Two years ago, President Kim Hei-sook’s election was on the headlines across the country. Kim is the first private university president to be directly elected by school members including students in the history of Korea, following the resignation of her predecessor. President Kim was welcomed by school members with the expectation of a new Ewha.
Now, Kim is two-and-a-half years into her term in office. What has improved, and what future plans does she have for Ewha? To find out more about Kim’s thoughts on the school’s development and student administration, Ewha Voice, The Ewha Weekly, and EUBS met with President Kim in her office.
How do you see Ewha now that you have reached the midpoint of your term?
When I first started my term, Ewha was insecure. Now, Ewha has become much more stable. I hope to spend my remaining term strengthening Ewha’s identity and improving its functions as a university.
There has been nearly a 40 percent decrease in the number of instructors after the amendment of the instructor law.
I want to emphasize that the school is trying its best to take students’ voices into account, so I hope students will trust the school’s decisions. The school will definitely open highly requested or mandatory lectures. There is some misunderstanding that the school is maximizing large-scale lectures because of the instructor law, but this is not true.
For the reduced number of instructors, there are suggestions about recruiting graduate students as tutors for courses with large-scale.
What do you think about the students’ criticism that the school is not communicating enough with students on curriculum revisions?
I am aware of students’ criticism on the decrease in liberal arts. However, it is necessary for us to broaden our definition of liberal arts. The purpose of liberal arts education is to harness critical thinking skills and to find new ways of analyzing texts. I believe it is erroneous to say that the school is indifferent to liberal arts merely for decreasing basic writing courses. As digital literacy has become important, the revised course – which is about computing – will enable them to learn the crucial assets needed in a rapidly changing world.
Do you have any further plans for increasing the budget or making changes to scholarship standards?
Currently 25.7 billion won is in our school’s scholarship budget. The amount has not changed since 2017, but regarding the fact that we abolished the admission fee, we could say Ewha has been maintaining the scholarship fund well. For students who are having financial difficulties, we are giving scholarships for all the students under fifth decile income. Scholarships for living expenses have been implemented this year, and we hope students will continue to benefit from this policy.
Most graduate donations go to scholarships, and I hope this culture will be maintained after current students become alumnae as well.
Will there be any financial issues due to the newly established Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital and an expected remodeling of Hak-gwan?
Funds needed for Seoul Hospital are not coming from our school’s budget. For Hak-gwan’s remodeling, it will be managed by the depreciation cost from the construction fund. All private schools are having a hard time managing their budgets now. We are trying to get funds from government projects and more. Some recent examples are ACE+ and CORE, and the school was also selected as the SW emphasis institution.
Have there been results following the reorganization of the Office of Communications and the new promotion video uploaded on YouTube?
Promotion has upgraded one step up in terms of quality. We want to tell people how Ewha is running one of the biggest women’s universities and the education it provides to the students. We are also considering dividing our promotion into national and international sections. I have seen some of the videos that students have made personally related to Ewha, and those videos are also very important. Showing how you live in Ewha is a good promotion method.
There have been many complaints about tourists visiting Ewha. Some say Ewha is an institute for learning, not a tourist attraction.
I fully understand why students are upset about that issue. I have also noticed tourists taking pictures of students and sitting at the pavilion with kids running around. I have considered various ways to solve this such as officially accepting and dividing tourists from travel companies and private tourists or allocating tourists by time, but there is always a dilemma. If there are any solutions that students could suggest, feel free to tell the school.
What kind of female leader should Ewha be?
Some people who have not experienced a women’s university have told me that feminism is outdated and has ended. However, one would not say that after experiencing the female empowerment and the consolidation at Ewha.
Men are the same, but as you can see from the MeToo movement, it is challenging for women to live in in a women’s body. Women need to know that if there are still people who is oppressed with women’s body, no one is entirely free. We are not alone. A female leader’s role is to rely on one another and to climb higher. I hope Ewha’s students will consider this as their vocation.
What would you name the past two years of Ewha, and what will Ewha be for the remaining term?
We’ve suffered from a lot of confusion, but after two-and-a-half years, we have regained the true self of Ewha. For the future, based on the history of Ewha, I would strive to make Ewha a school that fits our motto, “The power of balancing the world.”
Questions from students
Q. It has been a year since Ewha implemented the new evaluation system on student grades. Were there any meaningful data accumulated?
Unfortunately, one year is too short to get meaningful data. However, I would like to tell the students should not cling to the previous relative evaluation system. Ewha is a place where the top 10 percent of students in Korea are gathered. Competing between them is meaningless. I wish students would pursue intellectual curiosities, rather than grades.
Q. What do you think about opinions that support on civil service exams are low compared to other universities?
I’ve heard such demands since I first took the office. We are making efforts to expand these supports, such as replacing old supplies in civil service classrooms. If there are students’ needs, we are trying to satisfy it.
Q. Some travel brochures describe Ewha “Mecca of Fashion and Cosmetics Shopping,” not as a study institution.
We will investigate that issue through the Office of Communications. The school should intervene in such matters.
Q. Can we ask about your daily schedules as a school president?
My daily schedules vary from time to time and are hectic. I check my daily schedules day by day and it’s hard to catch up with it. But, I can tell that I meet a lot more people than you can imagine.
Q. Is your major, philosophy helpful for your term?
Philosophy helped me a lot. As philosophy is a science of everything, I had met professors in various fields and learned a manifold experience. I was able to cultivate the patience I need when meeting various people.
*These questions are from student panel of Ewha Weekly