SEXUAL VIOLENCE is a topic commonly perceived as “taboo.” Even at Yonsei, one of South Korea’s most liberal universities, it is a topic not widely discussed. However, that does not mean that sexual violence is not prevalent at our campus. Sometimes, posters are openly displayed in front of the Central Library accusing other students of sexual violence. There have even been a number of cases of verbal sexual harassment on Kakaotalk.
These occurrences are by no means isolated incidents. In fact, according to a survey conducted by The Yonsei Annals, 16.3% of Yonsei students have reported being sexually assaulted. This statistic mirrors those of an influential 2015 survey by the Association of American Universities, which found that more than 1 in 5 female students in American colleges have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.
Limitations of sex education at Yonsei University
Unfortunately, our present college infrastructure is too poorly equipped to handle this problem. Currently, freshmen are given a short lecture on gender and sex sensitivity during the freshmen orientation week. The Women’s Student Council works in conjunction with the Gender Equality Center to host an expert on such matters for 90 minutes. Each college of the university is required to offer the lecture.
However, students have reported not being satisfied with the sexual education provided by the school. 20% of our survey respondents rated the quality as “extremely unhelpful,” 27.4% as “unhelpful”, 31.1% as mediocre, 15.6% as helpful, and 5.9% found it extremely useful.
When asked why they thought the education was of little help, students offered varying responses: “The lectures should be held periodically. Sex education is not something that can be learned after attending a single lecture,” “Merely watching videos is not convincing,” “The programs are not hands-on and interesting for the students to engage in actively. The school needs a more efficient way to educate the students better.”
Choi Chae-eun (Soph., Global Leadership Div.), student staff member at the Gender Equality Center, mentioned that since the only sex education offered to students prior to entering university is through material published by the government, which is highly criticized for its lacking content, sex education should be taught more often and in more depth. There are currently a few classes that discuss gender sensitivity such as Sex and Social Relationships that was offered last semester. However, there should be a larger variety, especially classes that touch upon the topics of sex and contraception.
Lack of a Gender Equality Center at YIC
Despite the large number of students attending Yonsei (30,783 as of April 2017, according to the official website of Yonsei University), there are only two experienced sexual assault counselors who are responsible for both campuses. To make matters worse, a counselor is available for the Yonsei International Campus (YIC) —where most freshmen reside—on Wednesdays only. In other words, there is no permanent center at which students can seek for help or advice regarding sexual violence.
This is unacceptable because sexual violence is most likely to occur during freshmen year. Park Seo-bin (Soph., Dept. of Political Science and Int. Studies), a former resident of the YIC, stated that since the YIC student community is small and is on an enclosed campus, there is a higher chance of secondary offenses and the spread of false rumors. Therefore, student victims of YIC are much more vulnerable and in urgent need of immediate counseling. Also, Park said that the expertise and experience required in sexual assault counseling differs from that of other types of counseling. The Yonsei International Campus Counseling Center is an unsuitable alternative for sexual assault victims, since the subject material discussed during sexual violence counseling is much more sensitive. Because of these factors, it is imperative that a dedicated sexual assault counselor be made available at YIC throughout the entire week. The student body supports such a change, with more than 53.3% of the Annals survey respondents responding that it is necessary for a permanent facility at YIC that provides counseling on sexual violence.
The Women's Student Council considers the dire situation of the Gender Equality Center a great shortcoming in regards to students’ basic rights. It reinforced that it is of great importance to provide a Gender Equality Center or relevant counseling services in YIC especially considering the inaccessibility of the Gender Equality Center of Sinchon for YIC residents.
Moreover, the council has continuously requested that the school administration build a Gender Equality Center at YIC since 2014. However, the school reportedly has rejected its requests because the administration lacked the budget to do so. The Human Rights Center has been newly built at the Sinchon Campus and been running since September, but there are yet no plans on offering related services at YIC. The Women’s Student Council stated that if the university sincerely considers students’ basic rights a far-reaching matter, the school should find a solution to the absence of a Gender Equality Center in YIC. If the Human Rights Center continuously delays its proposals, the institution would merely be good for nothing.
1. Have you ever experienced sexual violence or unpleasant sexual encounters against your will on Yonsei International Campus (Songdo Campus, YIC)?
2-1. Every Wednesday, a counselor of the Gender Equality Center of the Sinchon Campus is dispatched to the YIC. Are you aware of this fact?
2-2. Do you think it is necessary to have a permanent facility that provides help to students regarding problems related to sexual violence on the YIC?
Not quite necessary 2.2
Extremely Necessary 53.3
3-1. How helpful was the sex education lecture that was during the freshmen orientation?
Extremely unhelpful 20
Very helpful 5.9
4. How would you rate the online sex education program provided through YSCEC?
Very useless 27.4
Very useful 2.2
5. Should the overall quality of the university’s sex education programs be enhanced?