One of Korea's most respected educators congratulates UMUC Asia graduates

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Saturday, April 25, 2015, marked an important date for many active-duty service members and their families stationed around Korea. On this special day, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Asia proudly welcomed its Class of 2015 graduates at the Seoul Commencement ceremony. To help commemorate this major milestone in the graduates’ lives, a very special guest speaker was in attendance.

Dr. Chi Eun-hee, one of Korea’s most respected educators and a leading advocate for gender equality and family-friendly government policy, gave a stirring speech, which not only congratulated the graduates’ hard work and dedication, but imparted inspirational and sage advice.

Dr. Chi, an advocate for equal rights for both men and women, chronicled her fight to change the traditional Korean family register system, hoju-je. The system confined divorced women and out of wedlock children into rigid categories that were difficult to challenge. Dr. Chi remarked, “I am certain that in each of your lives there is also hoju-je, that is, a system that seems as if it has always existed and always will exist.” Her intention was to inspire and actuate the audience into becoming critical thinkers and problem solvers. “It takes a strong sense of self, a commitment to your core values, and, most importantly a willingness to fail.”

As the Minister of Gender Equality from 2003 to 2005, Dr. Chi was responsible for the adoption of a law that both protected victims of the sex trade and punished those who exploited them. She also oversaw the abolishment of the law that stated only men could be the head of household. From 2006 to 2013, Dr. Chi served as President of Duksung Women’s University. During her tenure as the president, Duksung expanded its international outlook, preparing students for careers on the global stage. She previously held the position of serving as the Permanent Representative of Korean Women’s Association United (1999 to 2001), and is a professor emeritus of SangJi University. Dr. Chi currently chairs the Gender Equality Committee of the Seoul Metropolitan City Government and continues to devote herself to gender equality and support for working families.

In her speech, Dr. Chi went on to turn to the topics of feminism and gender equality for examples, explaining why equal rights and opportunities for women are of such import, not only for women, but for all of society and humankind. She used examples from her own life and the issues she fought for to especially encourage all the graduates not to be afraid of failing nor be held back by assumptions, as it is through failure that we come to improve ourselves and accomplish truly great things.

She states, “I know that for most of you, there were missteps on the journey getting here. Perhaps you failed a test, or a course. Perhaps you let someone down, or asked a foolish question. Perhaps all of these things. And to that I say, good for you! In fact, I’d feel sorry for anyone here who hadn’t failed at something.”

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