Change. The word change implies that some stimuli or event triggered a discontinuity in
conventional or historical patterns. Change, whether in infrastructure, rules, or relationships, can
have a significant effect on our behavior, perception, and attitude. It is what drives us to be
flexible, explore new opportunities, and ultimately develop a stronger understanding of our
identity and values. Such change can be felt in both the innumerable advances made to our
school, and in the much larger context of Korea’s dynamic relationship with Japan.
In SIS, students are firsthand experiencing change when they observe the newly carved main
entrance stairs to the freshly painted walls, refined library, spacious lounges, and well-furnished
bathrooms. Students generally show an optimistic attitude toward the new features, and are
impressed by how quickly the school underwent necessary changes to accommodate student life.
Changes made to the school community can be felt not only in its revamped infrastructure and
design, but also in the new selection of staff, educational curriculum, and policies. For example,
math classes instituted an online homework system, WeBWorK, where students are expected to
virtually solve personalized problems. This was established in order to thwart the procrastination
of homework until the very last moment and the lack of motivation of students to produce good
quality and accurate work. However, a more divisive response can be reported for the renaming
of classes: some students complain that it is more difficult and inconvenient to find their way
around if there is no ABCD wing indication of which side of the floor their classes are located.
Moreover, some clamor that the more stringent policies regarding work studies and the floors
they are permitted to go to during the period are unnecessary and tiresome, while others note the
inadequate changes made to ameliorate the quality of cafeteria food and availability of snacks in
the school store.
Regardless, the changes that students are observing and experiencing are crucial and momentous.
Interestingly enough, transitions are happening on a greater scale when considering the Korean
political and economic relations with Japan. Though rooted in old wounds of the controversial
era of Japanese colonialism, the sexual exploitation and emotional abuse of comfort women are
being remembered and honored with a much stronger and unified effort. According to Korea
Herald, the renewed response on the controversy has been incited by the South Korean Supreme
Court, when it decreed that Japanese companies pay a $89,000 worth of reparations for its use of
slave labor. Japan perceived the court verdict as evidence that Korea will never be satisfied with
its atonement, as it claimed that the issue was reconciled with the 1965 treaty that gave $500
million in free aid and cheap loans. Amidst such strained diplomatic relations, Japan removed
South Korea from its preferential trade status and implemented regulations on export of
chemicals crucial for South Korean companies that make semiconductors and flat-panel displays.
In doing so, Japan cited vague reasons of “national security”, but skeptical Koreans who
suspected an ulterior political motive behind the economic retaliation responded with a national
cry: “No Japan.”
The “No Japan” campaign has been a rampant phenomenon ever since South Korean citizens
began to boycott Japanese products and services as an uncompromising stance on Japan’s
wrongdoings. South Koreans, in other words, believe that the 1965 negotiation was insincere and
insufficient, since it did not secure individual victims’ rights to seek personal compensation for
sexual or forced labor. According to Reuters, more than 200 supermarkets and grocery stores
removed Japanese items, and Japanese beer sales dropped about 21-24 percent at convenience
store chains. The Japanese clothing brand UNIQLO also suffered a 40 percent drop in its sales,
while Toyota and Honda sales also fell by 32 percent and 34 percent respectively. Koreans,
having made up a relatively large portion of the foreign tourists in Japan, are cancelling their
group tours and bookings, thus endangering tourism-oriented economies of Japanese cities and
provinces. “No Japan” continues to represent an unprecedentedly resolute stance that Korea
recently adopted, and stands as an encompassing rally that demands a candid apology and a
proper redress from Japan. This change in relationship has diminished the trust South Koreans
have with Japan, while reflecting the growing unity among citizens and a prideful identification
with their nationality.
Not all parts of the change in relations are desirable, however, as the hostilities could hamper
cooperative effort in other significant issues like North Korean denuclearization and foster
aggression or violence against individual Japanese tourists. Nevertheless, it is an important time
for Korea, as the rapid changes that the country is facing with its neighboring nation define
cultural relations and its national identity. We are facing remarkable and prominent change in all
levels of our lives—whether it be in our schools or in our own country—and it is up to us to
either embrace or reject it over the course of time.