[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]More campus shops mean more distractionsUniversities in Korea have been changing the face of their campuses at a rapid pace. Many began by rebuilding or redesigning their school gates to improve their image. With continuous construction and renovations, many new structures have risen on many campuses in a relatively short time.
At some universities, a quarter or even half of the campus buildings have been built within the last decade or two.
A recent article in Hankyoreh, a Korean daily, says that 95 of the 198 buildings on the campus of Seoul National University were built after 1990. It is more or less the same at other campuses. At Korea University, 30 out of the 98 buildings were built after 1990; at Yonsei University, 59 out of 104.
The increased number of buildings reflects universities’ efforts to provide students with better services and comfort. Many of these buildings now house dormitories, libraries, dining halls and classrooms. More students from remote areas can now live on campus and more students can find seats in libraries during exam season.
Not all these buildings are, however, for scholarly purposes. Some universities have built commercial complexes for private stores, chain restaurants and coffee shops.
Korea University has the most number of private stores among campuses in Korea, boasting a StarBucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Staff Hotdog and convenience stores. Hana Square, the university’s most recently built underground complex, has a Burger King, Youngpoong Book Center, a bank branch and a fitness center along with study rooms and a convention hall.
Other universities are following Korea University’s lead. Hanyang University now has a Rosebud coffee shop and a branch of Kimbab Cheonguk. Sogang University and Ewha University have underground complexes under construction. Other universities, including Sungkyunkwan and Hanyang, are considering similar underground commercial complexes.
Decades ago this trend would have been unimaginable, when universities and students alike thought of a campus as a sanctuary and were generally against the spread of commercialism. But today’s students welcome the privatization of campuses. According to a survey by Thinkgood, a Korean magazine for university students, 78.3 percent of students thought the privatization of campuses was no big deal, while only 21.7 percent thought we should be concerned.
I don’t oppose having chain stores on campus. By having them, students don’t have to go off campus to run errands such as paying bills at the bank and they can choose from a variety of restaurants close by.
But with increased choices, students must learn to manage their time as they can be distracted by the availability of these facilities. Students now have more choices at hand but they must learn to put limits on the time they spend in these facilities. For example, hanging out at a restaurant or coffee shop and working out at a fitness club everyday leave little time for study.
It’s important to enjoy their time in school but, in the end, students are in school to prepare for their future. And those restaurants and coffee shops are ultimately little, if any, help.
* The writer is a reporter for The News at UOS, the English newspaper at the University of Seoul.
by Kong Jun-wan