This article, using the 1989 'Ideological Orientation of Korean College Students Study' survey, investigates the sources of student activism by addressing the issue of why students turn to activism and what precipitates student demonstration and movement. Also examined are the relative effects of social background and college socialization factors on levels of political activism to distinguish which one is more important in determining political activism in Korea. This article contends that college socialization experience and political beliefs play a significant role in influencing students' decisions to participate in protest activity. It is found that students who are radically socialized via left-wing organizations and issues are more likely to show higher levels of approval of communism and more support for protest activity. Moreover, contrary to the findings in prior studies, social background factors play a minor role in determining the amount of political activism that a student would engage in.