On May 20, 1980, reporters of Jeonnam Maeil newspaper in South Korea wrote in a collective statement: “We saw. We saw with our own eyes, people being dragged out like dogs to die. But we could not report a single line on our paper. In shame, we let go of our ink brush.” Writing in close physical proximity to the brutally suppressed Gwangju Democratization Movement that started two days prior, the newspaper’s commitment to truth and press freedom was emblematic of the spirit of South Korea’s democracy.
Fast forward to the present day, my country is facing tragically regressive threats to press freedom under the current presidential office. Last November, the president earned widespread criticism by barring journalists of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation from accompanying him to the G20 summit in Indonesia, while labelling their accurate reports as ‘fake news.’ It is infuriating to see the harrowing period of media censorship against critical reports of the government meddling with the ethos of journalists that came before.
This is a long-winded way of expressing my gratitude for working at The Varsity as a South Korean international student at U of T. When press freedom is under attack in my home country, overseeing a section full of articles that are not afraid to question the status quo is a particularly humbling and poignant privilege.
Distinct from other sections, Comment allows for factually supported, uncensored opinion articles to flourish on three pages of our weekly paper. As students in the city of Toronto, we have not shied away from critiquing the TTC’s budget plans, addressing the city’s root causes of gun violence, or assessing the rising costs of living. As students of Canada, we have criticized the country’s delays in study permit approval processes, urged the 20-hour work limit for international students to be lifted, and called for more Inuit representation in the Canadian government.
Our section has always been an open microphone that amplifies all voices and discussions revolving around students, and I plan on continuing the incredible precedent that the former Comment Editors have established before me. Having worked under Shernise Mohammed-Ali in the previous year, I’ve gained first-hand exposure to the making of a section that is diverse in opinions and people.
With what I have learned, I have some news and announcements that I am excited to share with you for the new year.
First and foremost, I have two wonderful associate editors who will be working with me: Isabella Liu and Divine Angubua. The start of my work with Isabella dates back to the summer of 2022 and I have always admired her work ethic, meticulous editing, and ability to write about the most dire issues in the most jocular way possible. While I’ve only recently started working with Divine, his contributions to our section have been powerfully persuasive and relevant. I am elated to be in the comfort of two incredible teammates.
Throughout the coming year, we will present to you stimulating articles from eight different Comment columnists. Five of the columnists will be covering the U of T Students’ Union, international affairs, local affairs, climate issues, and religion. The three other columnists are kickstarting their own columns, which will be introduced by the end of September.
Commemorating the first academic year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to no longer be a global health emergency, we want to destruct any remaining barriers between us and our readers. With our Video Editor, Olya Fedossenko, we will expand our platform to talk to you on the streets of campus because we believe in presenting opinions beyond print and text and through social media. Times are a-changin’ and we must adapt accordingly.
We are a paper funded and supported by students. Hence, our essence lies in the voice of students. In the 2023–2024 academic year, I look forward to The Varsity’s Comment section being the most accessible platform for U of T students to tell us what we must pay attention to — in school, Toronto, Canada, and beyond. After all, students know best. If you have any questions, “comments,” or feedback, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].