Meet the Candidates: Catherine Lee

Catherine Lee (’22) is running for the position of Community Outreach Liaison.

Blueprint is committed to restoring the issues and vision to the center stage of this election. We’ve reached out to all declared Student Council candidates to hear about their ideas for the next school year. All responses received will be published prior to the start of voting. This post is neither an endorsement nor disapproval of any particular candidate.

1. Why are you running to be the Community Outreach Liaison?

Great question! Let me begin by explaining a little about why I’m running for an officer position in the first place. As some of you may already know, I’ve been a part of Student Council here at KIS for the last five years in a row. In the Middle School Student Council, I served my first year as a grade representative and my last as part of the executive team.

Each year I sought out greater responsibility, and each year my peers trusted me with more. Through this process, I learned how much I love being in a position to serve on my peers’ behalf and lead through dedicated acts of community outreach.

After middle school, I went back to square one as a grade representative for the High School Student Council. Over the past two years that I’ve held this position, using my past experience as a foundation, I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground and trying to make small but meaningful differences where I can. This has included reaching out to peers who need my help, contributing to events such as spirit weeks, pep rallies, patio on fire, and supporting the current officers. With my strength in communication, I believe that Community Outreach Liaison is the perfect position for me—I will elaborate on this point in my response to the third question.

Now, I am once again calling on my peers and their trust in me as I seek a position of greater responsibility, so that I may do more to make our school a more communal place.

2. If elected, what do you see to be your role in the Student Council?

First, within the Student Council, I will give be able to use my position to give voice to the concerns and thoughts of our community. Whether it be in town-hall meetings or extracurricular activities, as an officer, I would make sure our community as a student body always has a seat at the table. Since I will be a junior next year, I will be ideally positioned to serve as a bridge between the underclassmen and the seniors in order to create a closer and more tightly-knit community here at KIS. I see this responsibility as being embedded in the title of the job itself.

Furthermore, as Community Outreach Liaison, I will be taking on more of a leading position as part of the officer team. I will give direction and guidance to the members of Student Council who are relying on me for them and work in coordination with other officers. As stated in the position descriptions, a large part of my responsibility will be to establish a community within Student Council. Given my experiences in HS StuCo over the past two years, I already know many of the current members and potential future members of StuCo, and I hope to use these friendships and relationships as a great starting point to forging better alliances, which will only help the Student Council accomplish more on everyone’s behalf.

3. What makes you the best candidate for this position?

What makes me the best candidate for Community Outreach Liaison are my expertise and experience. Since I have already talked about my five-year experience, I will concentrate more on my expertise when answering this question.

As far as expertise goes, I’ve identified “communication” as the keystone to carrying out the role of Community Outreach Liaison successfully. The job itself entails “coordinating efforts with lower school divisions, attending PTO meetings, establishing Student Council community and volunteer efforts, and working with Service Learning Coordinator.” All of these responsibilities require an effective communicator, and I am confident enough in my own communication skills to say that they make me the best candidate for this position.

My experiences in MUN and debate have given me ample opportunities to practice the art of articulating my opinion and listening to others’ carefully and formulating cogent, thoughtful responses. Those skills will be applicable to platforms of formal communication such as PTO meetings. Also, with regard to conversational communication skills, a big part of my Student Council journey has been about being a more approachable, communicative member of our community. To me, this is just part of the contract of holding any leadership position at all, and with all the practice I’ve had, I am confident in my ability to use my experience and expertise to successfully carry out the role of the Community Outreach Liaison.

4. In which area do you think our school and the student body face the greatest challenge?

Over my past twelve years at KIS, one thing I’ve noticed is that students prefer to stay with the same group of friends year after year and are afraid or unwilling to change something that they’re already accustomed to. This can be attributed to our upbringings in the somewhat conservative environment that is Korea, as one’s surroundings inevitably affect one’s character and personality significantly. This unconsciously embedded nature within Korean students makes it difficult for new students to feel like they truly belong in this community. Since this trend boils down to a cultural aspect, I acknowledge the difficulty of overcoming this issue, which is why it persists even though KIS continuously emphasizes inclusion as an integral value.

As a solution, I would like to introduce the shadow program, which was a program I was part of as MS Student Council. Under this program, a new student follows around a Student Council representative for the whole first day of school. Representatives are trusted to take on the responsibility of helping new students forge friendships and connections with peers, as well as providing them guidance whenever needed. I have strong faith that successful execution of this program can truly help new students upon their arrival.

5. What’s a secret talent that you have?

I can move my ears without touching them. Maybe that’s what makes me such a great listener!

Meet the Candidates: Hannah Choi

Hannah Choi (’22) is running for the position of Community Outreach Liaison. 

Blueprint is committed to restoring the issues and vision to the center stage of this election. We’ve reached out to all declared Student Council candidates to hear about their ideas for the next school year. All responses received will be published prior to the start of voting. This post is neither an endorsement nor disapproval of any particular candidate.

1. Why are you running to be the Community Outreach Liaison?

I’m running because I have been a grade rep my entire time in HS and I wanted to get more involved in STUCO. I am running for the Community Outreach Liaison position specifically because I genuinely enjoy connecting with others and wish to incorporate everyone’s opinions as much as possible.

2. If elected, what do you see to be your role in the Student Council?

If elected, I envision my role in Student Council to be one that binds everyone together. I mean not just STUCO and the student body, but also everyone within STUCO. Grade reps are sometimes informed of plans later than officers since there are a lot of processes that must be undergone in officer meetings before the word is officially spread. I wish to help everyone be involved ASAP. I will also try my best to apply everyone’s opinions to improve STUCO socials and meetings. As the position encourages, I will reach out!

3. What makes you the best candidate for this position?

What makes me the best candidate for this position are my clear goals and spirit (both of which I will outline in my future updates!). I have also attended the AISA Leadership Conference (with other schools’ STUCOs) every year in my time in high school, which means that I not only have a lot of new ideas but also have a lot of experience in STUCO-related issues or approaches 🙂

4. In which area do you think our school and the student body face the greatest challenge? How will you work with this challenge?

I think the greatest challenge in our school and student body is the lack of adequate communication. For instance, town hall. Town hall is designed to be a judgment-free zone where students can vent about their problems so that STUCO can approach and try to solve them. However, every town hall, we discover that so many people are too shy to participate in it. So my solution is: an anonymous google form! This way the student body can still let STUCO know their problems, eat their lunch, and still be anonymous. If so many students feel comfortable submitting anonymous google forms on the KIS Anonymous Facebook page, I’m sure they will feel comfortable submitting google forms (just as anonymous) for STUCO as well!! 😉 For more references, I am addressing several other problems in my document coming soon!

5. What’s a secret talent that you have?

A secret talent that I have is my wild self in karaokes. Anyone I can went to karaoke with before can attest to this!^^^^^

Parasite Oscars

And the winner is… PARASITE. 

Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, and Best Original Screenplay.

The Academy Awards, more popularly known as the Oscars, is one of the most prestigious events in the film industry as the awards signify international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements. However, recognition for foreign films had been largely limited, especially for Asian films. That is, until the South Korean Film “Parasite” wrote history at the 92nd Oscars.


Director Bong Joon Ho at the 2020 Oscars

“Parasite” is a South Korean black comedy film that highlights how greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan. The core issue of the film is not unique to South Korean Society, but one that is prevalent around the world. Even without vilifying the rich nor glorifying the poor, the movie was still able to clearly address the outrageousness of the income inequality system that relates to quite frankly every person whether they be on the higher or lower end of the income spectrum. The witty and biting social criticism by director Bong Joon Ho is one of the main reasons why the film has garnered such international acclaim. 


92nd Academy Awards

The film “Parasite” was nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best foreign language film, Best original screenplay, Best production design, Best film editing. Four out of the six awards it was nominated for were brought back home. Parasite won more awards than any other film that night–foreign and U.S. films included. Bong Joon Ho became the 2nd Asian to win Best Director after Ang Lee in 2013. But real history was written when “Parasite” claimed victory over the Best Picture Award, which had never been won by a foreign film in the 92-year history of the Oscars. 

The unprecedented achievement of a foreign film sweeping at a largely ‘American’ award ceremony inevitably led to controversy. Notoriously, Trump was seen mocking the Oscars for awarding “Parasite,” South Korean Film, the Best Picture Award, while expressing nostalgia for films like “Gone with the Wind” and “Sunset Boulevard.” His ignorant and narcissistic comments enraged fans worldwide. 

Buzzfeed News

Nonetheless, the achievements of “Parasite” has led Bong Joon Ho to become a trailblazer, opening up new paths for future generations of directors, especially in South Korea, to follow his footsteps. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the historic  2020 Oscar awards can be summarized by Bong Joon Ho’s famous quote: “Once you overcome the 1inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” 

China’s Coronavirus Outbreak

Here’s an overview of China’s Coronavirus

Currently, leaving not only the city of Wuhan infected, but also other international cities vulnerable, China’s coronavirus is continuing to spread unabated. Patient zero appeared on December 31st last year, and the SARS-related respiratory disease quickly grew at an alarming rate. Today, this virus reached a shocking number of  42,000 confirmed infections over 28 countries. Most of the stores and businesses in China are closed, and other Asian countries closed down major department stores and places that usually hold a high population. In such, the Coronavirus became a global health concern all around the world. 

After the virus contaminated a handful of people in Wuhan, scientists and the World Health Organization were quick to identify the disease and its origin. Researchers found out that bats were New Coronavirus’ reservoir host. Although scientists are not sure how it was transmitted, they predict that it either transmitted to other animals, eventually leading up to us, or was sold in illegal black markets (as China consists of a lot of black markets for animals). 

Although scientists and the WHO were able to recognize the vaccine, the Chinese government denied proposing an action to prevent the disease from mushrooming to other countries. Due to its rapid outbreak, there were only a few ways in which the government could respond (they could only use thermometers and workers to look for potential patients). In such, people from Wuhan and other cities that had Coronavirus patients immediately took refuge in nearby countries, positioning South Asia and East Asia in danger. People were readily able to leave as it was difficult to differentiate the new Coronavirus to a regular cold. In social media, there were constant stories of how patients escaped Wuhan by taking fever-reducer drugs, indicating how easily people could get away from the government’s eye.

Currently, the control of the disease is still in the process as more confirmed patients are found all over the world. Although the world has a better grasp of what Coronavirus really is and ways to prevent it, it is still difficult due to its subtle symptoms and contagious characteristic, making everyone paranoid. To make matters worse, there has been racism against Asians from Caucasians that discriminate Chinese. People were trying to find a scapegoat for this crisis as their lives were put into danger. Korean social media is also quick to criticize foreigners from China. In addition to social issues, there have been political conflicts; for instance, many younger generations are criticizing President Moon for opening doors to Chinese tourists despite the virus. This phenomenon is happening to other countries as political parties clashed in these types of problems. Coronavirus is bringing political, social, and economic problems to our society. 

Many experts compare this crisis to that of MERS and SARS. Although this virus is less lethal than those two, its rate of contagion is much higher. The only way to keep ourselves safe is to wash our hands and wear masks. Stay safe!

Featured Image Source: Al Jazeera

-Mark Park (’20)-

Coronavirus: How students are questioning KIS’s safety

How is KIS reacting to the coronavirus outbreak?

December 31st, 2019 marked the official beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Only weeks later, the deadly virus had entered South Korea. 

For those who don’t know already, the coronavirus is a virus which targets mainly the respiratory tract. It is a part of a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The uproar of concern in the status quo is caused by the fact that coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans, and is quickly becoming a global epidemic. Currently, there is no known cure. 

The virus has, naturally, sparked great worry amongst the KIS community. Students have begun to wear masks in school on a daily basis, and many teachers have installed hand sanitizers and wipes in their rooms. One sophomore described how wherever he went—school, subway stations, or academies—he saw a majority of Koreans with their faces covered and heads down. 

“It’s almost like an apocalypse,” he said. “I hope this blows over soon.” 

The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused many students and parents to wonder if school would close down. Some students have jokingly referred to the prospect of no school, remarking that they hoped such an event would occur to avoid schoolwork. Others, however, have expressed more grave perspectives on the matter.

“I really feel like school should be shut down,” one worried junior remarked. “The coronavirus isn’t a joke. It’s a really dangerous virus. I don’t feel safe coming to school right now.” 

“I’m not just worried for myself, but also for my family,” said another student. “What if I contract the virus at school and unknowingly bring it back home? What then?” 

To try to quell these concerns, the school has enacted measures to keep the coronavirus out of KIS. For one, they have installed heat sensors at the B3 and HS first floor entrances which alert supervisors when someone with a body temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius enters the school. 

“This is to make sure that people with the symptoms of coronavirus don’t enter the school and potentially spread it,” said one supervisor. 

Another measure that the school has taken is to lower the standard degree of a fever from 38 degrees to 37.5 degrees Celsius. 

But even with all these preparations, students still feel uneasy.

“The school can’t afford to shut down, but can afford these fancy new machines? That just doesn’t make sense,” said a sophomore. 

Another student suggested online school. “We can just have school online. That’s what technology is for, isn’t it?” she said. “Sometimes people with corona don’t even show the regular symptoms. We’re just coming into school every day with the blind faith that we’ll be fine.” 

When asked if she felt as though the school was doing all they could to ensure her safety, she responded, “If they really wanted to keep us safe, they’d close school until this virus goes away, not make school a place where disaster is just waiting to happen.” 

When students feel as though their health and livelihoods are threatened, that is when the school must go above and beyond to allay those fears. 

— Lauren Cho (’22)

Why China’s Dominance In eSports Isn’t Surprising

Back-boarding off of the recent Chinese dominance in multiple global eSports competition, specifically League of Legends, the Chinese video gaming community looked poised to take over the world in terms of the sheer number and talent of its players. Just around a year ago, the eSports organization Invictus Gaming (IG) took home the League of Legends World Championship trophy for their Chinese fans in a dominant fashion. Taking down all competition—including the historically prevailing region of South Korean teams—IG began the subversion of the global League of Legends regional hierarchy, toppling anyone above them and setting China on the throne. Last Sunday, too, the 2019 LoL World Championship trophy went to the hands of—you guessed it— Chinese team Fun Plus Phoenix. 

This display of dominance, especially on an international stage, is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly by both those engaged and unaware of the eSports scene. Raking in millions of viewers and billions of dollars of revenue and sponsorships, professional League of Legends has generated more profit than many national and international athletic events. Seeing a massive and relatively recent surge in viewership, the eSports industry now functions as different multi-genre tournaments that revolve around different video games. Games such as League of Legends have regional tournaments, culminating in one grand World Championship between the winners of these regions. Last year, China ended up taking the trophy home in dominant form.

So where does this newfound skill come from? Well, the answer is that they’ve always been a fairly dominant region. From legendary players like Uzi and XiaoHu, Chinese players have continuously displayed why they’re the cream of the crop. However, for many years, China was unable to beat the goliath-like South Korean teams who outperformed them not only in game but talent fostering, management, organizational structure, practice culture, and investment. With the adaptation of South Korean professionalism in eSports, though, Chinese organizations became an impenetrable castle, buttressed with generous funding, and began outperforming their rivals. Apart from the professional changes, there were many reasons why the Chinese dominance isn’t surprising. With internet cafes engineered to accommodate high-level gaming dispersed around the entire country, children can begin playing video games, not only League of Legends, from a nascent age. Wielding a population of 1.4 billion, it’s only natural that there are thousands of young, eager talent ready to be recruited and trained to be the region’s next superstars. For China, success in eSports was predetermined with everything lined up for them—becoming the best was only a matter of time and patience. 

So where does that leave us now? Will China remain as dominant as they have been in recent years? Is this merely a fluke and repeated failures by the rest of the world? That’s impossible to tell. From the performance displayed at this year’s LoL World Championship by revitalized South Korean organizations and rising European superstar teams, there’s a high chance the Chinese dynasty gets toppled as quickly as it began. But it’s also almost as likely that they remain triumphant in the face of new challenges. China as a country has all the conditions required to maintain their grasp over the world in eSports—a massive population, stressful school environments leading to cravings for entertainment, feverishly addictive video game cafes, and a massive pride to protect. If the Chinese government chooses to invest in this industry and develop infrastructure through funds, it will be better for not only Chinese teams, but imperative to the betterment of the entire industry.

–Andrew Hong (’20)

Hong Kong’s Autonomy

The Hong Kong protests, explained.

The 1984 Sino-British power transfer agreement stated that China would give Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years as the country would run under the “one country, two systems” principle. With an independent judicial system, the financially thriving country of Hong Kong demonstrates a great model of democracy and freedom.

However, its underlying relationship with neighboring mainland China has proven to invite a myriad of issues concerning universal suffrage, free speech, and independence. The concept of  protesting or organizing mass activist movements in Hong Kong is not a foreign one. In fact, ever since 2014, Hong Kong millennials have initiated protests against Beijing’s increasing control over its legislative and judicial systems. 

Though the protests currently happening in the status quo are unprecedented. Peaceful protests took place early in 2019 grew by June into marches of astonishing numbers, drawing hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers. 

Although the extradition bill has been completely withdrawn, protestors are fighting for “The Five Demands” to be fulfilled by the Hong Kong Government. The Five Demands include investigations against police abuse and universal suffrage. The greatest public demand is conduct direct elections where legislative and presidential candidates do not have to be prescreened by a body of politicians from Beijing. 

With all the chaos among protestors, Hong Kong police, and Chinese politicians, I was fortunate to interview two of my friends in Hong Kong who both wish to remain anonymous for their individual safety. While the two are currently enrolled in international schools in Hong Kong, they both hold a strong sense of attachment and devotion to Hong Kong’s heritage and sovereignty. 

For the people who don’t understand what’s going on in Hong Kong, can you provide some background information on what’s currently going on with the recent protests?

A: The protests in Hong Kong began due to a very controversial extradition bill, which would essentially allow China to step into Hong Kong’s judicial system and try [Hong Kong] criminal cases in China. This sparked a lot of outrage among citizens who first started protesting peacefully. Over time, the protests have escalated. Although Carrie Lam has officially withdrawn the bill completely, the protests evolved into a debate about Hong Kong freedom and independence as well as overall dissatisfaction with the government in general. There are several points of contention, some condemning the police for their actions taken against protesters and others who are calling for Carrie Lam to step down. One of the main points behind the protests is that they are fueled by general dissatisfaction and disappointment with how Hong Kong is currently being run in accordance with China.

B: I’m sure most people know about it, but the protests basically revolve around this extradition bill that was introduced ever since a Hong Konger killed his girlfriend in Taiwan. Even though this bill might properly prosecute that individual, it means that China can interfere with Hong Kong’s judicial system and extradite Hong Kong criminals to China. There was a lot of opposition against this bill and basically this is where all the protests originated from. The bill was withdrawn a few months ago, but Hong Kongers, especially the young ones, are still demanding for free elections and transparency in the police department. 

How are you, your friends, and family reacting to these protests? 

A: I definitely know some of my friends who have attended, and I’m very supportive of their attendance, that being said protests have generally escalated far more now, with more police involvement and violent clashes. At the current state of the protests, it’s more difficult and dangerous for students to participate. While I don’t think I would go out and protest, those that I know that do go and protest, I hold immense respect for their bravery and dedication. I’ve seen footage and stumbled across police barricades and it is sometimes quite frightening, but it also just makes it all the more clear how important going out and participating is for the people of Hong Kong. 

B: I’ve been told by my parents to avoid certain streets, subway stations, and landmarks. [My parents] are a bit passive and they don’t talk about the protests unless they tell me to be careful. They also get frustrated when the protests are blocking major roads and create traffic, but that’s all. A few of my classmates were really passionate, but now the protests are quite violent. Most of my friends who are foreigners immigrated to Australia and Singapore because the police are beginning to even harass foreigners or anyone who doesn’t speak Mandarin. 

How is your school responding to the protests? (ex. safety, potential student absences) 

A: My school is farther removed from the protest areas, so we are currently not having too many safety requirements regarding protests. Typically, during weekdays protests are scarce as they mostly occur during weekends. They haven’t actually disrupted our school life all too much, but our school has held an assembly to address what is going on in our city and offer different perspectives on the protests. Although the school is an international school and mostly neutral, it holds respect for both the protesters cause and the government.

B: My school has been closed for the past week because the protests these days are extremely dangerous. There was a college student who was shot on Monday as well as a man who was set on fire. These days, the protestors are even beginning to enter areas where protests never took place. 

Have you ever considered participating in a protest? 

A: I would say that myself and the people around me are generally more removed from the protests since not many of us are actually from Hong Kong and we always have the opportunity to return to our country of origin. That being said, most of the people I know are sympathetic to the protests. Although the protests have had a significant impact and inconvenience on our lives, we understand the necessity of this cause for the Hong Kongers. Most of us are hoping for a peaceful and nonviolent end to this cause with resolution soon.

B: Nope, I haven’t and I never [will] protest because it’s really dangerous with the tear gas and rubber bullets. A bunch of students got shot and a pregnant woman was physically assaulted by the police. 

In truth, Hong Kong has a bleak future. 2047 marks the 50th year since Britain’s return of the country to China, encouraging a higher degree of Chinese control and autonomy over Hong Kong. The rubber bullets, bloodied heads, and broken umbrellas all symbolize Hong Kong’s brutal and prolonged fight for freedom, but defeat is inevitable unless the West fixes its disappointing response to this cry for democracy. 

–Hannah Jo (’22)

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

KIS’s New Badminton Team

A new sports team.

Juniors Peter Ha and Eric Kweon, after prolonged efforts to reinstate the KIS badminton team, have recently obtained approval from Athletics Director Mr. Vreugdenhil.

Badminton is now an official winter KIS sport for the first time in almost four years, and will be competing in assorted sporting events such as KAIAC and AISA, coached by either Mr. Ashok Shanishetti or Ms. Christy Yang. Each of the boys and girls teams will be admitting 10-13 members. Peter and Eric’s request for badminton to be classified as a varsity sport is under review by the administration. Those who are interested in joining the team can fill out this interest form.

–William Cho (’21)

 

 

Why are lunch prices rising?

It’s not greed. Really.

“Why are the prices rising?” ask many waiting in line in the cafeteria. They’re right— burgers, once well within ₩5,000, set us back ₩5,800, and Korean meals jumped more than ₩1,000 to ₩5,200 in a two-year span. As someone who had been at KIS since the entry of Hyundai Green Food as the school’s official caterer, I’ve felt the impact of the gradual increase of lunch prices. However, we tend to view these price increases as something unjustified that’s done merely for the increase of profits and in the spirit of greed. The economic trends in recent years offer sufficient explanation.

First, it must be established that Hyundai Green Food’s dependence on the Korean economy is significant. Despite the fact that the company tends to source its beef from Australia and certain types of rice from Vietnam, its ingredients are mostly grown or raised in Korea; fluctuations in prices of ingredients in Korea will most certainly impact Green Food. Since the 2000s, South Korea’s minimum wage has been steadily increasing until the past few years, where President Moon Jae-In’s economic policies in recent years have driven the minimal wage up in dramatic increments.

ROK Minimum Wage
South Korea’s hourly minimum wage. From tradingeconomics.com.

The first conclusion that can be drawn is that the Hyundai Green Food is probably paying higher wages to the cafeteria workers in order to keep up with the rising minimum wage. Of course, this change is advantageous for our cafeteria’s workers, but not for the company. Low-cost labor keeps its products and services cheap and accessible to a larger audience. Then, we must consider Green Food’s supply chain.

This supply chain involves agriculture and animal husbandry, labor-intensive fields of work that involve many unskilled laborers that are often paid low (sometimes, illegal) wages. Prices for agricultural and animal products are determined by numerous factors, the some of the most important of which are the production and circulation costs, both of which are directly impacted by the Moon administration’s wage increases. The produce and livestock companies that supply Green Food have to pay higher wages to the manual workers that grow and raise the products and the truck drivers that drive the food to wherever it needs to go; these wage increases ultimately drive the costs of food up due to the fact that companies increase prices in order to cover for the additional expenses the increased salary incurs. In summary, with every step of the food’s journey from the field to the cafeteria, the current economic situation forces increased expenditure by all the parties involved, a chain reaction which makes its way to us and forces us to pay more for lunch. So, to those that say that these price increases are motivated by corporate greed, here’s your answer. Don’t jump to conclusions.

— William Cho (’21)

Sources will be provided upon request.

Image: Hyundai Group