Kim Hei-sook was elected the 16th president of Ewha Womans University on May 25. The philosophy professor was formally appointed on May 26 by the board of directors.
Kim will take office from May 31, relieving Acting President Song Tuck-soo.
President-elect Kim Hei-sook has previously announced her three main pledges as a candidate for the Ewha president: first, to improve transparency and create equal opportunity by building a predictable administration via an open human resource team; second, to build a respected and exciting campus community that nurtures and acknowledges each individual; third, to help Ewha realize the true value of a higher education institution by strengthening its unique research environment and infrastructure as a women’s university.
As is suggested by her slogan, “New Ewha, Shining World Together,” members of Ewha are hoping the president-elect will lead responsibly and bring positive changes to the community.
For the first time since its establishment, Ewha has elected its president through a direct election; with the exception of the 10th president Yoon Hoo-jung, who was directly elected by professors only. This year, a wide range of school members, including professors, students, staff, and alumni, were able to cast their vote for one of the eight candidates. Students were especially enthusiastic about the chance to participate in the election of the new president.
“I was excited to vote for the president of Ewha shortly after the Korean presidential election, especially because we fought so hard to be able to exercise our rights in this election,” said Jung Seung-eun, a sophomore majoring in Social Studies Education. “With our efforts to settle issues, such as that of the nominee age limit and the student voting ratio, despite the conflicts that arose, I felt that this was an opportunity that must not be taken for granted.”
Before the final vote on May 25, the voter turnout reached 45.6 percent, including the early voting and the first-round voting results. Though candidate Kim Hei-sook gained the most support from the voters, she did not gain the majority vote during the first round. This led to the final vote between the two candidates with the most votes in the first round: Kim Hei-sook, with 33.9 percent, and Kim Eun-mee, with 17.5 percent.
The voter turnout for students in the final round reached 45.3 percent, electing Kim Hei-sook, who gained 57.3 percent of the votes. It is worth noting that Kim won the student vote by a landslide, with 9,384 votes out of the 9,835 student voters, a 95.4 percent approval rate.
“Professor Kim was the only candidate who truly stood at the side of students when the school and students were most vulnerable,” said a junior majoring in communication and media, referring to the political scandal last year. “I believe that our new president will highly respect students’ opinions in future school governance.”
In response to the election, the 49th Student Government Assocation (SGA), Starting Ewha, posted its official statement regarding the election of Ewha’s new president.
“We congratulate President Kim Hei-sook on her election as the 16th president of Ewha, elected in the trust of students as well as all members of Ewha,” announced Starting Ewha. “This election has opened a new page for Ewha’s history of democracy. We hope that the new president and students continue to build a democratic atmosphere together, where students can take their rightful place in the university.”
Professors have also sent their congratulations to the newly elected president.
“I deeply congratulate Ewha on the election of its new president,” said Professor Kang Tae-kyeong of the Department of English Language & Literature. “I believe that the new president already understands my expectations towards her and the school, so I trust Ewha’s future to be bright.”
During the election, Professor Kim Kyung-min stepped down from candidacy due to personal reasons on May 21. Also, candidates Kang Hye-run, Lee Kong-ju and Kim Sung-jin were given warnings on May 23 due to their violation of election regulations, as it was revealed that they had campaigned through private text messages and emails.
The school celebrated the election of the new president by hosting Ewha Womans University’s 131st Anniversary Commemoration and 16th Presidential Inaugural Ceremony on May 31 at the Welch-Ryang Auditorium.
“On this day in 1886, Ewha started its history with missionary Mary Scranton’s education for a single girl, and for the past 131 years it has grown to be Korea’s greatest women’s university that produced the ‘first’ and ‘best’ female talents,” Kim said. “I will once again prove Ewha’s universal education and research through Ewha’s various endeavors and accomplishments.”
More about President Kim Hei-sook
Kim graduated from Ewha Womans University as an English language and literature major, after which she mastered in philosophy. Upon completing her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Chicago, she returned to Ewha as a professor in the philosophy department, where she has taught since 1987. Kim is also the director of the school’s Institute of Philosophy.
Kim became the first dean of Scranton College in 2007. Kim created the Scranton Honors Program, which allows students to explore different fields of study and benefit scholarships and other opportunities. This program has since been benchmarked by many other universities.
In addition to her accomplishments at Ewha, Kim has successively filled leading posts in national, as well as international academic societies of philosophy. Currently, she serves as a committee director of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies and is one of nine board members of the International Association of Women Philosophers.