ACCORDING TO a study by the Korea Higher Education Research Institute (KHEI), there are approximately 26,000 university students in Seoul who come from outside the capital. However, the average acceptance rate for the dormitories in these universities is only 13.5%. Because of this, many students have no choice but to find off-campus housing. Unfortunately, these housing options can often be inadequate, as about 138,000 students, both from and outside of Seoul, live in areas that fail to reach a minimum living standard.
What is Jip-bo-sem?
“Most of the housing policies are provided for newly married couples, basic living recipients, and the elderly generation … therefore leading to a poor living environment for college students,” says Shim San-ha, the chairman of Yonsei Co-operative Student Committee. According to Shim, college students in Korea are not categorized as the “class of socioeconomic vulnerability” because they lack economic foundation and fixed income due to their dependence on their parents that mostly continues throughout their twenties. Hence, the housing welfare policies provided by the central or local government, such as the Housing Benefit System or the Voucher System, do not focus on the students.
Shim also poignantly points out the problem of the attitudes of universities toward their housing problems. “Yonsei University has all the rights to provide minimal housing environment for their students, but Yonsei University as well as other universities are failing to do so,” says Shim. Sinchon is especially known for its high land value compared to other neighborhoods in Seoul. As a result, our college students are struggling to find places to live.
Yonsei Co-operative Student Committee came out with a support center called Jip-bo-sem that may be the solution for such issues. Jip-bo-sem was established in 2015, becoming Korea’s first housing and welfare support center for college students. In order to make this center more efficient, Yonsei Co-operative Student Committee have partnered with Minsnail Union, a professional organization that works for youth housing problems. Minsnail Union serves as an hub to train the Yonsei students on youth housing problems and practical skills regarding making real estate contracts. Currently, eight trained counselors are actively running the center.
What services does Jip-bo-sem provide?
Education on housing rights
As indicated by its name, “Housing Counseling Platform—Jip-bo-sem”, Jip-bo-sem is not a service that introduces housing offers, but rather a service that provides counseling for tenants, such as exploring basic housing rights, ways in making safe real estate contracts, rights guaranteed after making a contract and so on. Everyone needs to live somewhere, but simple talk among friends about ‘where are the habitable houses’ and ‘what are the guaranteed housing rights’ is insufficient. Therefore, Jip-bo-sem is also trying to provide a forum where students can freely talk about housing rights, attempt to improve their living situations, and also receive lecture sessions by trained professionals.
Accompanying service and Sum-map
Besides raising awareness on tenant rights, Jip-bo-sem also assists students in their housing problems. They provide an accompanying service where Jip-bo-sem counselors go with the requesters to see different houses, and they also give checklists that can be effectively used when the requesters go house hunting. Moreover, Sum-map provided by Jip-bo-sem gives a concise summed up of various housing information that are oftentimes too hard for students to approach because of its scatteredness.
Peer counseling system
Unlike other housing welfare support centers, Jip-bo-sem has a peer counseling system. This ensures that students have access to counselors that possess the same concerns and sensibilities regarding housing problems as they do. “We raise the pride of students that are often intimidated in front of real estate agents and landlords,” says Kim Sol-ah, the planning director of Minsnail Union.
Honest reviews by past users of Jip-bo-sem
The Yonsei Annals: Why did you first start living independently off campus?
Seo Hyung (Jr., Dept. of Cultural Anthropology): I live in Seoul, but it took too much time to commute to campus.
Kim Yu-jin (Jr., Dept. of Political Science & Int. Studies): My parents live abroad, so I had no choice but to live independently off campus.
Annals: What do you think was the most helpful Jip-bo-sem service?
Seo: Providing information about the house contracts was very useful. They provided information about lease contracts and how to look for houses.
Kim: Explaining the house contract step by step was very helpful. Moreover, I loved “Experiencing housing contract instead of me” service. Before the service is provided, Jip-bo-sem team does a simulation on doing a house contract with a real estate near Sinchon. After that, during the service, they explain the steps in making a contract using examples of situations that they faced during the simulation. This way of explanation was way easier to understand than just reading hard texts to find out how the process of making a house contract worked.
Annals: Do you recommend Jip-bo-sem to other students?
Seo: Yes, they provided really helpful information about how to look for the best housing and how to navigate through housing contracts. Both of these things are very difficult for a student to do alone.
Kim: I highly recommend it to students who need to live independently off campus in Sinchon. Everyone worries about living off campus and getting a house… I hope this service becomes more widespread!
Annals: What are some things in your opinion that would improve Jip-bo-sem?
Seo: Personally, I hope they directly sell housing in the future. Doing all the housing sales might be hard, but it will be nice if they had a service that at least introduces good houses around campus.
Kim: They need a better advertising strategy. Their advertisements were very weak and thus not many people know about them.
How to contact Jip-bo-sem?
During this summer, Jip-bo-sem team worked at a café near the Sinchon campus. However, starting from the second semester, they are providing housing counseling through phone (4145-9120) and online (bit.ly/민유주거상담). Jip-bo-sem also has a Facebook page and a blog on Naver called Minsnailunion where students can keep up with their latest activities and services.