Mr. Kim is a graduate student and works as a teaching assistant at the university. Since he has a driver’s license, driving his professor around has become one of his roles.
When the professor goes to seminars and conferences, it is Mr. Kim’s responsibility to drive the professor to the airport.
Not only that, when the professor has a private meeting with his friends and they drink alcohol, Mr. Kim has to wait for him outside or join the meeting until the professor is finished so he can drive him home. These meetings sometimes don’t end till around midnight.
One day, Mr. Kim was having a date with his girlfriend when he got a call from the professor. It seemed urgent so he ran to see him. However, the professor had only called him because he needed a ride because he was drunk.
Graduate students call themselves butlers
For graduate students, a professor’s family events can seem as important as doing their research. Sometimes they are closer to the professor’s wife than the professors because they see the wives more often.
For some, it seems natural for professor’s wives to call graduate students and make them do house chores.
Mr. Park was the one who did all the chores. Carrying heavy stuffs, fixing the computer, and picking documents for the professor are things he has done.
One day, he had to go to the store to buy toys for the professor’s granddaughter. Of course, the professor asked him to buy the toy and bring it and didn’t seem to think that there is anything wrong with this request
Why does this happen? And why don’t graduate students resist it?
First, it is because the professor, working as academic advisor, has all the power. From admission to assessment, everything about the student's study is up to the professors.
Depending on the what the professors says or writes about you, your path for the future as a graduate student can be totally changed. In other words, if the professor decided to do something harmful to graduate students, there is nothing to stop them.
Graduate school is a narrow society. The Professor is a leader in the field that you are studying in and also he has an absolute power to decide whether your thesis can pass or fail.
Not only that, as long as you are in the same field with the professor, your relationship with the professor can be critical when it comes to finding a job. Let’s say you are applying for a job, there is a chance that the owner of the company where you apply knows the professor since they are in the same field.
This strange relationship is followed by Confucian culture that exists in Korean society. A strong hierarchical order can be naturally formed as soon as you become a graduate student. It is really hard to disobey the professors because having a different idea can be seen as disrespectful behaviour towards them.
Second, unemployment rate in South Korea is huge. Now, there are 330,000 graduate students and postgraduate students and this number is gradually increasing. In order to get a job or become a professor in this severe competition, it is inevitable to depend on the professor who can help you achieve what you desire to get.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.net)
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