Ewha, a tourist’s hub or an institution for learning?
Ewha, a tourist’s hub or an institution for learning?
  • Choi Ye-jin, Kim So-jung, and two others
  • 승인 2019.06.11 17:50
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By Choi Ye-jin, Kim So-jung, Joe Hee-young, Yang Nam-kyung

Ewha has had persistent issues with tourists visiting the campus, taking photographs of the ECC, including students’ faces. At times they even violate private space at various parts of the school. Ewha Voice took this opportunity to cover this issue at its fundamental roots - how the large number of tourists came to know of Ewha and how Ewha became one of the “must-go” places in Seoul. How can some of the occurrences and complaints from the students on this issue be resolved? Through this coverage, voices of students, tourists, and the school was heard.

How do tourists find out about Ewha?

A large number of tourists visit Ewha everyday with the purpose of taking photographs of the campus, especially at the famous ECC. Dominique Perrault, an award-winning French architect known for his project on the French National Library, built the ECC. 

At ECC, Exit 3 and 4 are the only doors where tourists are allowed to enter. The other exits in the building have signs that state, “Please refrain from unauthorized entry,” and “No visitors beyond this point.” Regardless of the signs, constant visits by the tourists on all floors has shed light on how tourists found out about the campus to begin with. 

It was always rumoured by students on the school’s online communities that due to Seodaemun-gu Office (SDM) promoting Ewha as a tourist attraction, tourists tend to visit more. Students stated that Ewha was the only university in the recommended cultural tour in the district created by SDM. However, based on SDM’s cultural tour page, there was a separate route named Education where four schools including Ewha and Yonsei were part of the recommended tours. According to the survey led by Ewha Voice counting 119 respondents, rarely any tourists came through the recommendation from SDM.

When asked about how they came to know of Ewha, majority of the tourists said that they found out through social media such as Instagram, Google searches, blogs, vlogs, or friend recommendations. In addition, there were also cases where some came after seeing the school on Korean TV shows.

“I saw Ewha on the famous Korean show, Running Man,” said two Malaysian tourists who were taking a photo at ECC. “The campus buildings shown on TV were beautiful, so we came to see it for ourselves on our visit to Korea. Ewha was one of our must-go places.”

The school’s campus and students were on the show Running Man in March 2015 where members of the show played a game on the school’s field. It was not the first time Ewha was featured on a TV show as it also appeared on another show called 2 Days & 1 Night.
While some tourists found out about the school through TV shows, many of the tourists stated that they were informed of Ewha through Instagram. According to TripZilla Magazine, a Southeast Asian Digital Travel Media, Ewha was ranked sixth in their article on “10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Seoul.”

The tourists that were interviewed by Ewha Voice commonly agreed on the pleasurable aesthetics of ECC and the Chapel, commenting on the buildings’ photo-worthiness.

How students perceive tourists on campus

Anonymous posts made on the school’s online communities, such as Everytime, as well as everyday observations have fueled the vast majority of student opinion on tourists.

Although the consensus has tilted asymmetrically to those who do not think positively of tourists, according to reported incidents received by Ewha Voice, there is also a demand to view this phenomenon in a more balanced perspective.

“As long as the tourists do not directly harm our school or our students, I'm fine with it,” said Lee Ga-jung, a sophomore in the Division of International Studies. “What makes things problematic though is, the very few tourists who come in and take inappropriate photos or barge into non-tourist designated areas.”

Many students also acknowledged that the tourist population has seemingly decreased in 2019, compared to previous years.

“Even if they do not harm us, the sheer number of tourists among the many visitors we have on-campus, staggers me - it almost feels like I am in a zoo,” said one student in the College of Music, who frequently uses Nae:il lounge located in Exit 1 of ECC.

Most of the student observations were based on personal encounters they had with tourists.

“When I was getting my graduation photo taken with a few friends in front of Case Hall (Graduate Building), we had an incident where a Chinese tourist took some very low-angle pictures of us in our body-tight dresses and full make-up,” said Kang Min-jeong from the Design Division.

“We immediately asked the tourist to delete our photos and verified that he did so too. We were too flustered at the time to report the case to the relevant school body,” she added.

The Student General Assembly (SGA) delivered their most recent survey results on student perception of tourists during this year’s Daedong festival. The top three reasons students raised concerns on the issue of tourists entering campus were the violation of students’ right of publicity,  infringement of their freedom to mobilize on campus, and risking of student safety.

School’s position and future plans for continued discussion

Ewha Voice spoke to various relevant school staff in relation to tourist entry, including the Office of General Administration (OGA), security guards based in ECC and the campus police.

According to the OGA, the school is not considering any measures to prevent tourists from entering the school. 

“We may go counter to the atmosphere of campus openness prevalent in our society, ” OGA said.

“Moreover, it is questionable whether it is technically possible to distinguish between the visitors who have a reason to enter and tourists who are passing by,” the office added.

“We need to consider our non-affiliated lecturers, domestic as well as international exchange students, visitors to school events, employees from distribution companies, and others who visit to use commercial facilities within ECC.” 

The office also mentioned possible alternatives to meet student demand regarding this issue, such as the School General Assembly (SGA)’s suggestion of implementing a quota on tourists visiting the school, collecting entrance fees, checking ID cards and installing turnstiles. However, it also emphasized the potential problems caused upon implementing these measures and the inconveniences that may follow.

“We mobilize every time a complaint is reported to our security office, but very few instances pose direct harm to the students,” said a security personnel based at ECC. 

Moreover he added that approximately half of the visitors to ECC enter using the elevator which takes them directly from the underground parking lot to ECC, making security intervention impossible. 

He also pointed out that the school is investing hugely toward the installation of new SECOM card readers, the major electronic identification system in Korea, at various exits. However, these prove to be ineffective, as they must be kept open during the weekdays to facilitate passage of students and lecturers.

“As much as we empathize with the discomforts expressed by our students, we also think that the frequency of tourist visits reflect our school’s prestige. If tourists are to gain a positive perception of our school, this may be better overall to the various members of Ewha,” OGA said.

When asked about its specific future stance, OGA responded that it is open to discussing effective measures of regulating visitors and non-school members, and coming up with countermeasures to various potential situations with the SGA.

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