English language and literature freshman Heo Ye-jin criticises Ewha’s strict dormitory curfew. After band practice at 11 p.m., Heo must run to catch the bus back to her dorm to meet the midnight curfew.
“I don’t understand why I always have to rush back,” Heo said. “Our male band members especially have more time because they have no curfew, which I don’t think is fair.”
Increasing media reports on strict university dormitory policies have sparked a government review of university dormitory rules.
This semester, an anonymous post on Seoul National University (SNU) student Facebook group, Dae-namoo Soop (Bamboo Forest), complained about spot checks of students’ rooms and personal belongings, which took place without prior notice even in the absence of students.
“Though I do not live in the Yeon-gun dormitory, I was astonished at the fact that my belongings could be looked through in my absence according to our school policies,” said a SNU dormitory resident. “They could come into my room anytime using master keys.”
Yeon-gun dormitory staff said the checks aimed to detect unauthorized room switches, but students raged over the policy on Facebook.
In addition to curfews and spot checks, media reports have also criticized university dormitories’ use of merit and demerit points, and military-style roll calls, which could lead to expulsion from the dorms. They also reported restrictions on students’ right to gather or protest.
Concerned that such policies could be violating human rights, Seoul Metropolitan Government Youth Policy Division requested an investigation. Seoul government will carry out its first dormitory policy review from September till Dec. 15 to inform proper policy standards.
The review will cover 40 university-administered dorms, 13 managed by Seoul government and districts, and six managed by provincial administrations. Investigators are to interview residents of university dormitory’s as well.
Seoul Metropolitan Government Innovation Bureau Human Rights Division officer, Park Yu-kyeong, said the review could reveal a hidden military-style culture embedded in Korean universities.
“The rights and freedom of young people are sometimes neglected by these policies,” Park said. “As the shared housing is expanding, this investigation aims to gather information that will help establish democratic communal living.”
Following the investigation, Seoul government is to devise dormitory policy guidelines, including consideration of the rights of social minorities such as disabled people and foreigners.
Dormitory policies to be reviewed may include patrols of floors and individual rooms at Kyung-hee University; room spot-checks at Konkuk University, and ID checks in front of students’ doors whenever superintendents call an inspection at Sookmyung Women’s University.
“I am against this spot check regulation. Isn’t it similar to army rules?” said a Sookmyung student. “Dormitories are for student welfare, not for strict regulations like these.”
Curfews have also stirred conflict between students and university administrations. In Korea University, only the female students had a curfew of 2 a.m., even though 89 percent of students surveyed wanted the curfew abolished.
Regarding the investigation, Ewha dormitory agreed with the need to guarantee students’ individual rights and a more democratic management.
Moreover, the dormitory opened up about the curfew, a controversial topic among residents.
“Our curfew was set to prevent possible danger by outer sources like drunken intrusions, as our top priority is safety and security,” the office stated. “For emergency situations, the office does excuse students with the appropriate documentation.”