Honesty never goes stale in Ewha Consumer Cooperative stores
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Honesty never goes stale in Ewha Consumer Cooperative stores
  • 강성혜
  • 승인 2009.03.18 13:15
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Members of Ewha Consumer Cooperative make organic cookies while visiting an organic farm in Paldang.

The endless line of anxious, heeled Ewha students at the Student Union is one of the unique sceneries of the beginning of every semester. The spectacle of a hundred or so Ewha students scrounging for a better look at what’s left of the Ewha Consumer Cooperative Second-hand Book Sale is a sight rarely found elsewhere. Books are pre-bought from Ewha students and sold by the Ewha Consumer Cooperative (Ewha Co-op) student committee. This is one of the many ways through which Ewha Co-op successfully urges students to participate in the 20-year-old campaign for a better university environment and wiser spending among college students.
             Ewha Co-op started out in 1989 and is now the oldest of 22 existing nationwide University Consumer Cooperatives. University Co-ops are voluntarily made organizations consisting of professors, the staff and students of each school. All Co-ops thrive to build a better cultural environment on campus and to enhance consumer rights for university students. All co-op stores of each school are run by the students, and annual functions such as flea markets and field trips are held to encourage other students to become a union member.
             “Ewha Co-op is a pioneer and role model to other University Co-ops,” said Jung Jin-sung, secretary general of Hankook University of Foreign Studies(HUFS) Co-op. “Unlike our school, I believe Ewha students mostly know what Ewha Co-op is and use its stores regularly.” HUFS Co-op had tried to hold second-hand book sales for 3 years, but stopped when student participation was low. It was a similar case for Sogang University, the first to welcome a University Co-op to its campus. It has stopped running its Co-op altogether since 1992, and students are accustomed to private-owned stores on campus. “We’re planning to analyze Ewha Co-op’s success and have another go at the flea market again this year,” said Jung.
             Lee Sun-mi, a staff member of Ewha Co-op finance Department, finds the reason behind Ewha Co-op’s success in the high number of stores spread out over campus and the creativity of the members of the Ewha Co-op. According to Lee, Ewha has 16 on-campus stores located in almost every college and the staff makes efforts to respect the ideas of the members of the students committee first when making a decision. “We try to find out what Ewha students most need and want. The student committee comes up with some very fresh ideas that help us bring in more student participation,” said Lee.
             Active interactions with University Co-ops in Japan have also helped Ewha Co-op to think outside the box. Ewha Co-op successfully held a cooking competition last year where the winning dish would become a staple at Ewha Co-op stores. The idea of holding such an event came from a conference with the students from Japanese Co-ops. “Ewha students will now be able to enjoy the dish in every Ewha Co-op store starting from May,” said Lee.
             However, such thriving success has slowed down significantly after many private-owned stores hit campus. According to Lee, students often prefer to use convenience stores with “radical” discounts. “Even if such stores seem to provide great discounts, I believe it eventually encourages students to consume more than they plan to,” said Lee. “University Co-ops believe in proactive purchasing, where the consumers involved ? the students and members of the staff ? hand-pick the products themselves. We try to differentiate ourselves in that way. ”
             Ewha Co-op stores provide Fair-trade products such as coffee, chocolate and sugar from the Himalayas and East Timor. Organic products made from Korean wheat are also a big hit. All have reached the stores due to the ideas and requests of Ewha students, and there are no products which haven’t crossed the thorough review of the student committee. “Any student can become a union member through the official Ewha Co-op Web site. There are various discounts to enjoy and when the student invests in Ewha Co-op, we give out sufficient aid grants once a year,” said Lee. “We hope more students join in on the family-like atmosphere of Ewha Co-op, and still find it steady and running in another 20 years.”


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