Res­i­dents stall dorm con­struc­tion

Stu­dents fall vic­tim in con­flict be­tween schools, land­lords

The Korea Times - - EDUCATION - By Kim Bo-eun bkim@ktimes.com

An ef­fort to pro­vide af­ford­able hous­ing for univer­sity stu­dents faces ob­struc­tion from local res­i­dents.

Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in pledged to build 30,000 more dor­mi­tory rooms na­tion­wide by 2022, as stu­dents are bur­dened with not only tu­ition but also hefty hous­ing costs.

Data shows ex­ist­ing dor­mi­to­ries in Seoul and Gyeonggi Prov­ince ac­com­mo­date only 15 per­cent of the stu­dent de­mand. Those can­not be ac­com­mo­dated in the dorms have to re­sort to pricy rental op­tions.

Monthly rent for stu­dio apart­ments in Seoul cost around 500,000 won ($444). The av­er­age monthly cost for dorms of­fered by state and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, as well as gov­ern­ment-run in­sti­tu­tions, is 200,000 won.

Land­lords in univer­sity neigh­bor­hoods are lead­ing the op­po­si­tion against new dorms. Other res­i­dents are also protest­ing due to un­fa­vor­able changes to their en­vi­ron­ment, as well as safety risks and the harm­ful in­flu­ence of more col­lege stu­dents.

Cases

In 2014 Korea Univer­sity ini­ti­ated a plan to build a 1,100-per­son dor­mi­tory in Seong­buk-gu, north­ern Seoul, but has not seen any progress due to com­mu­nity re­sis­tance.

Be­cause the site is lo­cated within an area des­ig­nated as a city park, it needed to sub­mit a re­quest to Seong­buk-gu Of­fice for ap­proval.

“The process has been halted be­cause the school needs to col­lect more res­i­dent opin­ions on the case,” a Seong­buk-gu of­fi­cial said.

He pointed out that a park is a pub­lic fa­cil­ity used by all res­i­dents but a dor­mi­tory is only used by cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als.

“If op­pos­ing voices out­weigh sup­port­ing ones, this may re­sult in the plan get­ting scrapped,” he said.

A dor­mi­tory con­struc­tion plan is also pend­ing at Hanyang Univer­sity in Seoul.

“Com­plaints f rom land­lords have flooded in, stat­ing their liveli- hoods will be en­dan­gered, but we can­not take any sides on the is­sue — pro­ce­dures will be taken ac­cord­ing to the law,” the of­fi­cial said.

How­ever, local au­thor­i­ties’ hes­i­tance to ap­prove dorm con­struc­tion plans is seen as con­cerns over los­ing res­i­dents’ sup­port in elec­tions.

The state-run Korean Stu­dent Aid Foun­da­tion (KSAF) also drew up plans to set up a dorm in Seong­dong-gu, eastern Seoul, but is fac­ing back­lash from res­i­dents.

“We are dis­cussing the is­sue with the district of­fice, but pro­ce­dures have been slowed down due to res­i­dents’ com­plaints,” a foun­da­tion of­fi­cial said.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, res­i­dents have cited “safety con­cerns” such as col­lege stu­dents com­mit­ting crimes, and the planned build­ing ru­in­ing their view. There have also been many com­plaints from land­lords in the area, he said.

“How­ever, our dor­mi­tory will house those of the low-in­come bracket, who spend sev­eral hours com­mut­ing to school be­cause they can­not af­ford to live in stu­dio apart­ments in the area any­way.”

The of­fi­cial said the foun­da­tion, to­gether with local au­thor­i­ties, will at­tempt to host dis­cus­sions with res­i­dents on the is­sue, and build fa­cil­i­ties for them to­gether with the dor­mi­tory.

Plans of the Korea Foun­da­tion for the Pro­mo­tion of Pri­vate School to open a dor­mi­tory ac­com­mo­dat­ing 750 stu­dents in time for the spring se­mes­ter next year has been pushed back by at least two years, due to com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion.

Res­i­dents fought against the con­struc­tion, cit­ing that young stu­dents of an ad­ja­cent el­e­men­tary school would be ex­posed to not only safety risks in the con­struc­tion process, but also ad­verse in­flu­ences of col­lege stu­dents’ promis­cu­ity, drink­ing and smok­ing in the area.

It re­ceived con­struc­tion ap­proval from local au­thor­i­ties in Fe­bru­ary and is set to se­lect the con­struc­tion com­pany.

“The dorm is set to open in the spring se­mes­ter of 2020,” an of­fi­cial said.

Stu­dent coun­cils of Korea, Hanyang and Kyung Hee uni­versi- ties held a protest in front of City Hall ear­lier this month, de­mand­ing to speak with Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

“The av­er­age rent of a room near 10 ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties in Seoul rose by 50,000 won this year to 500,000 won,” the stu­dents said.

“Stu­dents need to work part-time jobs while do­ing as­sign­ments and study­ing in or­der to pay their rents.”

The con­flict over col­lege dorm con­struc­tions is not lim­ited to Seoul.

For schools in pro­vin­cial ar­eas, hav­ing a new dor­mi­tory serves to at­tract stu­dents from other ar­eas.

Hye­jeon Col­lege in Hongseong, South Chungcheong Prov­ince, re­cently un­veiled plans to build a dor­mi­tory ac­com­mo­dat­ing 300 stu­dents.

Be­cause ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties can­not meet stu­dent de­mand, the school is rent­ing stu­dio apart­ments nearby.

It re­ceived con­struc­tion ap­proval from local au­thor­i­ties ear­lier this month, but land­lords in the area are op­pos­ing the plan, cit­ing a high va­cancy rate even un­der the sta­tus quo.

The land­lords are call­ing for the schools to rent the rooms they own in­stead of build­ing a new dor­mi­tory.

“Local gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials can­not ig­nore the com­plaints of res­i­dents as they need to win votes,” the KSAF of­fi­cial said. “At the end of the day, stu­dents fall vic­tim to the con­flict.”

Local gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials can­not ig­nore the com­plaints of res­i­dents as they need to win votes.

Yon­hap

Col­lege stu­dents protest in front of the Dong­dae­mun-gu Of­fice in eastern Seoul, de­mand­ing it ap­prove the con­struc­tion of a dor­mi­tory, in this file photo.

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