Seoul City has published the slogan “Happy Women, Happy Seoul” which means if women are happy, everyone is happy, and promoted a project called ‘Happy Women City Project’, Yeohaeng (女幸) Project. The whole city has striven to make a better environment for women living in Seoul and expedited various parts of businesses in traffic, housing, culture, and other industries. The project aims at a happy Seoul in which all men and women harmonize well. Therefore, Seoul actively reflects women’s opinions, experiences, and views on the project. Through the development of the project, SMU is finding a way to possess the characteristics of a women’s university and improve the friendly environment for Sookmyungians.
The Women-Friendly Changes of Seoul
There is an old Korean proverb saying, “It goes ill in the house where the hen sings and the cock is silent,” however it is history now. The time when only men worked and women ran the family’s household has passed away. Women want to enjoy an opulent lifestyle. Therefore, Seoul has prepared a project which provides many opportunities for women.
For example, ‘Happy Women Room,’ Yeohaeng Bang, in the Songpagu Office gained women’s popularity because it provided free books and cheap coffee for women. Also, many women book a room for their own group study. A person involved in the Office said, “The Happy Women Room is so popular that even women not living in Songpagu come to enjoy and relax, and they feel satisfied and secure in there.” Kim Sujung (44) said, “Coffee shops are always noisy and full, but my friends and I come here to study the Bible and have a talk after we found out about the Happy Women Room.” Also, Seoul Open Theater Changdong was created for cultural activities of women and their families. There are many performances such as a brunch concert with Gum Nan-Se. ‘Safe City Seoul’ (which is included in the ‘Happy Women City Seoul’ project), provides women with a call-taxi system at night, construction of women-friendly apartment complex, and renovation of underground streets. Also, ‘Convenient City’ is mainly focused on the renovation of women’s bathrooms in subway stations and some parks of Seoul, repair of roads, and creation of women-only parking zones. For example, Seoul Metro decided to construct new manholes in subway stations (6,000 manholes in subway lines 5 to 8). Also it changed staircases to be skid-proof in each subway exit. In Sadang subway station in line 4, opaque glass was installed in staircases for women with short skirts.1
Fundamental Flaws of the Project
The Yeohaeng (女幸 ) Project is internationally approved and praised, so UN HABITAT concluded a treaty with the city government of Seoul as a wonderful habitat in the world. The main reason why the project was chosen is that the habitat was adjusted to women’s lives. However, some have publicly stated that various problems and dangers are lurking in the project. Korea Women’s Political Solidarity (KWPS) reported that the 2010 expense of Seoul only includes a 0.31 percent expenditure for women policies and businesses in the whole expense.2 It is skeptical that Seoul can be praised as a ‘Happy Women’ city. The public expressed that the low expense showed weak support and interest of Seoul to policies about women, and doubted whether Seoul can practice and control the project systematically. Also there are some suspicious businesses which don’t look like women-friendly ones. For example, the ladies only parking zone under Jamsil subway station isn’t practical, since the most of parking lot is empty during weekdays and weekends. The place is nothing but a pink-painted parking zone which male drivers cannot access. It just renovates, repairs, and constructs facilities which seem to be related to women. And the expense of the ‘Happy Women Project’ is exaggerated more than the actual need.3 It raises a question about what the differences between ladies only parking zones of Seoul and that of department stores are, and doubts about the efficiency
of the project.
An article in TIME, an American magazine, said, “A nice idea, but the plan may end up reasserting South Korean women’s secondary status more than boosting it.”4 Fundamentally, the support of the city government is too insufficient to help women who directly struggle for life and live in poverty. ‘High-Heel-Friendly’ renovation of roads cannot touch all the women in Seoul. The project whose purpose is to remove a woman’s feeling of discomfort, anxiety, and insecurity started with one hundred twenty billion won (one hundred four million dollars); however, the actual problems of modern women, such as childcare facilities, housework, and dangers of sexual harassment, have not been solved. Those basic problems are more noticeably and urgently settled than any other external reconstruction, since the needs of many Korean women aren’t being met by a ‘Happy Women City Project’ which focuses on minor, not on the major hardship of women.
‘Happy Women Campus,’ Sookmyung!
As a women’s university, SMU is well furnished with women-based facilities such as bathrooms and roads and has prepared lots of programs which maximize women’s abilities and leadership. Recently, SMU renovated lots of women-friendly facilities like Aekyung powder room, many powder rooms in other building, and renewed roads of the main entrance. Especially, Aekyung Powder room is for Sookmyungians, since SMU intentionally changed the men’s restroom into a powder room for students to do their make-up and talk with friends. Lee Gagyung(08), in the Division of Humanities, said “I think Aekyung powder room is beautiful and clean, and school also installed bidets in the bathroom.” About renovation to fresh environment of cafeteria, Kim Jiyoun, 08 of the Division of Culture and Tourism Studies, said “The renovatioonn of cafeteria moving our sensitivity makes me feel as if I eat lunch on the fresh mountain.” In Myung Shin Building, SMU installed an opaque glass in stairs for Sookmyungians wearing a skirt. Park Suji, 08 of the Department of Japanese Language and Literature, said “I felt this school shows careful consideration to the students through this facility installed on stairs.” Those facilities are all moving Sookmyungians’ minds and SMU wants them to enjoy school life with a better environment.
Except for the betterment of facilities, SMU has also been concerned about the external dangers of Sookmyungians. Last semester, SMU distributed whistles to all the students and female faculty for crime prevention. The idea of distribution of whistles came out from the situation that Sookmyungians feel uneasy to go home late at night because of the lonesome roads. From this semester, SMU has conducted a project called ‘Sookmyung Caretakers at night,’ Sookmyung Jikimi. This project is all operated by students of the Division of Physical Education riding bicycles and patroling around SMU. Kim Boram, 09 of the Division of Humanities, suggested “Jikimi looks like awesome, and I feel thankful to them. I think school needs to support them a lot.”
Also SMU even seeks after a better environment for women off campus. SMU supported the Division of Biological Sciences to have an excellent condition to research, and it received attention due to its specialized study of ‘women’s illnesses.’ SMU also operates four organizations related with women: Asia Pacific Women’s Information Network Center, Reserch Institute of Asian Women, Research Institute of Women’s Health, and Graduate School of Human Resource Development For Women. Although each institute has a different topic and way to study, its principal purpose of study focuses on the women’s better conditions and life.
Gentle Power to Change the World
Gentle Power! John Naisbitt, worldly famous futurist, stated “The competitiveness of future countries depends on how efficient they use the power and ability of women.” According to him, a delicacy and softness ofwomen will move the world. Therefore, many countries are struggling to establish women-friendly infrastructures. Following the trend, the Yeohaeng project also has the soft power which impresses women in Seoul. Despite opposition of the public, the project keeps showing its possibility and potential to the world.
The purpose of the project both by Seoul and SMU is the same, “Happy Women!” Recently, SMU renewed many facilities, like a powder room, a road of entrance, roads, and school cafeterias. It has intention to make “HappySookmyungians Campus.” The project is only for Sookmyungians!
Like the ‘Happy Women Seoul Project,’ running for women who live in Seoul, SMU also manages many women-oriented renovations and projects. However, those may not be simply ended to distinguish SMU from other universities and SMU has become the core of women-specialized education and women leadership. There is no doubt that a university leading to move women’s mind will be the best one producing many excellent women leaders. What barriers will block the vision of the SMU!
1) Kwon Ji-hee, Seoul, ‘Happy Women City Project’ Becomes Bigger, Womennews, 2009.05.15.
2) Lim Yukyeong, “A 2010 Women Expense, Only 0.31 Percent of the Whole One”, Womennews, 2009.12.11.
3) Kim Minjung, “Are Women in Seoul Really Happy?”, Womennews, 2009.11.06.
4) Veronica Zaragovia, Will High-Heel-Friendly Streets Keep Seoul's Women Happy?, TIME, 2009.08.05