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Dongguk, a Frontier of Social Contribution

In front of the elephant statues, the icon of Dongguk University, a happy looking couple watches their son run around the campus. They spend a good time taking photos and strolling around. Recently, the campus is slowly becoming a place where not only students, but also citizens can  enjoy. On July 2013, the Central Library has opened to the public throughout the winter vacation and thereafter. A university opening up to nearby communities holds a lot of societal meanings.


Social restoration is a means of a contribution by giving to the society a portion of the income or benefits that a company or an organization makes. It has many different types, from financial contribution to the means of providing seminars, and constructing facilities related to the environment or health. This act of contributing to the community is an “education from the third party,” which has been one of the recent agendas that universities all around the world have been paying attention to. Currently, major universities around the world are pursuing to create a bond between a university and the regional society. To elaborate, Harvard is already providing immigrant elementary and junior high students with ESL (English as a Second Language) programs. In addition, they provide free medical treatments, personal guidance, protection centers and 71 other programs in which 1,500 non-students are participating. In Kinki University, Japan, the Life Science Engineering Department provides junior high students an opportunity to experience a life of a university librarian. While a lot of universities abroad are striving to give back to the society, what has Dongguk University been providing to Jung-gu citizens?


Currently, Jung-gu citizens can read books and use the Central Library if they pay a fee of 100,000 won for an annual pass. On the first floor, the Natural Science Room, there are other services available such as “The Study Room for Jung-gu Residents,” a study place of ten seats, open to the citizens after they receive a daily pass by entering their resident registration number.
Other than the library, the Main Stadium is open to citizens during certain hours. It is open from 6:00~9:00A.M. on weekdays, 6:00~8:00A.M. on Saturday and 6:00~1:00P.M. on Sunday. Sanglokwon, the main cafeteria, has been open to the public ever since it was built in 1999. On weekdays the citizen counts are not high but during weekends, they make up ten percent of the users. Convenient facilities open to the citizens such as Sanglokwon provide meals at a cheaper price and even allows reservations to reserve the faculty lounge to plan diverse meetings.
The rooftop garden is also a facility which citizens are allowed to enjoy. There are 12 rooftop buildings on campus, which are equipped with wireless internet zones, benches and light exercise facilities.


The benefits of having such programs and facilities are not only limited to the citizens but also to the school as well. By providing services to the public, it creates a positive image of cooperating with the local society which brings an advertising effect. Additionally, the university receives financial support in constructing facilities as in the case of the Main Stadium renovation. According to a research done by Moon Hyoung-koo, a Business Administration professor of Korea University, the Korean society lacks recreational areas such as parks or public areas to rest. This explains the reason universities should maintain a symbiosis relationship with the regional society.


Moving on to the educational benefits, citizens are open to vast materials from 1.6 million books in the Central Library that help develop their knowledge. The Central Library even holds tours for elementary students, where they learn how university libraries operate


In means of exercise, facilities owned by the city require citizens to pay a certain fee for usage, whereas Dongguk University allows the use of facility without a charge. However, this is exceptional to sports groups who need to pay a fee of around three million won per year to use the facility such as football field. The school continues to put efforts in developing the Main Stadium for citizens to use by constructing foot volley fields and planting artificial grass on soccer fields.


Despite all the benefits both school and citizens receive, students suffer from citizens who does not use the campus facilities with manners. For instance, as for the Central Library, the books are not properly put back to their original places and some visitors cause noise which bothers many students’s concentration. A student of Construction Engineering major, Lee Dong-hun claimed, “There are outsiders who do not follow the rules of the library, which disturbs my studies. I have seen a few people who talk on their mobile phones aloud that I had no other choices than to look for another seat.”


On Dyeon, the online community site of Dongguk University, students wrote about how there are outsiders who enter Manhae Hall’s Study Room that is restircted to students only. Due to this, there have been a few clashes between the students and citizens in the past. Lim Gwang-yoon, a Korean Language and Literature major, who frequently uses Manhae Hall’s Study Room, said, “There needs to be a stricter  rules for outsiders. I once had an elder, who appeared to be an outsider, sit on the seat I reserved and I could not ask him to leave, because it would have seemed rude.”


Since it is obvious that new regulations are needed, the school has to properly set regulations in order to avoid student complaints. In the means of issues occurring in the Central Library, Lee Chang-yong, the head of Academic Information Service Team noted that they plan to relieve the issue by gathering thoughts with those who are interested in improving the library and rethink of locating the turnstile else where. Regarding the issue of Manhae Hall, Choi Bong-joo, the head of Academic Information Service Team, pointed out that students need to request help from the security guards on the floor. He also mentioned that they plan to strengthen the use of guards and employed students to vacate the seats that are reserved, yet not used.


Opening of Dongguk University to the public is a great idea to plant a friendly image to the visitors. However, before developing the university or making it a place for citizens to enjoy, there needs to be a proper guideline and rules as an answer to the students’ complains. With those, it is hopeful that Dongguk University will become a good example of a private university open widely to the public.

Lee Dong-jun  jack222@dongguk.edu

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