University facilities are severely suffering from economic difficulties, with little to no students on campus compared to other semesters due to the pandemic. Cooperative (Coop), also familiar as Saeng-Hyup to many students, are especially threatened due to the lack of students and customers.
Cooperatives exist in 34 universities nationwide, managing school cafeterias, snack bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. They are valuable in the sense that students and faculty work together as a team to meet each other’s demands and needs. Moreover, all the profit made by the teams are returned to the school and students in forms of scholarships or school management costs.
School Coop struggles for survival
Ewha Coop general manager who wished to remain anonymous mentioned that Coop lost the most important customers, the undergraduate students, due to the pandemic. She emphasized that the main driving force of the Coop nowadays are the school convenience stores. Restaurants and souvenir shops which were once a significant contribution are now mostly closed, which makes it more challenging for the Coop.
She added that even though there is nothing much that we can do to increase the sales other than hope for the pandemic to calm down soon, the school is still searching for ways to raise sales.
“We made a packed lunch distributed on advanced reservation which is not only cost-effective but which can also reduce the possibility of offline contact between students,” she said. “Moreover, we are considering reducing the delivery charges of online souvenir shops so that students can access them more freely, as well as opening up online group purchases for students if it is possible.”
Kim Tae-dong, a member of the Hankook University of Foreign Studies Cooperative (HUFSCOOP) emphasized the difficulties they are experiencing.
Kim mentioned in the interview with Ewha Voice that they are not able to cover the labor costs even though a large number of their stores were closed since the spring semester. Furthermore, some of the other University Cooperatives are even getting loans in order to cover labor costs. Kim indicates that even though it is a difficult time for everybody, the employees of Cooperatives who are waiting to go to work may be the people suffering the most.
“We are currently discussing the ways to overcome this phenomenon with the school,” Kim said. “Right now, the school is supporting us by giving us the opportunity to supply goods like office supplies, equipment, and materials in advance. I hope that we would be able to overcome this crisis by cooperating with the school, and maybe establish other welfare businesses with them in the future.”
Cho Gyu-bi, a member of the student council of Ewha Coop, often known to students as Ssaeng-Yo, shared her thoughts on this issue.
“I believe that the meaning of Ewha Coop is very significant since it allows students and faculties to actually become a part of a business. I believe that as a member of the school, we all need to show affection towards the cooperation and utilize the facilities especially during this difficult time.”