Young, and Kim Na-Hyun. In the South Korean 2017 Figure Skating Championship, Choi Da-bin placed fourth, You Young placed fifth, and Kim Na-Hyun placed third in the senior division. Although they had been well-known to avid figure skating fans in Korea, they have only started to receive major spotlight quite recently.

Choi Da-bin did have a rough start this season during the national championship, but she surprised many by claiming the gold medal for women’s singles at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Obihiro, Japan. She exceeded the public’s expectations of a skater who had been an emergency replacement for Park So-youn, who suffered an injury and could not compete at this year’s Asian Winter Games. This is the first time a Korean figure skater has won gold at the Asian Winter Games, for Kim Yuna had never competed at the events. Kim Na-hyun did compete at this year’s Asian Winter Games as well, but she was not very successful, ranking only 13th out of 24 athletes due to an ankle and hamstring injury. Choi has been named one of Korea’s rising figure skaters, and some point out her similarity to Kim Yuna; the two skaters both call their strongest jump combination the triple Lutz/triple toe loop combination.

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PC: The Korea Herald

Choi is at the beginning of the prime of her career; she is of the ripe age of 17, and experts predict that she will be representing Korea at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.  By claiming third place, Kim Na-Hyun, Choi’s major rival, had received a ticket to the World Figure Championships, but due to her injury, she decided to hand her ticket over to Choi, who had placed right below her. Kim also had to withdraw from the Four Continents. How Choi performs at the 2017 World Figure Championships will be crucial for Korea’s representation in figure skating at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. If she places in the top ten, South Korea’s figure skaters will receive two tickets to next year’s Olympics. This was precisely the reason Kim Yuna, who had planned to retire early, decided to compete again at the 2013 World Figure Championships; she wanted to give an opportunity for some of her country’s rising skaters to compete at the Sochi Olympics.

You Young, on the other hand, is too young to worry about world championships or the Olympics. She became the youngest national champion of Korea at age 11 last year, breaking a record set by Kim Yuna when she won at age 12 in 2003. She is currently 12 years old, and the first Olympics she will be eligible to compete in will be the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

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PC: The Straits Times

However, she is not one to ignore; she raises one or both arms overhead almost every time she executes a jump, which rewards her with higher GOE (Grade of Execution) due to its technical difficulty. She became the first Korean figure skater to attempt quadruple (four spins) jumps beyond a triple axel jump in an official figure skating championship. Quadruple jumps require immense speed and power and are therefore rarely seen in female figure skating competitions. It is, however, a necessary skill for males wishing to be competitive in international competitions. There is only one male Korean figure skater, Cha Joo-hwan (15), who successfully executed a quadruple jump in an international competition. You’s coach says that the young girl had performed quadruple jumps nicely during practices, and that she had fumbled during the competition only because she had been nervous. Many consider this girl to be the successor to Kim Yuna (check out this video made by the Olympic Channel on her), but they say that we must wait until she hits puberty to see how she matures as a skater.

With the recent retirement of Son Yeon-jae, there remains no decisive female sports star in Korea. Who will be the next female athlete to be placed on a pedestal? It is unclear who the next Kim Yuna will be yet, but it’s a safe bet to say that she might be one of these rising starlets.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2017/02/25/figure-skating/choi-collects-asian-winter-games-gold/#.WLqTsRKGO3U

Sources:

http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2017/02/27/2017022701406.html

http://sports.news.naver.com/general/news/read.nhn?oid=477&aid=0000063495

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170223000962

 

Why Cheer?

Is cheer a sport? Tune in to learn more about cheer from our own cheerleaders.

Is cheer a sport? This question sparks controversy wherever it is brought up. For decades, cheerleading has been sexualized by countless American movies and television shows (prominently Bring It On [2000]), leading to the stereotyping of cheerleaders that is still prevalent in Western media. Although it has recently been garnering attention worldwide, cheer is still relatively new to the handful of countries that actively participate in it, and in the countries where interest in cheerleading has been increasing, many disregard the activity.

Regardless of which side you are on in this debate, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted provisional recognition to the International Cheer Union (ICU) last December, a necessary first step to cheer becoming an Olympic sport. Over the next three years, the ICU will have the right to petition to become a fully recognized support, which would then allow them to petition to be included in the Olympics.

Our school is not exempt from the debate over the authenticity of cheer as a sport. During our home games, many students look at the cheerleaders chanting on the sidelines of the basketball court and shake their heads. They claim that girls cheer just to look pretty in front of the basketball team, while others say that cheerleaders shouldn’t be given varsity letters or sports bags. With our teams competing at KAIAC just last weekend, I decided to hear from some of our own cheerleaders about this topic.

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PC: Kate Lee (’17)

Why do you cheer?

JV Cheerleader – Jihee Choi (‘20)

I cheer because it’s really a thrilling experience. I like working with my supportive teammates, and I love when we accomplish things together as a team.

JV Cheerleader – Sophia Ahn (‘20)

I cheer because I love being with my team. Whether is practicing the choreography or the stunts, we always have fun together. On top of all that, the sense of accomplishment we get when we put up a new stunt or hit the correct dance motions altogether is pretty amazing.

JV Cheerleader – Joshua Seo (‘19)

I cheer because I’ve always wanted to cheer and know what it’s like to be a male cheerleader.

JV Cheer Captain – Florence Lee (‘19)

I never thought I would love cheerleading this much before I started this season. Cheerleading has now become an essential part of my life and my personality.

JV Cheer Captain – Sooji Yang (‘18)

I cheer to share my energy and spirit with other people. It makes my day whenever I see people, especially little kids, brighten up when watching my team cheer!

Varsity Cheerleader – Sara Kim (‘18)

Cheer isn’t only a stress reliever for me, but a sanctuary. I feel confident and at home when I play the sport with people that I love – isn’t that the case for every athlete? I can’t imagine myself as a non-cheerleader.

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PC: Kate Lee (’17)

What do you have to say to those who say that cheer isn’t a sport?

JV Cheerleader – Jihee Choi (‘20)

I want them to try and learn a dance routine, memorize a cheer, hit a toe touch, and hold someone in the air while smiling. It frustrates me when people say that cheer isn’t a sport, but in the end, what matters most is that it is a sport to me.

JV Cheerleader – Sophia Ahn (‘20)

Many people say that cheer isn’t a sport because it doesn’t look as challenging other sports, but I want to tell them that cheer is a different kind of “hard.” Instead of having to run and sweat for a long period of time, cheerleaders have to give everything they have in two minutes and thirty seconds of fast dance moves, stunts, and tumbling while shouting their loudest voice and smiling to hide their panting and exhaustion.

JV Cheerleader – Joshua Seo (‘19)

I want to tell them that they don’t even know how much blood, sweat, and tears we spill to get our stunts to work and to keep our flyers up.

JV Cheer Captain – Florence Lee (‘19)

Just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean it’s not a sport.

JV Cheer Captain – Sooji Yang (‘18)

I really want to say that the common perception of “cheer isn’t a sport” is wrong. To be honest, before I started cheer this year, I was one of those people who didn’t consider cheerleading a sport. However, being involved in the cheer team totally changed my mind. I realized how cheer requires tremendous strength and stamina as well as dance skills, tumbling, and flexibility. I want to tell people that unless they’ve tried cheer, they are not in the position to say that cheer is not a sport.

Varsity Cheerleader – Sara Kim (‘18)

I dare you to throw me in the air and say it’s easy. Because it’s not.

How was your experience being a captain this year?

JV Cheer Captain – Florence Lee (‘19)

Making the KAIAC routine was the hardest part; even after several all-nighters and endless exchanges of emails with the coach, the routine never seemed good enough. Despite all the pressure as a captain, seeing the team work hard to memorize and perfect the routine made everything worth it. I am thankful to have had team members who easily accepted feedbacks and changes in our routine during our practices. They were all very dedicated to the success of the team.

JV Cheer Captain – Sooji Yang (‘18)

My experience of being a captain this year was actually really tough. Regarding the fact that it was my first time in cheer, the responsibility I had as a captain gave me a lot of pressure. However, Florence, who was my partner as another captain, helped me push through the season with all the tasks we had to fulfill as captains! I really want to thank her for that.

How would you describe this season?

JV Cheerleader – Jihee Choi (‘20)

I think that even though it was my first season, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.

JV Cheerleader – Sophia Ahn (‘20)

I think that this season was amazing for the JV cheerleaders. Every single person in our team was new to cheerleading, yet we were able to learn quickly, grow significantly, and end the season with results to be proud of.

JV Cheerleader – Joshua Seo (‘19)

This season was great! I’m definitely going to try out next year too.

JV Cheer Captain – Florence Lee (‘19)

The start was pretty hard. It was the first season for everybody, including our coach. We didn’t have enough space to practice in the Fitness Center with varsity, so we had to practice in the squash courts with no mirrors. We had to roll and unroll mats and then carry those heavy mats up stairs at the start and end of every practice. Although we might not have had the highest level of stunts and jumps compared to other teams, our sharp motions and spirit allowed us to place second at KAIAC. I know it’s really cheesy to say that I had the best team members I could ever have this year, but I do truly feel like I will never be able to work with a team as energetic and spirited as this year’s JV.

JV Cheer Captain – Sooji Yang (‘18)

I would like to say that this season was unforgettable. The energy and teamwork among our team members grew every practice, and I could feel that by the end of the season, our team was just like a family! I was extremely proud that our team placed second in KAIAC, regarding the fact that it was everyone’s first year in cheer.

Varsity Cheerleader – Sara Kim (‘18)

This season was a bit tough for me with my very first serious injury. Having to sit out made me frustrated and upset at the fact that I couldn’t do anything. Nonetheless, I tried to fulfill my job as a cheerleader for my cheerleaders. It was a great season because we were together.

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PC: Kate Lee (’17)

To those who claim that cheer isn’t a sport: you’re right. Cheer is more than just a sport. Yes, cheer does support athletic teams and schools, but it also involves athletic components. Cheer is actually much more physically demanding than what spectators may think. Imagine stunting, tumbling, dancing, and hitting jumps all with precision and a big smile on your face. Even with no protective gear, cheerleaders are still able to show off their exemplary flexibility, tumbling, coordination, strength, balance, and endurance in just two minutes and thirty seconds. So, cheerleaders, next time somebody disregards our sport, say to them, “Do you want to try?”

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: Kate Lee (’17)

Russia Partially Decriminalizes Domestic Violence

“If he beats you, it means he loves you.” In Russia, where old proverbs and traditions are still relevant today, the parliament voted to decriminalize domestic violence. Read on to find out what this means for the victims and the aggressors.

Late January, the Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence unless it causes serious damage to the victim or happens more than once a year.  The bill will punish violations with a $500 fine or a 15-day arrest except in the cases of domestic abuse not subject to this law. If this bill takes effect, first-time offenders that do not cause harm severe enough to send the victims to the hospital will receive no penalties.

If this bill is approved by the upper house, the Federation Council, and signed by President Putin, Russia will become one of only three countries in Central Asia and Europe that does not have any laws specifically targeting domestic abuse. No or minimal opposition is expected in the Federation Council, and President Putin has already expressed his support for the bill.

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PC: yahoo.com

The amendment will overrule a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court that took effect last July that eliminated criminal liability for domestic violence that results in no physical harm but kept criminal charges for battery against family members. As soon as it began to be enforced, the law faced fervent opposition; Russian lawmaker Yelena Mizulina described it as “anti-family” and “undermining the parents’ ‘right’ to beat their children.”

Human rights activists argue that the government should be protecting the victims from more domestic violence; however, the Russian parliament has chosen “protecting the family unit as an institution” over protecting the women and children whose rights are violated every time they are assaulted by their own family. Other critics of the amendment claim that the passing of this bill will send a message to the Russians that domestic violence is not a crime and will fuel the rate of battery against family members, which is already high in the country.

According to the Russian government, 36,000 wives are beaten by their spouses every day, while 26,000 children are abused by their parents every year. In order to escape domestic violence, 2,000 adolescents commit suicide and 10,000 run away every year. However, 60-70% of victims do not seek help, so 97% of domestic abuse cases never appear in court.

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PC: domestic-violence-law.com

Archaic ideologies have been gaining traction in not only Western Europe but Russia as well recently. Specific laws criminalizing domestic abuse and other “private affairs” are increasingly perceived as nosy meddling in household matters by the government. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, stated that family conflicts are “not always equivalent to domestic abuse,” and a state-run survey in January found that 19% of Russians believed that it can be acceptable to beat a wife or child in “certain circumstances.” Even some Russian police officers are reluctant to get involved in domestic violence cases, which they view as meddling in family affairs.

The Russian cultural and political establishment has always upheld traditional values, but they have become increasingly conservative in the past few years, especially under President Putin. New restrictions on protests and political liberal opponents have already been passed, so the Russian government’s backtracking on their domestic violence policy has not proved to be a surprise although it has worried human rights activists.

Domestic violence, however, is not an unfamiliar problem to us as well. According to South Korea’s Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, 60% of all domestic violence cases were dropped from prosecution charges in 2015, while only 15.6% went through the indictment proceedings. A total of 118,178 cases were reported, but only 8762 arrests were made. In our country, domestic abuse is also widely perceived as a private matter that law enforcement should not pry into, and the perseverance of the family unit is often valued more than the victims of “family conflicts.”

How many more pleas from the victims of domestic abuse will convince societies with deep patriarchal roots that domestic violence is unclear, but it is clear that it is a severe issue that must be tackled by the government. The safety and quality of the lives of the citizens should be prioritized over the set ideals of political parties. So far, many conservative governments have not fulfilled their own duty by not taking enough action or actually backtracking in their efforts to progress towards social justice; however, governments must start listening to their own people before the voices of victims are completely silenced by their aggressors.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: headstuff.org

Sources: