A group of exchange students at Hanyang University on Wednesday had to face an overtly discriminatory caution sign written in red when they arrived at the university to get tickets for the university’s annual festival.
About a hundred foreign exchange students waited in line to get tickets to enter the festival’s main performances, featuring popular celebrities including Psy.
However, they were told that they were barred from the “Hanyang Zone,” the area directly facing the stage in the semicircle amphitheater. The exclusive zone was reserved for full-time, non-exchange undergraduates of the university.
The caution sign said, “Exchange students can’t get tickets.” It also said, “Even if you have a ticket (bracelet) or a stamp, you may be restricted from entering the Hanyang Zone for safety reasons.”
Foreign exchange students were informed of the restrictions in the morning, only after they arrived at the university. According to a 21-year-old female exchange student who asked for anonymity, many exchange students were frustrated. They could not understand why they weren’t allowed to enter the designated area for undergraduate students, since they too pay tuition.
Foreign students added that they were particularly frustrated after they saw the caution sign that said that foreign exchange students could not enter the zone due to “safety reasons.”
The sign was telling exchange students that they are a danger, the female exchange student told The Korea Herald.
“We are annoyed and we felt discriminated against,” she said.
According to Hanyang exchange students, no university official intervened despite the confrontation between exchange students and the event’s staff, which went on for several hours.
In the meantime, the undergraduate student union, which is in charge of organizing the festival, apologized about the wording on the sign, saying that it was made in a rush.
However, on barring foreign exchange students from the Hanyang Zone, the undergraduate student union said the decision was made in accordance with the bylaws of the union.
“In the past, there were complaints from full-time undergraduate students who said they had difficulties getting seats for performances after they get out from their classes,” a representative from the student union said.
The student union, which consists of members elected by undergraduate students, said they made the decision to “protect their rights.”
The representative also said that they “could not make an exception for foreign exchange students, since the union would then have to accept other students to the zone, such as graduate students and those who postponed their graduations.”
An official from Hanyang University declined to comment on the student union’s decision regarding foreign exchange students, although the university funds the festival.
Regarding the exchange students’ claim that they were not notified of the restrictions, the student union representative said that the union does not have access to the database of students’ emails, and that extra expenses involved in sending group texts ruled it out as an option.
The representative said that notifications were made through social media channels, but exchange students said that they never saw one.
A university official, however, said that sending such a message would not have incurred costs, as a Hanyang University mobile application can be used for such purposes if the student union made a request.
A rather belated response came out at around 3 p.m., when the university’s international affairs office sent out an email to foreign students to explain that the Hanyang Zone restriction was in no way meant to discriminate “against anyone for any reason.”
The email reiterated once more that “the purpose of the Hanyang Zone was to confer a small benefit to the full-time undergraduate students (domestic and international).”
By Shim Woo-hyun (email@example.com