University areas gain reputation for danger
University areas gain reputation for danger
  • 서연지 기자
  • 승인 2007.09.03 00:00
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With the Hongdae (Hongik University area) as the representative example, when people think of university areas nowadays, they no longer think of quiet and calm places to study but of fights, robberies, and drunken night life that lasts all night long. Lee Kyung-joo (Architecture, 4) says, “The scene of the most famous university areas can be described in two words—extreme and dangerous. The problem is that Hongdae is also a major hang-out area for us university students.”

Like Hongdae, now there are several university areas where bars are one of the most common business, and the real day starts at around 5:00 p.m. “The majority of the shops don’t open until evening, and I guess this is why people think Yondae-ap (the area in front of Yonsei University) is for drinking,” says Park Eun-hoo (Yonsei University, 4). In places like Hongdae, the lights don’t even go off until around 5:00 a.m. when young clubbers come out of the clubs and start getting into cabs.

According to Ryu Jung-hun, the chief manager of the Life Safety Division of the Mapo police station, Hongdae is the second most dangerous place among the six areas they patrol. Police divide crime into three categories: robberies, violent crimes (which mostly consists of physical fights), and other miscellaneous crimes such as, violation of the food safety law and unlicensed shops. The Yonggang area, where 39 violent crimes happened in August, was first, and Hongdae, with 34 violent incidents out of 79 total crimes, was second. In all of the Mapo area, the average number of violent crimes in August was 20. For Police, Hongdae is an area for close inspection and safety is a concern.

Police say the main reason for violence is the number of bars in an area. “Drunk people tend to engage in many violent incidents,” said Ryu. “People call 112 to notify us of an incident and then we depart to stop it. As many bars are concentrated in the university areas, young people, including students and people in their 30s, are the main victims of crimes. In August, we arrested people in 30 of the 34 cases of violences,” Ryu added. According to Ryu, compared with four or five years ago, the number of crimes, at especially violent crimes, at Hongdae, has increased by 20 per cent. Hongdae also ranks first in the number of crimes happening area in university areas.

 In the case of Yondae-ap, Tim Johnson, an exchange student to Yonsei University said, “I was shocked to see so many bars and people in front of my school when I first came to Korea.” According to Lee Joon-ho, a senior policeman at the Seodaemoon Police station, the number of bars or shops has remained the same for five years, but people are not coming to Shinchon as much as before. “Many people think that Yondae-ap is dangerous, but the number of crimes around the Shinchon area has decreased compared to that of five years ago, and the main reason for this is the emergence of Hongdae as a new place for night life.” Lee said.

Choi Mi-sun, who runs a bar in Shinchon says, “I worry about those who stay late. They are more open to risk because of other drunk people.” Choi’s bar is open from 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. and the customers are largely divided into two groups: those who leave before the public transportation ends around midnight, and those who are willing to drink until they can catch the first train. “Although the number of crimes has decreased in Shinchon, we still patrol Yondae-ap thoroughly as it holds much potential for crime,” Lee said.

Sohn Hee-soo (Liberal Arts, 1) said that she feels sorry about the image of such Korean university areas. “I was very ashamed when I had to take my foreign friend to a club. People were drunk and lying down everywhere.”

Before Sohn came to university she did hear about what it was like, but experiencing it was truly shocking for her. “I didn’t know that people change bars several times in one night, keep on drinking, and go home at dawn,” said Sohn. “I think it is urgent to come up with some plan to improve the image of Korean university areas.” One member of Yonsei University’s student government association said Yonsei it has no protective measures for students. “As far as I know, we don’t have such measures; although we know the area is full of dangers. After all it is outside the school,” he said.

Parents also spend sleepless nights worrying about their children. “I am always full of tension when my daughter tells me that she is staying late because of a club get-together. Since so many tragic accidents happen around university areas, I urge my daughter to never to get into a taxi,” said Kwon Hye-ok, whose daughter goes to Yonsei University. Seo Kyong-seok, whose daughter goes to Ewha said that the government should enforce laws that strictly ban bars in front of school areas. “Once you have those bars, the mindset of people loosens up and they are very much more likely to be crime victims once they get drunk or feel high. And the problem is that, because of the area’s characteristics, people other than students also get much involved in crimes,” said Seo.

Currently, the government restricts certain businesses in elementary, middle, and high school zones but not in university areas. “You can’t forbid students to go into bars when they are prevalent right in front of their schools,” said Lee.

Students too, agree on this matter. Kim Ye-sul (Korean Literature, 3) said, “It is not only the fault of commercialization in front of university areas but also the lack of regulation by the government. University should be a place to enhance young students’ academic knowledge and the environment should also be safe, clean and free from crime or violence. However, it will be we students who are most influential in changing this situation. We can discourage the prevalence of bars by patronizing them less.”

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