The name Ewha was given by Emperor Gojong in 1887, not Empress Myeongseong as many students believe. According to Ewha Centennial History Book, Kim Yun-sik, the then minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade put a lot of effort into giving a name to the university.
After Kim saw a female student taking classes and becoming enlightened with the education that she received, he made a suggestion to Emperor Gojong to award the college a name. Emperor Gojong, considering many factors, gave the name “Ewha,” which means pear flowers in Korean.
There are many possible theories for Gojong selected the name “Ewha” according to the Ewha Centennial History Book. The first theory is that there was a huge pear field where Ewha was established. The second theory is that right next to the school, there was a small summerhouse called Ewha Jung, for people to relax in and spend their free time. A third theory is that Emperor Gojong wanted Ewha to educate Korean females and let them brighten the country like the pure white pear flower. When Emperor Gojong endowed Ewha with its names, he wrote it on a wood board two to four feet long, but the board unfortunately disappeared when the school moved from Jeongdong to Shinchon.
The “Womans” part of Ewha Womans University also triggers many people’s curiosity. Why it is “womans,” instead of “women’s” like at other women’s universities in Korea.
“There are various theories as to why it is womans. One is that it is merely a grammatical mistake,” said a staff member at the Ewha Archives. “However, the most prominent theory is that the school’s original name was Ewha Woman University, as it started with only one student named Kim buin (she was a concubine, so she did not have a name but was referred to as buin which means madam in Korean).”
Later on, when more students started to enroll into the college, the name had to be changed. The woman should have been changed to its plural form, women. But to restore the initial history of the school’s name, they just decided to put an ‘s’ at the end. “Despite many criticisms that the school name looks unprofessional and is merely a grammatical mistake, the name Ewha Womans University holds great value and history to Ewha members,” said the archive staff member.