Students help one another in improving their living environmentCollege students who live apart from their families often face obstacles, such as difficulties finding a place to live, financial burdens, and poor living conditions.
“The number of students living on their own is increasing every year,” said Park Eun-sook, a realtor at Dae-young Real Estate in Sinchon, “and monthly rents have also risen, by anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 won. So I’ve seen many students struggling to pay the rent by working at part-time jobs.”
For students who bear those problems, Snail Union, a group organized by Yonsei University students, has appeared like an oasis in the midst of a desert.
“Nobody has done anything to get students’ residential rights, which is the basic right to live in a decent environment, guaranteed,” said Jang Si-won (Yonsei University, 4), the president of Snail Union. “But we wanted to solve the problem on our own and expand the movement for gaining residential rights, which are directly related to students’ education, by providing the movement with more continuity and making it more inclusive.”
Members of Snail Union named their organization “snails” to express for whom they exist ― students lacking a place to live and having to move from one place to another.
On May 5, 109 students knocked on Snail Union’s door to join, and it now has a total of 120 members. Snail Union has carried out projects in three categories; helping students settle in, improving the quality of the residential environment, and working for people who share residential problems.
To lessen the difficulty of housing, Snail Union provides its members with residential information sharing, real estate consulting, and moving services. On the residential information sharing board of the Snail Union Web site (http://www.snailunion.com), the members post information on rental housing and boarding houses in Sinchon, along with pictures and maps. Members can also ask questions regarding real estate to a local expert through the board and receive answers free of charge.
“I had no knowledge of real estate before,” Jang Min-kyung (Yonsei University, 2) said. “After joining Snail Union, however, I was able to learn about it by consulting with a realtor through the board and making a wise decision.”
If needed, members can ask others to help them move by posting the request on the board, saving money through helping each other move rather than hiring a moving company.
In an attempt to improve residential quality, Snail Union provides side-dish making classes and offers group purchases of living necessities. Lady janitors of Yonsei University are invited, and they teach students how to cook cheap, easy but nutritious side dishes so that those living alone need not skip meals or eat out. Three classes have been arranged so far, and about 20 members have participated per class.
“I realized cooking wasn’t a big deal after participating in the cooking class. Since then I have made various dishes at home,” Hwang Dae-hoon (Yonsei University, 4) said.
Members of Snail Union can purchase living necessities cheaply through group purchase or a social commerce site supporting the union.
“Products like dehumidifiers are must-haves but quite expensive,” Kim Chang-min (Yonsei University, 4) said. “But I bought one for an affordable price through group purchase with Snail Union members.”
To bond with people sharing similar residential problems, Snail Union members donated 100,000 won to support the residents in Poi-dong, a shanty town in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, whose residents are in danger of being forced out.
Snail Union is further planning seminars on residential rights cooperatively with Yonsei Law School and Youth Community Union.
“We are taking our first steps as an independent union at this moment,” Jang said. “With the help and participation of members and the steering committee, I believe we can achieve something significant not only for us but also for the young people throughout society.”
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