Ewha Womans University still strong 120 years on
Ewha is responsible for many firsts in Korean history: Korea’s first female doctor, Esther Park; its first woman to get a doctoral degree, Helen Kim; the first female Korean lawyer, Lee Tai-young; the first female justice on the Constitutional Court, Jeon Hyo-sook, and the first female prime minister, the incumbent Han Myeong-sook, were all Ewha graduates.
Ewha’s zeal to remain at the vanguard of women’s education in Korea is encapsulated in its new motto, “Frontier Ewha,” said Shin In-ryung, the president of Ewha Womans University, in a recent e-mail interview with the JoongAng Daily.
“Through the frontier spirit, Ewha will continue to play a key role in education, research and fostering talented woman students,” she said.
Q.How does it feel to be commemorating the 120th anniversary of Ewha’s foundation?
A. It’s just incredible. The small seed, planted here by Ms. Scranton with only one student, has grown over 120 years into a huge tree, the world’s largest female educational institute.
How has Ewha changed since you were a student here?
There are many more professors and students, and the educational environment has improved a lot since the 1960s when I came here. Even still, I sometimes feel sorry for the current students, as they don’t seem to have the opportunity to really relish their school experience. They are all so preoccupied with finding work after graduation.
Ewha recently underwent some restructuring, reducing its 14 schools to 11. What was the reason? Did the plan face any serious opposition?
There are always objections to big changes. Some students and professors just misunderstood the nature of the restructuring, but I promised them no one would suffer as a result. Although Ewha is now the largest women’s university in the world, relentless competition here and overseas requires us to keep changing and being innovative. Thus, we merged divisions that could be placed under one college. We’re planning to reduce the number of colleges to under 10 in the long term. The era of universities expanding like department stores is over.
Ewha is scheduled to open a medical school in 2007 and a law school in 2008. Will you be ready?
When I became Ewha’s president in 2002, the first petition I received from professors was to scrap the plan to open a medical school. But after persuading them that the new graduate schools were crucial for our future, we started preparing in 2002. Starting last year, we stopped accepting undergraduate students for our college of medicine.
We have already completed a library and a separate building for the law school, and are currently taking on more professors and students for the new school body. We’ve also developed courses for law school, and we’re working on a curriculum and developing course materials.
What do you want to say to Ewha students?
I want the students to have more experience of the world, to take on challenges and develop their dreams, instead of just studying to get a job. I also want them to believe that they can overcome problems with the experimental spirit they learned in school. I’d like the students to accept difference and respect diversity, too.
Ewha Global Partnership Program
“Ewha became what it is today with love, support and generosity, both Korean and foreign,” said Shin In-ryung, the university’s president. “[The program] is a way to give something back for all that Ewha has received from others, people such as Mary Scranton, who founded Ewha 120 years ago.”
Currently, 24 students from 14 nations, including Afghanistan, Sudan, Kenya, Vietnam, Nepal, Uzbekistan and Thailand, are enrolled on the program. Available for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees, the program offers students a full scholarship, covering tuition, living costs and additional expenses for learning Korean.
“It’s not just to help students from poorer nations, but to foster international cooperation and to help the students become professionals and global leaders,” Ms. Shin said.
Lee Duck-kyu, a spokeswoman for Ewha, emphasized that the students do not take only English-language classes. “The aim of the program is to produce students that are experts in Korea, so that they can contribute to their nations in relation to Korean issues,” she said.
The students major in a variety of fields, such as architecture, social sciences, human ecology and English literature. “Many of the courses are taught in Korea, and the students are working hard to learn Korean,” Ms. Lee said.
The restored building, however, is being built on the Sinchon campus of Ewha Womans University. Ms. Scranton, who started teaching in Korea in 1886 with a single student in her home, opened Ewha Hakdang with four students later that year. The school had seven rooms and a dormitory that could accommodate 35 students.
“We decided to restore Ewha Hakdang in order to revive and remember the role and meaning of Ewha in Korean educational and women’s history,”
Ms. Shin said. The building will be used as a museum chronicling the school’s history.
The History of Ewha Womans University
1886 - In May, Mary F. Scranton, an American Methodist missionary, opens Korea’s first school for women in her house with a single student. In November, the construction of a school building (the former base of Ewha Womans University) is completed in Jeong-dong.
1887 - King Gojong officially names the school “Ewha.”
1910 - College courses begin.
1925 - Ewha Women’s Professional School opens.
1935 - The campus moves to its current location.
1946 - Ewha becomes Ewha Womans University, Korea’s first university for women.
1950 - Ewha graduate schools open.
1977 - Women’s Studies classes begin.
1984 - The School of Continuing Education opens.
1996 - Ewha opens its College of Engineering, the first such school in a women’s university.
2001 - Division of International Studies established.
2006 - Ewha offers inaugural Ewha Global Partnership Program and completes the restoration of Ewha Hakdang.
by Park Sung-ha