Gov’t announces new standards for gosiwonsThe government will require newly built gosiwons to install CCTVs and have walls at least 10 centimeters (4 inches) thick, as part of efforts to make residents safer and more comfortable.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Tuesday announced that the rules will take effect next month.
Gosiwons are a uniquely Korean form of housing that consist of extremely small single rooms - about 4 square meters (43 square feet) in size - typically rented by students preparing for national civil service exams. Gosi translates to “national civil service exam” in Korean, while won means “institution.”
But as college tuition and housing prices have stayed high over the past few years, students from outside the greater Seoul area and workers who can’t afford the deposit on an apartment have been almost forced to live in gosiwons.
In Korea, apartments are often rented through the jeonse system, which requires a large lump-sum deposit, and even monthly rentals usually require a tenant to put down “key money” of up to 10 million won ($8,900).
Gosiwons, on the other hand, don’t require a deposit and usually cost just 300,000 won to 500,000 won per month.
But the lower price usually means substantially lower quality. The buildings are typically of poor construction, with narrow corridors and thin walls separating rooms, many of them windowless. Basic features like electricity and cooking facilities have often been so badly installed or maintained that they become potential hazards.
Starting next month, new gosiwons are banned from renovating basements into rooms. They are required to make walls between rooms thicker than 10 centimeters, using reinforced concrete, and all corridors must be wider than 1.2 meters (4 feet). The buildings must also meet fire safety standards.
The buildings must also have safety fences on windows installed lower than 1.2 meters from the floor. Operators are required to equip buildings with common laundry, cooking and recreation areas, similar to a typical college dormitory.
Buildings higher than six stories must also install ventilation systems to get rid of the cigarette smoke from tenants who light up in their rooms.
According to the Center for Freedom of Information and Transparent Society, a civic group run by professors, journalists and lawmakers based on public information requests, there were nearly 11,460 gosiwons nationwide as of 2014, and the number has steadily increased over the past few years.
BY KIM JI-YOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]