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Throughout the twentieth century, student activism(1) has periodically erupted on college campuses in both industrialized and less developed states. For almost two decades, student activism has been relatively dormant in the USA and other leading industrialized states. However, student activism in much of the Third World, including most notably many African states and South Korea (hereafter referred to only as Korea), has persisted with such a force that the spillover effects of some student movements have succeeded in altering public policy and even toppling governments (Nkinyangi 1991).
In fact, decade after decade in modern Korean history, being a university student is to be a potential protester. Since the founding of the Republic in 1948, university students have played a powerful role in the opposition politics of Korea: in 1960, they overthrew the authoritarian regime of Syngman Rhee and ended the First Republic (1948-60); in the 1970s, student activists were capable of waging effective opposition to the increasingly oppressive rule of President Park; during the Chun Doo-hwan regime, campus activists became the single most cohesive, persistent, and effective opposition force in Korea (Dong 1988, pp. 169-70); student protest in 1987 led to concessions by the government that resulted in elections and significant political changes.
It is thus not overstated to argue that Korean politics has thrown in its lot with the student movement during the past forty years. Although the student movement of the eighties followed the same cause, i.e. military dictatorship, as that of the sixties, the organizational capability and action strategies were more sophisticated and more effective than those of the sixties. Also, student activists in the eighties were socialized differently, but, more importantly, they gained cohesiveness and were able to capitalize on the strength of their organizational bases compared to their counterparts in the sixties and the seventies. During the eighties, it was the Chun regime's repressive policy (1980-87) towards the university population which further reinforced the radicalization of student activists. Nevertheless, we know little about what stimulates student demonstration and movement in Korea, at least, in an empirical sense.
The primary objective of this paper is thus to investigate empirically the sources of student activism via the 1989 'Ideological Orientation of Korean College Students Study' survey. More precisely, we address the issue of why students turn to activism and what precipitates student demonstration and movement by systematically analyzing the relationships between respondents' social background characteristics, college socialization, students' various political beliefs or ideologies, and political activism. To our knowledge, no study of this nature exists in the Korean case.(2)
In this paper, student activism refers to any incidents of student revolt or unrest which constitute a serious challenge or threat to the established order or to sanctioned authority or norms. In Korea, the following could be classified among such occurrences: joining the left-wing radical ideology study groups; sit-ins; fasts; the boycott of classes; limited cases of vandalism against school property, including the burning of school buildings; physical attacks on school personnel; and serious riots resulting in the death or serious injury of students and civilians.
FORMER STUDIES ON STUDENT ACTIVISM
The literature on student activism presents several common elements or conditions which are believed to be present in the student movement. A majority of prior studies agree that student movement tends to be leftist in character (to name a few, Levy 1991, Nkinyangi 1991, Califano 1970, O'Connor 1974, Flacks 1971, Keniston 1968, Block et al. 1969, Shils 1972, Sutherland 1981, Lipset 1967, Krauss 1974). Of those activists with a predominantly leftist political orientation, however, only a small minority tend to be ultra-leftist (Califano 1970, Sutherland 1981). For instance, Sutherland (1981) shows that only 2 percent were categorized as ultra-leftist. Moreover, scholars have generally observed that only a minority of students tend to participate in student activism (Altbach 1990, Feuer 1969, Flacks 1971, C. H. Oh 1994).
While student activists are predominantly leftist and idealist, they generally come from the middle class, not from the lower or upper class (Flacks 1971, Califano 1970, Feuer 1969). Although Third World student activists may tend to deviate somewhat from this norm due to the fact that in some states only children of the elites are provided with the opportunity to attend university (Nkinyangi 1991), B. H. Oh (1975) observes that Korean student activists were predominantly from middle class families.
Scholars generally agree that student activists are predominantly social science majors and, to some extent, humanities majors (Lipset 1967, Sutherland 1981). Such findings suggest that the political values and attitudes espoused by social science majors are more to the left than non-social science majors (Altbach 1989, p. 8). Scholars propose plausible explanations for this phenomenon: students whose career goals are less well-defined or students in fields which require less rigorous academic requirements are more prone to activism (Bloomberg 1970); social science faculty members tend to have more radical views than the rest of the academic profession in general, and these critical views may also influence students. Further support for these claims is also offered by Braungart (1971).
Several observers of student movements have concluded that such movements tend to be anti-regime, yet nationalistic in character. Students of Korean student activism (B. H. Oh 1975, C. H. Oh 1994, Dong 1988, Seo 1988, Lee 1984) regard both characteristics as endemic to student activists in Korea. Shils (1972) describes student movements in the USA in a similar fashion, noting that American activists had anti-government or anti-regime tendencies. Other scholars, including Braungart and Braungart (1990, p. 178), describe the focus of student activists not as anti-regime per se, but 'against the system'.
In addition, university as an institution provides a unique and conducive environment for developing the left-leaning radical ideology and organizing effort of student activists. One possible …