Reality Check, Mr. President

It’s high time that the president learns that he is not above the law. 

On September 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into the president. This decision was backed by resounding support from the House Democrats, with over 95 percent of them being openly supportive of the investigation. 

The impeachment inquiry stems from two main reasons. The first is the shocking news that Trump had talked to the president of Ukraine about investigating Joe Biden, the former vice president and his political opponent for the 2020 elections, although there is no evidence of wrongdoing by him. In addition, he has withheld nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine just days before the transaction was to take place in order to focus on the investigation. 

The longtime accusations that he had conspired with the Russians to sabotage the 2016 elections didn’t help, either. This isn’t the first time that the president has thought that he is above the law. A comprehensive investigation paper named the Mueller Report (after the lead investigator, Robert Mueller), which was released a few months ago, outlines the illegal actions Trump and the Russian government took to uncover harmful information about Hillary Clinton through the emails of government information she sent via her private email address. Although the report seemed damning enough, Trump managed to squeeze his way out of an impeachment. The anger of the nation continued to fester under the surface. 

But now it’s erupting with full force. 

What’s frankly hilarious is that the president thinks that he can run away from this situation and cover it up with flamboyant, inflammatory remarks and tweets, like he has always done. In a letter to the House Democratic leaders, the White House said that the inquiry had “violated precedent and denied President Trump’s due process rights in such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would willingly provide testimony or documents,” according to the New York Times. It went so far as to announce that “it would not cooperate with what it called an illegitimate effort ‘to overturn the results of the 2016 election’”. To add the cherry on top of this fabulous sundae of distractions, Trump mocked the democrats by calling the house a “kangaroo court”. 

What he doesn’t know is that the world is now mocking him. There’s nothing he can do; this week, House Democrats plan to hold their first public hearings in their impeachment inquiry into Trump for his communications with Ukraine. 

Reality check, Mr. President.

– Lauren Cho (’22)

Image: The New York Times

The Myth, The Legend, The Cho Kuk

It has been a month since South Korea was outraged by the Cho Kuk scandal. Cho Kuk, a professor for law studies at Seoul University, was alleged with the exploitation of Kuk’s social status to help his daughter falsify her academic achievements. This provoked immense controversy as Korea has long been an academically competitive country with millions of students stressing over college admissions. This further aggravated when his family was given a travel ban due to allegations of illegal business practices, investments, and management. Despite all these debates, on September 9th, President Moon officially appointed Kuk as the Minister of Justice. Although Cho Kuk eventually stepped down, the scandal became a momentous subject to the whole nation. 

On August 27th, it was reported that about 20 locations were raided by the prosecutor’s office. The allegation was sparked off from the paper the daughter took part in an international medical research paper (Korea Journal of Pathology), listing herself as the head author, which is almost implausible for a highschool student to accomplish. Despite the fact that she failed her exams at Pusan National University twice, she not only did not get removed from the university but also got a scholarship for over six semesters (2016 to 2018). Moreover, she was accepted to Ewha medical school which triggered even more suspicion. Making matters worse, Kuk’s wife was also charged with forgery of administration documents. 

During an 11-hour long news conference, Kuk did concede to the aforementioned allegations that his daughter gained unfair advantages in her academics while maintaining that he did not violate any legislation. Within no time, students from all over Korea, including students from Seoul National University, protested against Moon’s decision and Kuk’s corrupt behaviors. Surprisingly, this incident led to a nation-wide candlelight protest against Minister Kuk, which was very similar to that of President Park’s impeachment. 

Moon’s presidency centered around the value of fairness and justness, deriving this driving value from Park’s corrupt presidency. Kuk’s scandal, however, proved that inequality still existed within this “just, established” system. Korea was once again was divided: the Democratic Party of Korea (the political party that Kuk is in) had ambivalent responses. Some had criticized Kuk and Moon while others defended him asserting that there are no illegal actions nor does Kuk’s action interfere with his role as the Minister of Justice. 

It has only been two years since Park’s presidency of threatening Korea’s democracy, yet Moon also faces massive outrage filled with protesters seeking impeachment. Cho Kuk resigned due to the massive appeal from the protests, but the heated discussion of current president Moon’s qualification still circulates around the political discussion. Was it right for Moon to impart a position to whoever he wants? Should Moon have also issued an apology or even resignation? But, most importantly, should one’s personal scandals be considered when examining his qualifications as a candidate? 

I still believe that these are the questions that should be asked in these heated political discussions. However, there is no doubt, unlike the past when corruption silenced the people’s voice, that people are more aware of their democratic rights. Citizens directly protest to their leaders if they see a flaw or exploitation in the system-an indication of a healthy democracy. Still, amends are needed in this current government. Like how President Park’s scandal dissolved into thin air, it will be only a matter of time. In such, we can only hope that this scandal prompted Korea’s democracy to be one step further and learn from its mistakes. 

-Mark Park ’20

Featured Image: The Hankyoreh

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.

spycam.jpg

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)

We Are Not the Enemy of the People

The Press doesn’t exist to be positive or to be liked. To shield our school from dissent, from questioning the status quo, from going against the orthodoxy for the sake of deterring negativity violates the very core of our purpose.

Chris Park is the former Editor in Chief of Blueprint. -Ed.

There is a global erosion of the understanding in the role of the press. We are the daily targets of Twitter rants by the President of the United States. He calls us the “enemy of the people,” a line autocrats around the world are too eager to echo—the same thugs who aren’t afraid to detain and murder journalists.

Over the past 10 years, 700 journalists have been killed. One of them was Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who wrote scathing articles about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Saudi government assassinated him and dismembered his body last October.

We are the Press.

We exercise and defend the first right of the People guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Our job isn’t to be liked or deliver feel-good news. We serve as the final line of defense in the corroded state of our democracy, holding in public spotlight every decision an elected body makes.

And that sacred duty starts with us here at our school. Perhaps it’s a bit conceited to fuse together principle so grandiose like the freedom of the press with a mere student newspaper. But even something one might consider trivial, such as student body election, is a microcosm of the larger democratic experiment that warrants a free press. With it should come the protection for the Press.

The piece published by Blueprint a couple of days ago laid out what the editorialist believed was missing from this year’s Student Council elections: a focus on issues. It never denigrated the hard work done by the student leaders in the past. The writer agreed that, in part, elections are a popularity contest: outreach efforts, be it through slogans, social media presence, or face paints, are important.  But it shouldn’t be the only part of it. An election is an application for the job, albeit more public than one we typically encounter.

Blueprint rarely publishes anonymous Op-Ed pieces, as one Facebook commenter noted. But we believed that publishing the article anonymously was the only way to deliver this important perspective to the school community, especially witnessing the level of vitriol in numerous personal attacks and threats made since. The original piece has now been updated, reflecting the authorship. We now ask for your discretion.

Since the publication of the article, a number of people have reached out to Blueprint thanking the writer for voicing a necessary perspective. As opposed to critics of the article who freely expressed their opinions on public and private media (and they have full rights to do so), supporters felt the need to keep their opinion hidden from the student body. We have a climate where free speech and expression are implicitly oppressed by the fear of blind criticism, and where students are so quick to dismiss opposing views that some were taking sides without even reading the article. This is an eerie reflection of the harshly polarized state of the current political climate, both in the United States and Korea, calling to mind how Republican commenters are treated on New Yorker articles or, conversely, Democrats on the Washington Times.

We take no position on whether the writer’s perspective was true, but we do take the position that it was a perspective and merits publication. It has turned out to be an important perspective, at that—evoking critical thought, debate, and discussion throughout the student body, perhaps inviting more intellectual engagement with the significance of student council elections than ever.

Regardless of which side of the debate you were on, the vast majority of the responses showed that our school was a community driven by passion. Democracy is a messy experiment, one full of vociferous and quarrelsome individuals unafraid to voice their opinions. And politics, at any level, can be awfully personal. Its results can determine our financial security or immigration status. Sometimes, as it was in this election, it’s our friend and family bravely taking on the challenge to run. It might seem unfair to have an “October-surprise” article ruthlessly excoriate those we are close to, but we need a place to have a frank and open discussion about the state our politics, no matter how personal.

A free press is an agent to drive that debate. We, of everyone, want a vibrant discussion on issues we bring forward and welcomed the comments and opinions shared since that article went online.

We, however, were disturbed by those who disputed our right to express, to question, and to publish, harassed our writers, and dismissed our work to simply be a desperate cry for attention. They are the very culprits in the global assault against a free press and are no better than the violent mass who assault journalists at Trump rallies.

Again, the Press does not exist to be positive or to be liked. To shield our school from dissent, from questioning the status quo, from going against the orthodoxy for the sake of deterring negativity violates the very core of our purpose. Blueprint, as the only student-run newspaper at KIS, should and will continue to diligently carry out our duty to the People.

We stand by our decision to publish the controversial piece a couple of days ago. Not because we necessarily agree with the piece, but because, we, as a school, need to maintain the integrity of the Press.

Featured Image: Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Jennie Yeom (‘20) and Hope Yoon (‘19) contributed to this article. Jennie Yeom is the current Editor in Chief. Hope Yoon is a former Editor.

The Fundamental Problem with Student Council Elections

When we vote for a candidate’s name instead of his or her skills in this fashion, our election is really no better than the half-baked candidacy of “Make America Great Again,” one driven entirely by personal popularity, professing vague promises that even supporters themselves cannot define.

The Blueprint Editorial Board encourages candidates to demonstrate that the StuCo elections are actually more than what many people believe it to be.

This article has been revised to reflect its authorship and input from readers.

The election to decide the direction of our student body is tomorrow, but we know very little about the candidates running aside from their catchy slogans. That’s it. Apparently, the only thing to know about almost every candidate is who can write the best catchphrase. But who cares? Tomorrow’s election will entirely depend on how popular someone is.

Admittedly, voter outreach using campaign posters around the school and on social media is a useful tool. It helps candidates publicize their candidacy and draw attention to their individual campaigns. However, what most candidates fail to understand is that witty posters are not the only, nor the most important, part of a campaign to lead this school; posters should merely be a means to an end. (An exception to what I just said is in the race for the Creative Director position, where a good poster shows off creative ability and is therefore both important and effective. But I digress.) Many have solely relied on their campaign posters as an instrument of campaigning, and only three—out of twelve—candidates so far have publicized their qualifications, plans for the future, and/or vision for the school and the school body.

The use of campaign posters without the other hallmarks of campaigning — clarification of platform positions, community outreach, debates, etc. — is a recent trend that hints at something more alarming: that most of these candidates are confident that they will win solely by virtue of their popularity. As trivial as this might seem — “Who cares if this election is a popularity contest? They’ll still do their jobs!” — it’s important to recognize that, for most KIS students, this is the first time we will be voting, one of our first experiences with the democratic process. That this entire election seems mostly based on popularity doesn’t really encourage real political engagement.

The unspoken rule of elections states that voters should vote for the candidates who present the best plans, goals, and/or qualifications. Why, then, aren’t we learning more about these candidates? Why haven’t there been more rigorous discussions about goals and plans for how to achieve them? I suspect candidates don’t often worry about engaging in a political process due to their confidence in their voters/friends. They know that a sizable portion of the student body will vote for them unconditionally despite the fact that they have no idea why the candidate should win. Why should they push to be more thoroughly vetted?

Because it matters to the integrity of our student government. When we vote for a candidate’s name instead of his or her skills, our election is really no better than the one that promised to “Make America Great Again,” which was driven entirely by personal popularity and vague promises that even supporters themselves could not define.

Of course, I must acknowledge that many of the candidates have included something of substance in their posters. I applaud that effort. But many of those statements are rather vague and noncommittal; most are merely campaign slogans, one-liners that are supposed to capture the essence of a candidacy that is so much more than one line. Taken together, all of this leads to a lack of faith in the StuCo elections.

That we have a serious problem here is evident when people pass off running since they are “not going to win anyway.” While some might dismiss this as mere apathy, it actually reveals the darker truth that we perceive the election as a popularity contest, and this attitude brings immeasurable harm to our school and our conception of democracy, affecting our civic participation down the line. Too many people in the past have attempted to run for Student Council positions and put immense amounts of time and effort into campaigning just to be beaten by someone more popular than them. It seems that we, as a student body, have grown to accept that no amount of qualifications or careful planning can beat popularity.

I encourage the candidates to engage with the political process and demonstrate that the StuCo elections are actually more than what many people believe it to be.

– William Cho (’21)

The Malaysia Corruption Scandal–How Did They Do It?

How did the largest kleptocracy case in the world play out?

The biggest corruption scandal of the 21st century is finally coming to an end. A single leader of a single country carried out a con game against not just his people but the entire world. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently awaiting a final decision by the jury, has been charged for more than 40 crimes including embezzlement of over $4 billion from the state fund. Mahathir Mohamad, who came to power last May in the general election, has openly denounced Najib and immediately barred him from fleeing the country. When the police forces searched Najib’s properties, they seized hundreds and thousands of luxury goods: 234 pairs of sunglasses, 423 watches, 567 handbags and 12,000 items of jewelry as well as 30 million dollars of cash in various currencies. By far, the Malaysia Scandal is “the largest kleptocracy case,” as US Attorney General Loretta Lynch described.

How is a 12 billion-dollar international fraud involving Hollywood celebrities and more than 12 countries worldwide possible?

It all began in 2009 when Najib Razak was elected Prime Minister of Malaysia. One of his first actions was creating the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-run investment company which was supposed to promote economic growth and lead Malaysia to become a more developed, sustainable nation. Its announced initiatives included purchasing privately owned power plants and building a new financial district in Kuala Lumpur, which would understandably lead to astronomical costs. In order to raise funds for his “projects,” Najib issued international bonds for state-owned oil and in the process took advantage of connections with the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), Goldman Sachs, and Deloitte to establish trust among the international economic society. As a result, Najib successfully raked in bond sales totaling 6.5 billion dollars. However, instead of reaching towards its initial goals, 1MDB was exploited by Najib and other high-ranking officials.

In the center of the scheme was Jho Low, also known as the “Asian Gatsby.” As the main conductor, Low managed to bribe famous Hollywood celebrities and renowned public figures and utilize them as tools of “word of mouth” to promote his 1MDB business. It seemed that Najib and Low would live in luxury forever. However, the US Department of Justice reported how the pair used the money from 1MDB to buy real estate in the United States, rare artwork, and custom-made jewelry.

Corruption is seldom uncovered when the corrupt are in power. However, at the time of the regime change, the power of the commander-in-chief is weakened, the inner circle of the politician handing the torch off to the new administrative team. With this newfound (minimal) instability, criticism of the Malaysian people against Najib and his party intensified. In the process, Mahathir recognized that he could rise into power once again and resolve this financial crisis.

Regarding the Malaysian case, it is hard not to notice a striking similarity with South Korea’s presidential scandal in 2016: a leader can lead his or her country to not only prosperity but also drive it towards chaos. In order to prevent such political and economic fiascos, it is necessary to establish global and international apparatuses and mechanisms of anticorruption so that the behavior of politicians can be scrutinized and regulated for any foul play.

–William Cho (’21)

Featured Image: Associated Press

The Problem With College Rankings

1. Introduction

I did it for four years and hated myself for it. Every new college that I heard of, I would google the same thing: “X University rankings”. And after the couple milliseconds it takes for Google to pull up an arbitrary figure to answer my impatient call, I would make an instant judgement upon the school, a multi-building, multi-department institute with thousands of people, dozens of programs, and a myriad of pros and cons I couldn’t possibly fathom in that moment.

I did that for four years, hated myself for it, and kept doing it. I kept doing it because it made things so easy. The prospect of having all those colleges lined up from zero to one hundred right before my lazy eyes was convenient and compelling. How could it not be? Comparing schools becomes as easy as 2nd-grade math. The warring higher education system of an entire nation is laid to rest under my scrolling thumb. It’s irresistible sometimes.

Further research and rational thinking weakened the grip college rankings had on my mind, and by the time I was actually getting results back from schools, I cared much less about that label. That’s not to say I didn’t care at all—but I believe I struck the right spot of caring only as much as I should. So I put together this article to organize my thoughts and knowledge on the matter, as a final plea to those juniors now heading into this scary and often toxic process: try to keep the rankings out of sight, out of mind.

 

2. The Flawed Logic of Those Magical Numbers

The first truth is that ranking colleges is not possible. Well, it might be possible to say Harvard is a better school than Idaho State University. But what I’m talking about is the kind of rankings that some Korean parents are prone to see: like how Johns Hopkins is ranked 4 spots higher than Vanderbilt, or that UCLA is “tied with” Washington University in St. Louis. Surely anyone could see the ridiculousness of perceiving based on rankings alone that “JHU is better than Vanderbilt” or “UCLA is the same as Wash-U”. That’s plain silly.

Did you know that colleges is not the only thing that U.S. News & World Report ranks? Their various “rankings” provide them with most of their website traffic. Some of their other lists include “100 best jobs” (software developer is #1) and “world’s best places to visit” (Paris takes the top spot). They attempt to use objective measures such as pay or job satisfaction for jobs and hotel quality for travel destinations, but you don’t hear anyone claiming that everyone should try to be a software developer and everyone should go to Paris, because that would be stupid. Career paths depend on personal preferences and so do travel destinations. I don’t doubt that software developers make lots of money and have stable jobs. I don’t doubt that the vast majority of Paris tourists end up loving the city. But that doesn’t mean the so-called “rankings” dictate what jobs or cities are objectively superior over others and therefore should be preferred by everyone. (Cartographer is ranked #18, by the way, and I’ll be damned if as many people fought to become cartographers as people fight to get into Notre Dame, which is apparently the 18th best university in the U.S.)

It’s the same for colleges. Of course academic reputation matters. But ranking metrics can only take into account measures for which there is an objective scale of bad to good. This includes things like student-faculty ratio (the smaller the better) or average SAT score (higher the better). It makes sense to compare these things, but it also means there is no way to compute factors such as school size, athletic involvement, or location. Some people want to go to school in an idyllic, secluded rural town, while some cannot stay away from a booming city. Some can’t stand the snow, some can’t stand being surrounded only by white people, some can’t stand not having frats to join, and others couldn’t care less. Of course rankings can’t take all these things into account—because it’s a matter of difference, not superiority. And at that point, how much weight should these numbers hold? Maybe Idaho State is better than Harvard. Maybe a student from Idaho simply wants to study close to home. Maybe a student has more financial aid from Idaho State. Maybe (hold onto your hats) the student simply doesn’t want to study at Harvard. That student’s choice is as valid as any other’s. 

3. The U.S. News & World Report: Shadows & Corruptions

If you’ve delved into the college process a little bit, you’ve probably noticed there’s more than one set of rankings. Times Higher Education, Niche, Forbes… all may sound familiar. But the end-all-be-all trump card of college rankings is the list by U.S. News & World Report that I’ve been referring to. It is cited the most, referred to the most, and generally taken as the standard set of rankings. So let’s delve into this one in particular to point out all the shady spots.

They tinker with the methodology every year so people pay attention to changes in their rankings. Ultimately, they’re just trying to get people to buy their magazines. So they weigh various factors slightly differently so that universities end up “moving” a few spots each year, when nothing inherent about those schools have changed at all—but, gasp, it causes such a buzz if Stanford “goes down” two spots!

They contribute to pushing tuition up. Their methodology gives more points to colleges that spend more money per student. Because schools care so much about ranking higher on the list, they spend more money and raise tuition to cover the costs.

Colleges game the system. Because the list is so well-read and highly regarded, it encourages unethical activity among colleges just to rank a little higher. Claremont McKenna was slammed in 2012 when they admitted they had been submitting false SAT scores to publications such as U.S. News. Even outside of such outrageous acts, colleges are pushed to do things like turn away capable applicants on purpose to increase yield or aggressively encourage applications just to turn away more people, because of course, brownie points for lower acceptance rates.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. A whopping 20% of their rankings are based on “expert opinion”, which is basically high school counselors and academics ranking the schools according to their personal view. This is supposed to reflect general academic reputation. Well, guess what, most of those people’s perception of academic reputation is derived heavily off the U.S. News list. And that’s supposed to contribute to… the U.S. News list.

This only begins to scratch the surface of what’s wrong with the methodology and general system. The worst thing, though, is that it contributes to a sense of status anxiety and encourages toxic competition, which most high schools don’t need any more of. Some things can’t be perfectly quantified—among those things are university quality and the amount of emotional distress college rankings cause across the globe.

If you’re still not convinced what a sham college rankings are, I would encourage readers to read this article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell (it’s lengthy but enjoyable, well-written, and potentially eye-opening): https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/14/the-order-of-things

4. What Can Rankings Actually Be Good For?

Let me push pause on the angry-senior-mode bashing. To be fair, college rankings can be a useful tool for students or parents for which the American higher education scene is completely foreign. It provides a rough sketch of what well-known institutions are out there, and perhaps can serve as a starting point for a student beginning to research colleges if they know close to nothing to begin with. Besides, if the rankings were indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy of vague reputation level and nothing more, even that could be useful. Much of society functions based on “vague reputation level” anyway, and I am not here to discount the potential importance of name value.

Beyond that, however, it is essential the college search process remains trained onto its authentic purpose: to provide a home for a student that will intellectually and socially nurture a young adult for four years. That task is much more complex than a numerical list may suggest, and it is critical that juniors entering the process keep their priorities in mind. So rankings, while sometimes useful, need to take a back seat in the decision process. The strength of specific programs, campus setting, athletics, greek life, weather and location—ideally, all such things would be considered.

5. The Bigger Issue: at KIS, We’re Bred To Care

Besides the inherent flaws in the attempt to rank colleges, the KIS climate exacerbates these limitations to turn them into active problems. If no one cared about rankings, they would be harmless. They could be like a Buzzfeed list of “26 best rom-coms of all time”—entertaining to read, a source of inspiration in times of boredom, but recognized for its subjectivity and holding close to no authority on the actual subject at hand. That wouldn’t harm anyone.

But the way some KIS students and parents respond to rankings can be harmful. Acronyms like “HYPS” schools (which is really nothing but an arbitrary set of four very well-known schools that are very different from one another) or the Ivy League (again, eight schools that share an athletic league and not much more in common) float around casually, there is a toxic trend of parental bragging rights (or shame, on the negative end of the spectrum), and the general frenzy drives some families to spend tens of thousands of dollars on consulting services that guide and sometimes near-falsify student resumes. SAT cheating scandals. College essays “heavily edited” (basically drafted) by outsiders. Gossip on who’s applying where. Pressure not to apply so others have a better chance. In terms of college admissions culture, we should be ashamed of ourselves. There is a certain irony in how the brightest people fight for spots at schools that are considered the pinnacle of higher education, and that in this fight, students and parents end up going down and dirty, stooping to their lowest levels.

We can do better. I know it. We can do better than working ourselves into hysteria and stressing each other out.

So what happens if, perhaps, you chased your own idea of a good school instead of trusting a random magazine’s idea of one? A quick interview with ’18 KIS alum Judy Jahng revealed that when she first wanted to apply to Northeastern, she did not have much support from the people around her, since it was ranked lower than what they thought she should aim for. But she knew her priority in a college education was getting real-life work experience and access to career opportunities, found Northeastern’s co-op program, applied, was accepted, and chose to enroll. This is an example of someone that took a step away from obsessing over rankings and found what was right for her.

I don’t have an absolutely bleak outlook on this. In fact, most people I know in my class have been pretty careful about rejecting rankings when other factors were clearly more important. But the culture of putting emphasis on prestige has definitely been tangible throughout the process and a stressor for many.

6. Moving Forward

Sadly, I am one of the biggest beneficiaries of this name game. It would make me a liar if I claimed I haven’t perceived the changes in how people treated me after being accepted into universities. It would make me a pretentious liar if I claimed that didn’t make me feel good sometimes. I’ve been hired as a tutor without having to present further qualifications or proof of experience. The least I could do is be honest about it.

Here is the real takeaway I hope to leave you with: as KIS students, we live in an inherently privileged bubble. It’s a community of internationally educated students who can afford the hefty tuition of a private high school and eventually a degree from a foreign university. The bubble drives many people here into insanity, picking at the difference between a “top-20” and a “top-30” school. But the world is much wider and life is much less predictable than our bubble may suggest. Less than 7% of the global population ever graduates from college. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that we’ve simply been conditioned to care so deeply about certain things because we’ve been part of a small, self-selecting group for so long, but that it’s also within our power to step away from that. 

I write this thinking of the juniors I care about. I write this as a plea, knowing college rankings will, for all the wrong reasons, deeply bother or deeply motivate some of those individuals that I love and wish a happy future for. I wish I’d stopped caring about rankings much sooner than I did and I wish the same thing for my underclassmen. This is also a plea for all students to stop judging others based on the ranking of the school they end up going to. It has no bearing on how happy they will be on campus come this fall. It has no bearing on their strength of character. It has no bearing on their future success.

I guess it’s easy for me to write this, having had fortune on my side during the college process. But as I face an impending final decision on which school to commit to, I know that if I was the kind of person to choose the school that’s “ranked higher” for that sole reason, I would never have gotten into either of those schools in the first place. I got into those schools at least partially because of my genuine desire for education and self-betterment, for recognizing what my unique needs are, and to me, college rankings are an antithesis to those things.

-Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

Featured Image: Yale University

Rising Artists to Watch in 2019

2018 has been a rich year for music as has expanded the limits of its genre, style, and more. With the start of 2019, learn more about who will expand and lead the music scene for this year.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Zacari
Zacari is a new signee of the most prominent Indie Label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) which consists of artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, SZA, and more. Comparing himself as the “lone wolf,” Zacari delivers a new style of music—an amalgamation of Jazz, Soul, Hip-Hop, and lo-fi. The R&B singer first appeared in the public by featuring in Kendrick Lamar’s song “Love.” The song gained significant spotlight due to his mellifluous voice and unique R&B beats style. Then, he featured in the song “Redemption,” Black Panther album, one of the best Original Soundtrack for 2018 consisting of major artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Khalid, and Swae lee. Recently, in 2019, he posted his first single, “Don’t Trip,” which has been on the rise for popularity in all music streaming services. The new single has already been appraised by critics, gleaming hope for his upcoming project many TDE fans.

Prominent songs: Don’t trip, Love, and Wat’s wrong

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Source:XXL Magazine

Gesaffelstein
The French DJ was already producing with major artists such as Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Daft Punk from 2013; however, the public did not know him as he worked behind the spotlight of these artists. The recent album, “My Dear Melancholy,” by The Weekend solely features Gesaffelstein, gaining attention from the public. Following his feature, he releases a new single in collaboration with The Weekend, topping the charts. Unlike other EDM and techno artists, he carries a dark and threatening yet enchanting style of music. Finding himself in the public more than usual, many are keeping an eye on his punk-rock EDM music.

Prominent Songs: Lost in the Fire (feat. Weekend), Pursuit, Viol

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Source: BBC

XXX
The South Korean Hip-hop duo XXX-rapper Kim Ximya and producer FRNK-is an outlier in any Hip-hop scene. Rather than gaining popularity from Korea, they first caught the eye of the international community. In 2017, they were the first Koreans to feature in Maison Kitsune Fashion Show playlist for its after work exhibitions. Despite their relative silence with only two album releases, XXX is considered as one of the most subversive hip-hop groups. Working with frenetic electro beats and dark and vitriolic style, the duo continues to be on the rise while being the outlier in the music industry.

Prominent songs: Flight Attendant, Sujak, Dior Homme, and Ooh-Ahh

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Source: The Korea Herald

Aries
Starting from a home-made youtube channel that remixes popular songs, Aries only has 8 songs released, yet most of the songs were able to rack up 1 million streams on Spotify. Merging late-stage emo and modern hip-hop, his music delivers a wide range of emotion such as rage and sadness in a flip of a dime. There’s not a lot of information about Aries, yet his music is a paradigm of the current trend in rap music-emo. However, unlike Lil peep and other emo-artists, his songs feature some light moments, establishing a diverse spectrum of his style.

Prominent Songs: Carousel, Racecar, Sayonara

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Source: Youtube

Masego
Though an underground musician, Masego continues to establish a strong fan base, transforming avid, hardcore hip-hop fans into fans of jazz and soul. With his hit song, “Tadow,” Masego represents the younger generation of jazz hip-hop (as jazz was one of the most used genres in hip-hop beats by many hip hop legends). Collaborating with few R&B and unique artists such as TDE’s SiR, Masego’s style soothes out every R&B song.. Employing modern DJ sets and his iconic saxophone, his music has the elements and formula to become one of the most funk-styled artists such as Outkast.

Prominent Songs: Navajo, Pink Polo, and Tadow

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Source:Vibes

Ella Mai
With her first debut album, “Ella Mai,” two of her songs were nominated for Grammys; moreover, her song, “Boo’d up,” was considered as a ‘breakthrough hit’ by charting in the Billboards. Although Ella Mai may be considered as a typical now-days R&B singer, she is able to have the perception of 90’s heartthrob emotions with break-up anthems, soulful ballads. In other words, she was an affinity for classic R&B artists. The already bright start of her debut album illustrates the bright future of her career, hyping many R&B fans.

Prominent songs: Trip, Boo’d Up, Whatchamacallit, Everything

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Source: Billboard

Blueface
Blueface has stirred almost all hip hop community debating about his style and controversy. Coming from the Crip gang, the Los Angeles Bluface represents the younger generation of gangster rap with the mix of trap and trendy beats. The carelessness and young energy engendered by the rapper attracted many younger followers to his fanbase. Most of his beats conform to the trend; however, his offbeat flow is what catches Internet’s attention, polarizing many rappers and fans. Consequently, the stirred controversy left the young rapper in the spotlight, getting co-signs by Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, and other artists (even Kendrick Lamar took Twitter to acknowledge his young presence).

Prominent Songs: Thotiana, Bleed it, and Studio

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Source: Youtube

Colde
Appearing as the third Korean artist in the Colors Studio-an aesthetic music platform channel in Youtube-the R&B singer Colde is on the rise in the Hip-hop scene. Originally, Colde was in the OFFONOFF hip-hop duo; however, he currently came off as an independent artist, fully revealing his talents. Having a strong connection with mainstream artists such as Dean, Crush, and Punchnello, Colde continues to dominate the Korean music charts. Similar to Dean and DPR Live who both performed in the Colors Studio, Colde continues to build an international fanbase.

Prominent Songs: Your Dog Loves You, Poem, String

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Source: Pinterest

Reason
As the newest member of the indie label TDE (along with Zacari), the Compton native Reason is one of the most anticipated rapper this year. His debut album, “There You Have It,” fully divulges his true rhyming skills, accounting his life story of how his come-up from Compton. Similar to major artists in TDE such as Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar, Reason excels in telling his success story and the struggles of his neighborhood.

Prominent songs: Better Dayz, Situations, and There You Have it

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Source: Rolling Out

2018 has already been a bright year for avid hip-hop and R&B fans. Rising artists topping Billboard hits with singles, not to mention old artists making a come back to the music industry. There are a handful of others that deserve this title and achieved more last year (such as all the members in 88rising Entertainment) yet these artists seem to hold the most amount of potential. All of them holds the prospect of being able to expand the limits of music.

Featured Image Source: Complex

Mark Park (’20)

What we can learn from National History Day

Lessons from the largest history competition in the world.

On February 16, KIS participated in the annual National History Day Competition at Cheongna Dalton School. Since 2012, international schools in Korea have hosted the regional contest, in which the top two winners from each category advance to the national level competition in Maryland.

Competition categories include research paper, documentary, website, performance, and exhibit; excluding the strictly individual research paper, all categories can be done in either a group or individual.

Year and year again, what is fascinating about National History Day is its power to make you reexamine history. It forces you to delve deep into topics you may have touched upon in class, but haven’t delved deep into the nuances, perspectives, and even controversies that surround them. After all, history is interpretable and easily malleable, right?

If considering participating in NHD, here are five things that a participant can take away in the course of conducting research, forming an argument, and applying knowledge in a chosen presentation category.

It’s easier when it’s closer to your heart
It’s a hundred times easier to talk about and debate on a topic chosen out of true interest and passion. That genuine curiosity and drive to seek out the truth is what can make a project stand out. Don’t just choose the Great Schism as a topic because of a passing recollection from a World History class. Choose the topic that reflects personal personality, interests, and experiences.

How to form your own opinion
This is a particularly important one because of the political climate we live in today. Especially if selecting a contentious topic, a project will have to work with sources that directly contradict and oppose each other. There will be angry, obscene remarks in the comment sections of Youtube videos related to the topic, and the research could be stuck at a crossroads—where it is not clear which route the research should take. Through this dilemmas, those taking part in NHD will learn to review the evidence presented and develop skills to discern the best path forward. Not everything is written in stone!

How to manage your time
The theme for the 2019 contest was released in July of 2018, just a month after the national competition in June, so there’s little excuse to put off working on the project until the last few weeks or days. There will be SATs and various tests and projects sandwiched between the summer of 2018 and the due date in January, which means participants had to be extra vigilant with managing their time. It takes several weeks to finalize the topic, several months to finish the research, and another few months to work on the project of choice. There’s an important lesson to be learned here about how to set deadlines and keep oneself accountable that can be applied to future long-term projects.

How to defend yourself
A large part of NHD is forming arguments through research. Here comes the part where you defend it. During the question and answer session with the judges, participants are bombarded with a slew of questions about their argument, flaws, and opposing viewpoints. The job is to reject the opinions you disagree with, concede to opponents who have a case, and reaffirm your own thesis.

How to combine your skills
History, filmmaking, graphic design; for me, NHD was an opportunity to combine all the things that I love doing, and allowed me the creativity to do whatever I wanted with it. Rarely do we see this kind of unbridled freedom in the classroom. It’s important to learn how to tie in talents with each other and utilize them to the fullest extent. If you like web design, make a website. If you’re a theater kid, do a performance. There’s something for everyone in NHD.

NHD is not going to be unquestionably good for everyone, and people will take away different things from the competition than others. However, if you have a passion for any of the categories that NHD offers, the competition is worth trying. Some may be turned off by the “H” in NHD, but it will be another outlet to express your creativity while building on essential skills that will be useful both in and outside the classroom for years to come.

– Charles Park (’20)

Featured Image: Corona-Norco Unified School District

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