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Baekyang-ro Reconstruction ProjectA look into the controversies surrounding the project
Jee You-seon  |
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승인 2013.12.15  17:54:53
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WHAT DOES Baekyang-ro mean to you? For some alumni, it would be remembered as a symbol of Korea’s democracy movement. For other students, Baekyang-ro was a seemingly endless road leading to the “Magical Castle,” or Daewoo Hall, located at the furthest end of Baekyang-ro. However, it is impossible to see the original Baekyang-ro, as it is being remodeled into a new Baekyang-ro. Regarding the “recreation,” some people are expecting a more beautiful and eco-friendly Baekyang-ro, while others point out that proper procedures for communication between students, professors, and the school administration have not been carried out. What is your opinion? How do you expect the new Baekyang-ro to turn out?
Box 1. Timeline about Baekyang-ro project
- 2012. 03. 08: A task Force Team is formed to examine the feasibility of theBaekyang-ro project
- 2012. 05. 29: A briefing session on the Baekyang-ro project is held for faculty and staff.
- 2012. 08. 30: The plan of the Baekyang-ro project is announced in the Yonsei Vision Faculty conference.
- 2012. 09. 01: The Baekyang-ro construction team is created.
- 2012. 12. 21: Yonsei University and the merchants’ union in Sinchon sign an agreement.
- 2013. 01. 02: The basic plan for the Baekyang-ro project is finished.
- 2013. 04. 15: The Baekyang-ro construction team applies for the Seodaemun-gu‘s approval for Baekyang-ro project.
- 2013. 08. 09: Seodaemun-gu approves the Baekyang-ro project
- 2013. 08: Construction on Baekyang-ro starts.
- 2013. 08. 13: We Care Yonsei (Yon-sa-mo), which consists of professors who oppose Baekyang-ro project, is established and publishes their first public statement.
- 2013. 09. 04: 230 professors led by Yon-sa-mo signs a public statement opposing the Baekyang-ro project.
- 2013. 09. 30: A consultative Group for Baekyang-ro project is created to facilitate communication between the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team and faculty and students.
- 2013. 10. 08~20: The consultative Group and the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team hold three conferences in an attempt to reach an agreement.
- 2013. 10. 29: After the fourth and the last conference between the consultative group and the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team ends, the consultative group is dismissed.
- 2013. 10. 30: The Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team announces the final statement of the agreement with the consultative group. Yon-sa-mo disputes the agreement.
- 2013. 11. 13: Demolition crews sent in by the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team remove the tents set up by Yon-sa-mo and fence off the area in front of the main library entrance.
- 2013. 11. 13: Yon-sa-mo holds a press conference at the main gate in Yonsei University at 2:00 p.m. regarding the removal of their tents.
- 2013. 11. 21: Yon-sa-mo holds a public hearing against Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team and, along with the Faculty Senate of Yonsei University, sponsors a faculty vote regarding the Baekyang-ro project.
- 2013. 11. 26 and 11. 27: Yon-sa-mo concludes the faculty voting and announces the results: out of 436 faculty members voting, 59 professors (13.5 percent) support the administration’s Baekyang-ro project while 377 professors (86.5 percent) prefer an alternative plan.
- 2015. 04: The Baekyang-ro project is expected to be completed.
Box 2: Student-led organizations
1. Make Baekyang-ro With Us (*Baekyang-ro lul Bu-tak-he*)
*Annals*: Could you describe the organization?
Lee Han-sol (Director, Make Baekyang-ro With Us & Sr., Dept. of Cultural Anthropology):
Composed of 42 members, Make Baekyang-ro With Us was co-founded by the Students’ Union of the College of Social Sciences and *Darm*. Other organizations, such as Oldies Goodies and Making New RC Project have linked their projects with us.
*Annals*: What do you think is the significance of the organization’s activities?
Lee: The organization aims to include the students’ voice as much as possible in the Baekyang-ro project. Students are weak when it comes to protecting their rights against the school and simple dialogue is not enough to overcome the unilateral decisions of the university. Therefore, students need to unite to let their voice be heard, which is what Make Baekyang-ro With Us is doing to regain Yonseians’ rights and reflect their opinions.
The goal
The Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Project (Baekyang-ro Project) has three main goals. The first, and presumably the most important, is creating a “Baekyang-ro without cars.” *Baekyang-ro News,* published by the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team, explains that the Sinchon campus had originally been designed to be a human friendly environment. In a campus for the people, students and professors are encouraged to contemplate and share their knowledge and thoughts in open spaces around the campus. Thus, the plazas and squares represent the high autonomy that universities provide. However, the Sinchon campus is no longer people-oriented as automobiles penetrate the center of the campus. Over 12,000 cars pass through Baekyang-ro per day, as *Baekyang-ro News* illustrates, which leads to another problem: the campus is separated into halves. Therefore, the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team claims that “Baekyang-ro without cars” is a necessary step in not only constructing a people-oriented campus but in uniting the campus as one.
Secondly, the Baekyang-ro project aims to create an eco-friendly campus. According to the fourth issue of *Baekyang-ro News,* the current percentage of asphalt covering Baekyang-ro is 56%. After the reconstruction, the asphalt will only cover 15% of the road, creating a livelier and a greener campus. In addition, according to Rhim Hong-chul (Director, Baekyang-ro Project & Prof., Dept. of Architectural Engineering), students and visitors will not have to rest out in the sun when Baekyang-ro Project is complete. The project will also create more benches and shade so people can rest. The fourth *Baekyang-ro News* illustrates that the ratio of shade created from trees will increase from 22% to 38%.
Finally, the newborn Baekyang-ro will add more facilities for students and professors to engage in cultural and recreational activities. There will be facilities to rest in, an auditorium, a private dining room for seminars and many more amenities. Many students currently feel the need for more spaces that the students can autonomously use as well as study rooms. In a survey conducted by *The Yonsei Annals,* 61.8% of the students thought study rooms and facilities for conducting research and lectures was one of the three most needed infrastructures in the newly constructed *Baekyang-ro.* Spaces that the students can freely use is also one of the three most needed infrastructures chosen by 53.2% of Yonseians. Thus, it is expected that the reconstruction will satisfy these needs of the university students.
Box 3. Master plan : image
In support of carrying out the project
The completion of the Baekyang-ro project can bring many bright aspects to the Sinchon campus. Of the 63.3% of Yonseians who thought that Baekyang-ro needs to change, 36.2% of Yonseians thought that the reason was due to the massive number of cars on the road that poses a threat to pedestrians. A freshman (Dept. of Earth Sciences) says that crossing Baekyang-ro at the three-way intersection is especially dangerous because there are so many cars driving by. After Baekyang-ro is reconstructed, however, automobiles will only be allowed to pass through an underground conduit, and Baekyang-ro will be left free for the people. Pedestrians will be able to cross Baekyang-ro more safely. This is why 41.7% of Yonseians responded that an underground passage for cars is one of the three most important results from the project. According to Rhim, the Student Union Building and the Central Library will be connected when cars no longer get in the way of the passengers.
Also, the Baekyang-ro project will not pose a financial strain on the students because none of the \90 billion to be spent on the project comes from tuition or the money set aside as scholarships. According to President Jeong Kap-young at the briefing session for the university faculty on Sept. 12, the law prohibits the use of university money in reconstructing Baekyang-ro. Therefore, every penny invested into the project has to come from the outside sources. On Sept. 24, at Kyung-chung, a gathering that discusses controversial subjects, Hong Bok-ki (Vice President, Exterior Administration), noted that about 7,500 alumni have participated in fund-raising for the project to show their support. In addition, according to Rhim, the Yonsei University Health System has donated ₩30 billion from their profit-based structure system because it can benefit from the reconstruction of Baekyang-ro, as it needs daytime parking lots on weekdays. “All capital needs motivation,” President Jeong said on Sept. 12, claiming that all the money raised for the Baekyang-ro project would not have entered into the university without the project.
     Finally, the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team argues that there have been several attempts to communicate with the university community. Reconstructing Baekyang-ro has been one of the two main pledges of President Jeong, along with the Yonsei International Campus and that the president publicly described the plans on multiple occasions, such as the Oct. 30, 2012 Yonsei Vision Faculty Conference and an April 8, 2013 public hearing sponsored by the Faculty Senate of Yonsei University. There had not been any major oppositions from Yon-sa-mo until the summer of 2013. Thus, on Oct. 30, at a meeting for reporters on the issue of the consultative group, Hong questioned why the members of Yon-sa-mo expressed their opposition after staying silent during the earlier planning stages of the project. What is more, the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team argues that the university gathered opinions from the Yonsei community by conducting a survey with students, faculty and alumni. According to this survey, 78% expressed their support for making changes to Baekyang-ro while only 10% were opposed.
In opposing carrying out the project
Just as there are several reasons to support the project, there are also several reasons to oppose the construction. First of all, the project has been criticized for undermining the cultural and spiritual values of *Baekyang-ro.* According to Yon-sa-mo at its Nov. 7, 2013 Yon-sa-mo Press Conference, a prestigious university should be a sanctuary for goods that cannot even be bought with money. The trees on Baekyang-ro hold the memories of millions of people who have passed through Yonsei. Baekyang-ro itself is where young people gathered years ago to demonstrate against the authoritarian government. Therefore, Baekyang-ro is a symbol of the democratic movement that future Yonseians must cherish and inherit. Kim Yong-min (Member, Yon-sa-mo & Prof., Dept. of German Language & Lit.) asserted that the current plan completely transforms Baekyang-ro to the point that it is not the same Baekyang-ro any more. Considering the significance of Baekyang-ro at Yonsei, the university should not perceive Baekyang-ro as a worn-out landscape that needs to be replaced.
Secondly, the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team has failed to assure the students of the project’s safety. According to Jeong Sang-seom (Prof., Dept. of Civil & Environ. Engin.), at the Sept. 24 *kyung-chung,* the underground facility built from the Baekyang-ro project will increase the water pressure of the underground water that flows beneath Baekyang-ro. From the increased water pressure, the existing buildings on campus will experience fissures or leaks.   In addition, Make Baekyang-ro With Us argued that building a massive parking lot will not make Baekyang-ro automobile-free. Obviously, with the increase in the number of parking lots, cars will disappear from Baekyang-ro above ground, but the actual number of cars within the campus will not decrease and concerns about safety will remain. In terms of these two drawbacks, the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team has not provided a solid answer or a solution to guarantee the safety of the project.
Furthermore, some believe that the master plan emerging for this project does not reflect the original intentions of reconstructin Baekyang-ro. Part of the original goal in reconstructing Baekyang-ro was to create more open space for the students. On the contrary, only a fraction of the new spaces to be constructed can be used by the students, according to the master plan. Many facilities, such as the music hall and the high-tech art hall will most likely be used for official university events or rented to outsiders. A sophomore (Dept. of Sociology) says he is afraid the music hall will only be used by the school to increase profit, just as the *Baikyang* Concert Hall has many limitations on student usage. ChoHan Hae-joang (Member, Yon-sa-mo & Prof., Dept. of Cultural Anthropology) asserts that the master plan now proposes many facilities that the university can utilize to make a profit when there should be more facilities for the students.
Most important, the ongoing project fails to include all members of the university in the decision making process. 54.8% of the respondents answered that the greatest reason for disapproving the project is because the construction does not reflect opinions of all the members of the university. Though the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team argues that a survey has been conducted to reflect the opinions of the students, professors, employees and alumni, the full results of the survey were not revealed. The only fact that has been made public by the Reconstruction Team is that 78% of the respondents approved of the project and the full details of the survey results and the exact wording of the survey questions have not been disclosed. Moreover, there have not been enough briefing sessions for the entire university community. For professors, there has only been a single university-wide briefing session at the Yonsei Vision Faculty Conference and none for the students. A sophomore (Dept. of Business Admin.) noted that without more information, she will continue having reserved feelings toward the project. She added that she cannot show her approval or disapproval of the project because she does not know much about it.  
Box 3: Questions and Answers
1.   Is it true that the parking lot will occupy 77% of Baekyang-ro?
In light of the heated controversy regarding the percentage of Baekyang-ro that will be turned into the parking lot, this chart provides exact number of *pyeongs.*
Total: 38,600
Educational, cultural, research and event facility
Parking lot
Underground Road for cars and shuttle buses
The 77 percent figure cited by opponents of the Baekyang-ro project comes from the parking lot space plus the underground road space. In other words, 77 percent is not only for parking lot but also includes the entire area with vehicle traffic.
2.   Why are there more parking lots in the master plan than what is legally required? 
The master plan includes more parking lot space than the law currently requires. At the Sept. 24 *kyung-chung,* Hong explained that the master plan includes parking lots that will be needed in the future. Since the Business Administration Hall and the student dormitory will be newly constructed, the project is looking ahead by building the necessary parking lots beforehand.
   However, even in account of these calculations, the master plan includes more parking lots than is legally required. Rhim explained that more parking lots will be built because the legally required number of parking lots only means the bare minimum. In reality, additional parking lots must be built in order to meet future demand on campus and to avoid overcrowded parking conditions elsewhere on campus.
3.   Is the Baekyang-ro Project related to the “Road without cars” project on Yonsei-ro?
According to Hong at the Press Conference regarding the consultative group on Oct. 30, Baekyang-ro project is not directly related to “Road without cars” project now under way on Yonsei-ro. The two projects are separate, with the Yonsei-ro project planned by Seodaemun-gu. However, the Yonsei-ro project shows that removing vehicle traffic above ground from Baekyang-ro through Baekyang-ro project is meeting the demands of the times.
An alternative plan by Yon-sa-mo
   During the month of October, a consultative group including professors, students, employees, alumnus, and the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team was formed in an attempt to resolve the conflict by holding a series of talks, as the administration argued that delaying the construction any further could be financially damaging. The consultative group released a public statement on Oct. 29, while proclaiming the end of their involvement and pointing out the flaws in the current master plan. However, members of Yon-sa-mo refused to accept that the Faculty Senate of Yonsei University agreed to the public statement, requesting more interactions between the university administration and the rest of the university community.
Therefore, a public hearing hosted by the Faculty Senate of Yonsei University was held on Nov. 21 at Chang Ki-Won Memorial Hall. At the public hearing, an alternative master plan proposed by Yon-sa-mo was introduced and compared to the original master plan by the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team. According to Lee Sang-ho (Member, Yon-sa-mo & Prof., Dept. of Civil & Environ. Engin.), the alternative plan reduces the underground digging of Baekyang-ro by dispersing parking lots into areas surrounding *Baekyang-ro.* Suggested locations for new parking lots are the space near the baseball field and the area in front of Centennial Hall. If the parking lots are not concentrated below *Baekyang-ro,* only the area between the Central Library and the Student Union Building would undergo construction to build new cultural and educational facilities for students and professors. Compared with the original plan, Yon-sa-mo argues that this alternative plan will help preserve the environment and the history of Baekyang-ro and also save money.
This alternative plan, was however, criticized by the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team, which dismissed the suggested locations for the alternative parking lots as not suitable. Though Yon-sa-mo proposes the space near the baseball field to be utilized as a parking lot, the university administration and the faculty members of the Dept. of Physical Education have long agree to keep the baseball field preserved for now. Thus, this alternative would only bring forth more conflicts, only with a different group of professors. In addition, the administration maintains it is an inefficient use of space to construct a parking lot in front of the Centennial Hall. According to Rhim, land is extremely valuable on Sinchon campus as most of the land is already occupied. The area in front of the Centennial Hall is one of those few remaining pieces of land that needs to be preserved for future usage. For these reasons, the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team could not accept the alternative plan proposed by *Yon-sa-mo.*
Box 4: The result of the electronic voting
For five days following the public hearing, electronic voting took place in order to collect the opinions of professors. According to Lee Chang-ha (Vice-chairperson, Faculty Senate of Yonsei University &Prof., Dept. of Chemical & Biomole. Engin.) at the public hearing, the electronic voting helps the Faculty Senate of Yonsei University carry out its main responsibility of representing the majority opinion of professors.
Out of 908 professors eligible to vote, 436 participated in the vote.  59 professors (13.5 percent) voted in favor the existing master plan prepared by the Baekyang-ro Reconstruction Team, while the remaining 377 professors (86.5 percent) voted for Yon-sa-mo’s alternative plan.
Box 5: ECC and the Baekyang-ro project
What is ECC? : Ewha Campus Complex (ECC) is a large building which holds various convenience facilities for students such as study rooms, a theater, restaurants, a bank and more. It takes up about 66,000 square meters in the heart of the Ewha Womans University campus and consists of six underground levels. Even though it is an underground campus, sunlight is reflected inside by the open-valley windows. Its blueprint was originally planned by a famous French architect, Dominique Perrault, and the facility was completed in 2008. Since then, it has been considered an example of an eco-friendly underground campus while minimizing traffic in the campus.
What’s the problem? : According to Ewha Weekly, the official newspaper of Ewha Womans University, the president of Students’ Union at the time claimed that “ECC was built while not fully considering the students’ opinions about what they really need.” They also added that ECC is too commercialized due to the large number of stores in it. Therefore, it is hard to say that ECC is truly built for the convenience of students, and it needs more space for students.
Examining the ECC’s situation, the Baekyang-ro project also hold the possibility of becoming too commercialized. If Baekyang-ro would change into a commercial complex rather than a place for Yonseians, it would not fully achieve its original purpose.
*                 *                 *
The Baekyang-ro project will mark the history of Yonsei University, bringing about one of the biggest changes on campus. In order to alleviate the current conflict between the university administration and *Yon-sa-mo,* both parties need to make a meaningful compromise and reach an agreement. What is equally important is the students’ realization that Yonsei University is their responsibility, as well, and they have an obligation in voicing their interests and concerns. The Baekyang-ro Project needs the attention of every member of the university community, and the university administration should keep its promise of making continuous efforts to gather opinions and account for suggestions received. Only then will history be made by *us,* like the slogan, “Yonsei, where *we* make history.”




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