The Current Culture Club and GSA put on the first Yonsei GSIS Non-Summit Meeting on May 17th. 12 students from 12 countries got together to discuss social and cultural issues from their own perspectives. The two topics chosen for the non summit meeting were work and life balance and gender issues. Students from Germany, Korea, Israel, Kazakhstan, Spain, Colombia, China, Norway, Finland, India, Japan, China and Turkey shared their unique perspectives on their countries' norms. The meeting with streamed live on Facebook.
The discussion on work/life balance touched upon student's experiences working in Korean juxtaposed with working in their own countries. Many representatives discussed the lack of a hweshik culture in their cultures as well as being able to constructively criticize their co-workers and their boss. Representative from Korea mentioned how new-recruit training for huge conglomerate companies is the fundamental aspect which underlies work life imbalance in Korea.
Representatives from Israel and Spain mentioned how the financial crisis is affecting their countries, causing people to work more for the same amount of money. Peer pressure to work overtime was noted by Japanese and Chinese representatives. In Finland, on the other hand, people are often able to work from home and have found it necessary to form social clubs with co-workers in order to create social bonds. The Colombian representative remarked on how work culture has changed in his country, where the older generation had siestas and would go home to eat with their family for lunch whereas now those practices have declined.
The discussion on gender issues was very compelling. The overarching theme was the need for grassroots efforts in order to make top-down policy be relevant or effective. The norms in the countries varied greatly, from very conservative to very liberal.The representative from India stated that among the many gender issues in his country, the most important was supporting girls education. Finnish and Norwegian representatives said that gender issues in their country are minimal, with equal pay and greater balance in unpaid house work still needed. The issue of feminism "overshooting" was brought up, particularly in regards to government policies that enforce a quota of women in positions of power.
Overall, the Non-Summit Meeting was filled with valuable exchanges that gave intriguing insight into other societies' perspectives. We hope that this will be the first of more Non-Summit Meetings at GSIS.