"Free Speech" in Korea

"Free Speech" in Korea is somewhat of an oxymoron. South Korea has done an admirable, indeed, nearly miraculous job, revolutionizing its economy and bringing it to the attention of the OECD world. However, while Korea might be a forerunner of economic progress in Asia it is seriously lagging behind in corresponding social development.

While perusing the Marmot's Hole (a news blog focusing on aggregating interesting articles from the various English newspapers available in Korea) I ran across this article on university students that had been blacklisted. At first, I thought, 'what is this, a list of the seriously obnoxious disciplinary issue kids?' but this horrified me far more. Up until 2008 (supposedly they have stopped, official policy changes were not mentioned), students on campus at Sookmyung Women's University were blacklisted for participating in any sort of government protest or criticism. This adversely affected their chances of receiving scholarships, getting into study abroad programs and any other special program.

In most of the OECD world, universities have been at the forefront and often instigators of social change. Students are a country's future, their investment in success. Stifling their creative ideas and expression of what they believe to be right and wrong is a very quick way to undermine your investment. How can you expect innovation and invention when students are shown that only toeing the line will let them succeed? How can social change and natural evolution occur when it is stifled at the very moment in life when human beings have the most passion, drive, and energy to effect change? This sort of thing infuriates me to no end. Don't get me wrong, Western schools have a myriad of their own problems but I get sick about reading how fabulous the Korean education system is (in fact, it was publicly endorsed by President Obama earlier this year) when it has as many serious flaws as our own system.