The student governing bodies of Yonsei are elected annually by direct vote at different levels, with the General Student Union representing all undergraduates of Yonsei. Democracy of a most vociferous kind characterizes these student bodies as they constantly make themselves heard and seen to attract the attention of the constituents and to influence the university administration. The degree of autonomy and even impunity of the student activists may look most extraordinary, especially for someone who comes from overseas, but it becomes less so when put in the historical perspective of student activism, of which Yonsei has had a greater share than any other university in the nation.
Yonsei students have, throughout the country's tortuous history, never hesitated to march to the frontline of the struggles against unjust powers, be it the Japanese colonizers or the successive dictators after the nation gained independence. The university honors some of the more well-known Yonseians who were martyred for the cause of independence and freedom. The poet Yun Dongju, who passed away at the tender age of 29 in the Fukuoka Prison in Japan in 1945, is honored by a Memorial Stone next to Pinson Hall, his old dormitory. The two tombs of Ahn Kichang and Yi Yije, shot to death by retreating Japanese forces in the same year, are situated north of Billingsley Hall. Across the Central Library stands the Yi Hanyeal Memorial, commemorating the courage of the former management student who died at the gate of his beloved university while protesting against dictatorship in 1987.
Reflecting the successful democratic reforms of the country, student politics in the grand national scale has given way to more minute political expressions involving campus policies, tuition hikes and gender issues. Providing sheer fun and pleasure to the students also seems to have become a major role of the student governing bodies, but even so, the awareness that they are the future leaders of the country runs deep among Yonsei students, who never forget how much the national and international community expects of them.