Campus ReportingCampus Issue
Conventions & ContentionsA look into the blueprints and controversial issues of the Yonsei - University Songdo
Chai Kyu-min Reporter  |  earthine@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2006.06.01  00:00:00
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▲ Sectors 5/7 under reclamation
90 MINUTES. Starting from the main gate of Yonsei University Seoul campus, this is how long it takes to get to Dongmak, the closest subway station to Songdo. This station is on the south end of the Incheon subway line number 1. In sectors 1 ~ 4, which is only the area that has finished its land fill in Songdo, developing residential and commercial areas are situated. A medical research institute KMSI (Korean Medical Science Institute), notifies beforehand that the city is planning to become not only a center for free trade but also an academically viable area. To the left, which is the east side of Songdo, reclamation is taking place of sectors 5·7 and 11. These are the sectors which Yonsei is planning to construct the Songdo Global Academic Complex, a master plan which has both challenges and controversies which it must overcome.

A contract confirming intentions

  On May 8, the mayor of Incheon, An Sang-soo, signed the land provision contract that was previously consented to by Yonsei. This contract indicates that Incheon will sell certain zones of Songdo as soon as the city gains ownership of the state area under the Reclamation Act. This is because sea level areas are currently not allowed to be possessed. No major changes are made compared to the MOU (memorandum of understanding) which was contracted earlier on January 26. This provisional contract only confirms the intentions of each signatory that they are willing to successfully settle the deal. Such a contract was necessary for the Songdo Academic Complex Development Office in order to make progress on project financing with investing corporations. Approximately 0.96km2 (or 280,000 pyeong) the land on sectors 5·7 will be sold to Yonsei at ₩500,000 a pyeong as Yonsei guarantees to replace its faculty in this area. The establishment of a residential college which can accommodate around 10,000 Yonsei students (national and international), professors and researchers is a major portion of the plan. Such an agreement seems to be a result of a reconciliation of interest. Songdo brings in consumers who will reside in the new campus area and earns an opportunity to successfully form an internationally academic area. Yonsei benefits from obtaining land close to Seoul in order to pioneer a new method of college education in Korea. Contracts considering sector 11 have not yet been made.

Songdo Global Academic Complex

  The plans were discerned into two main phases according to the blueprints announced earlier this year. Expected to commence in March 2010, the first stage of the plan was to spur a residential college, mainly for freshmen at sector 5·7. The second stage was to form a large scale R & D park during the 2010s, in order to promote Yonsei and business research centers to cooperate on scientific research and education. But plans have been modified by requests from the Incheon office and the Ministry of Finance and Economy. The authorities have asked Yonsei to precede to second stage plans in advance with those of the first. Eventually, current plans have been modified to carry out core projects of both stages simultaneously.

   
▲ A residential zone in Songdo
Sectors 5­·7

  Construction of the residential college in Songdo seems to be a settled matter. Nevertheless, deciding in which year of school the students of Shinchon campus will attend classes at Songdo is being argued over and requires further discussion. The Development Office is planning to create a new environment for Yonsei students by building new lecture halls, research centers, gyms and other educational capacities. A larger international college is also to be established earlier than stipulated in former plans. By diversifying science and engineering majors taught exclusively in English, Yonsei is planning to admit around 2000 ~ 3000 international students. Students from Shinchon are to share accommodations with these international students. Whether or not this international college will be an extension of the current UIC has not yet been confirmed. A cooperatively governed village by Yonsei and Songdo, the "University Global Village," will provide professors, international scholars and their families with all administrative, medical, and welfare services to enrich their daily lives in Songdo and Yonsei. These facilities may also help promote the Sister University Campus.

  The annex of an international missionary center has been suggested by Incheon. As serving its main duties by providing Korean Missionaries a place to rest, this project aims to encourage church donations to the education area and hopefully lighten the tuition fees which have been steadily increasing. A medi-bio cluster, which is planned to become a joint research institute for Severence Hospital and the NYP (New York Presbyterian) Hospital, has been given shape in order to implement the plans to realize the R &D Park.

Sector 11

  Industry-academic science park prosperity zone remains the core process of plans related to the 0.89km2 (or 270,000 pyeong) of land occupying in sector 11. Furthermore, info-communication technology, biotechnology, environmental studies, nanotechnology, will comprise the main fields concerned with this development project. A Research Center for North Korean and North-East Asian Political/Economical Issues remains in the master plans. Such plans square with the Incheon Free Economic Zone Office city plans which were announced on May 10.

  Plans for Songdo have been recently begun to reform, after notifying the public that sectors 5 - 7 and 11 are to develop into international academic districts and IT, BT industry research zones. "One cannot state in exact percentage, but the impact that Yonsei has exerted to Songdo's overall future plans is undeniable," comments Kim Sun-chun, a publicist of the IFEZ (Incheon Free Economic Zone).

Insufficient educational software

  Although future plans appear grand and dazzling at first, problems and anxieties have been addressed by important constituents within Yonsei which must be resolved before the project begins actual consruction. The Songdo Academic Complex Development Office seems to have been acute on financial matters, examining the financial risks of the project by requesting its possibilities to professional consulting institutes. But the SA (Student Association) points out that the Development Office is only concentrating on balancing its accounts, although they should be showing more concern for educational matters. "The Development Office is not approaching this project from an educational aspect," states Lee Sung-ho, the president of SA. "I think the only reason why Incheon has struck a cheap deal with Yonsei is because the city requires consumers in order to stimulate the local economy. Students may end up paying the price."

  Although a few professors are participating with the Development Office, no detailed educational models seem to have taken shape that can be adapted in the Songdo Global Academic Complex project. Prof. Lee Yeon-ho, planning manager of the Development Office, says that this whole project is only in its beginning stage and efficient educational software will be researched under different departments. "A curriculum department, an engineering department, a dormitory department, a chapel department, etc. are some of the new departments that are planned to be established."

The stagnation of student activities & welfare

  If earlier plans of replacing the University College are executed and the freshmen Yonseians are obliged to start their years in Songdo campus, independent student activities such as dongaree, ban, and college activities will inevitably decline. All independent student activities are based on accepting new members by notifying themselves to the freshmen. The current systems of student activities are primarily put into practice by freshmen and sophomores. Under such circumstances student activities may experience an incision by the deprivation of the chance to accept any new members. "It is essential for Korean students to experience independent activities in order to become initiative and overcome attitudes implanted by the passive educational atmosphere," claims An In-ju (Junior, Dept. of Economy), the president of DA (Dongaree Association).

  As the main project mainly bases on external capital, Koo Sun-mo, the chairman of the Student Welfare Committee predicts that the LCA (Living Cooperation Association) may have to undergo a serious crisis. According to future plans, the year the Student Union is newly remodeled into the Student Welfare Center, turns out to be the year Yonsei students start their campus lives in Songdo. The LCA is not a business group but an association that forms its working expenses by small amounts of money each Yonsei student contributes through tuition fees. By managing co-op stores around the campus, they provide goods at cheap price and return the profit via welfare scholarship, bargain sales, research funds for professors, and relatively higher payments for student workers. The LCA will not be able to make a profit if 5000 ~ 7000 students reside in Songdo. "Problems can be solved if the LCA co-op shops are allowed on the Songdo campus, but this seems almost impossible as the investing corporations would not miss the chance to receive compensation for their financial expenditures."

   
President of DA (Dongahree Association) - If Yonsei is willing to raise global leaders, seniors with majors should be the ones to study in Songdo to specialize in their studies.

President of SA (Student Association) - The Development Office should not be hiding information from students and other Yonsei Constituents. The SA should be allowed to participate in making the decisions as a repre-sentative of the students.

Chairman of Faculty Labor Union - Rather than by school years, colleges should move to Songdo as a unit. For example the science and engineering colleges.

Planning manager of Yonsei Songdo Global Academic Complex Development Office -The accom-plishment of the project is the chief goal. Willing to revise further plans by gathering and discussing opinions and proposals.

The outcome of Wonju

  "The ambiguous identity of Wonju," was selected as the top concern among 199 Wonju Yonseian respondents to a survey that was conducted by Chunchu on May 7 ~ 9. This differs from the overall top concerns of the students (adding 620 respondents of Shinchon) which indicated "the stagnation of student activities." Such results suggest that Wonju students feel left out on the development plans of Songdo Campus. But it is not only the students who are feeling excluded. Professors and staff workers in Wonju are strongly requesting for more permission to participate. Plans to utilize the Wonju campus as a residential college have been nullified after the announcement of the Songdo project and no actual strategies for the participation of Wonju have been presented. The chairman of Wonju PC (Professor Council) Noh Jung-sun, exclaims "Wonju campus of Yonsei will be able to provide several empirical methods to the Development Office which will lead the project to success." The Development Office mentions they are arranging ways to ensure participation from Wonju, but current realities are yet promising.

Lack of communication

  The most urgent problem related to this issue is that no other university organizations other than the Songdo Academic Complex Development Office have specific information of how this project is progressing as well as what the risks are. Even the University College is not informed concretely though the first stage of the plan involves it's move to Songdo campus. In a public hearing that was held on April 13, the Dean of the University College, Kim Yong hak, asserted that he was not given the amount of time, nor acknowledged to gather opinion among University College professors. "Since there are no plans or blueprints which have been settled, the University College does not have a judgment. I have only heard rumors that the Development Office is reconsidering mandatory freshmen education offered at the Songdo Campus. This may mean that the University College may not settle in Songdo." The PC, the Faculty Labor Union, the Student Welfare Committee, the Student Association, and the DA also lack of information. Situations infer that the project so far has only been planned and managed by the Development Office and a chance for discussion or amendment to the plan have not taken place. Incorporating further procedures without forming a consensus among related constituents and Yonsei students makes it seem impossible that progress will take place in the near future.

  The Development Office admits that there has not been enough notification up to now, but explains that this project is only in its beginning stages. The Development Office is planning to hold periodical forums in order to collect different opinions and proposals from varied Yonsei constituents starting from June 1. These forums are to be held regularly every last Tuesday 4 p.m. at the International Conference Room in Yeonhui Hall. Also, a department designated exclusively for student participation is to be formed to embrace student opinions and ideas. Through this department, the Development Office is expecting to encourage new ideas for students and dongaree activities in the future.

Standpoints

  Bae Tae-seop, the chief of PERI (Progressive-Education Research Institute), points out that the Songdo area can already be considered a failure. "Compared to other international areas, the IFEZ has relatively strict regulations. The government has been trying to attract international capital among the area, but only 3 ~ 4 foreign corporations have applied," he asserts. He predicts Songdo will eventually become a land of speculative enterprise and real-estate, but not an academic area. Thus universities have no reason to enter Songdo. But the Development Office has a different opinion. "Ten years from now, the gap of progress will become enormous among the universities who have successfully entered this area and those who have not." In fact, after Yonsei has announced to construct an academic complex in Songdo, other universities such as Inha, Chung-ang, Seoul, and Korea University have declared their intentions to also apply for land in this district. The sudden increase of land demand has lead the IFEZ to perform an open competition among universities. Yonsei is the only university that wouldn't have to participate in such a procedure. "The competition is tense among universities. Yonsei foundation needs to form a long-term plan in order to consistently perform this project successfully," says Kim Kwang Yeol, the chairman of the Yonsei Faculty Labor Union.

  From different standpoints come different opinions. Disputes and anxiety are high among Yonsei constituents. But one thing is certain. However the Songdo project is resolved, the influence will be great upon Yonsei's future. In-depth conversations and consensuses are mandatory for the future of Yonsei.

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(left)Areas where Yonsei's Songdo Complex will be located
(right)6 new stations are planned to be built which reaches into the new city