Housing gap to widen between rival schools

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Housing gap to widen between rival schools

Over the past century, Korea University and Yonsei University have remained traditional rivals when it comes to academic excellence, postgraduate employment and even in sports.

But it’s no contest when it comes to accommodations.

While 31.2 percent of students at Yonsei University live in dormitory housing, Korea University only accommodates 10.5 percent of its student body. Roughly one out of every three Yonsei students live in college dormitories, while only one out of 10 Korea University students has the same opportunity.

And the gap is only expected to widen this year: Yonsei University is constructing a new dormitory facility, scheduled to be completed by December, that will be capable of housing 1,100 additional students.

By the year’s end, 9,667 out of 27,453 Yonsei University students will have dormitory accommodations, while only 2,749 out of 26,246 Korea University students will be housed in university dorms.

What’s surprising, however, is that both universities filed for permission in 2014 to build more dormitories, but received inconsistent answers from their respective district offices.

When building dormitories in mountainous regions or on land designated as a park, universities must file an application for construction to their district offices to convert the land from a park into a residential area.

Yonsei University requested consent from the Seodaemun District Office to build dormitories on its international campus in Ansan, Gyeonggi, while Korea University requested consent from the Seongbuk District Office to build one within Mount Gaeun in Seongbuk District, northern Seoul - an off-campus area the university owns.

Both requests were met with strong objection from landlords of the townhouses and one-room apartments near their campuses, as well as from local residents, who filed civil complaints. Their reasons varied from preserving nature to preventing a drop in housing prices and overpopulation.

The Seodaemun District Office ruled in favor of Yonsei University, saying, “Mountainous areas within the school campus are still school premises, and the district office cannot change the land’s use.”

But the Seongbuk District Office issued the opposite ruling, rejecting Korea University’s application and telling administrators to find a way to convince local residents of the school’s plan.

Other universities have also collided with district offices over construction plans, but have refused to accept the rejection of their applications.

Hongik University sued the Mapo District Office in 2014 when it dismissed its application to build new dormitories and won. The school started construction of additional student accommodations last June.

For students, dormitories are also a more affordable option. The monthly dorm fee for a two-person room at Korea University and Yonsei University is 288,000 won ($240) and 297,000 won, respectively, which is still about 100,000 won less than renting a one-room residential apartment.

According to the Seoul Institute, 40 percent of university students’ monthly expenses go toward rent. Yet, 90 percent of university students in Seoul cannot live in campus dormitories due to a severe shortage.

However, government policies to assist students with dormitory housing are either now defunct or ineffective, and President Park Geun-hye’s 2012 campaign pledge to expand dormitory accommodations by 30 percent has so far not come to fruition.

BY KIM NA-HAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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