Commercialization of Your Campus
Commercialization of Your Campus
  • Lim Yang Yunjeong / Senior Rep
  • 승인 2010.06.06 12:12
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In 2005, Korea University (KU) tried to confer an honorary doctorate to Samsung Electronics.  Chairman Lee Kun-hee who donated 40 billion won.  However, many undergraduates of KU stated, “KU sold our university for money.  We deprecate giving an honorary degree to a businessman who commits labor repression.”  KU apologized to Samsung about this occurrence and expelled most of deprecators.  In 2010, universities are competing hard to attract companies for donations.  Well known universities in Seoul have buildings with the trademarks of big corporations like LG and Samsung.1  Why do companies donate large amount to universities?  It’s because an unseen “give and take” has taken a place between universities and companies.  Through rapid industrialization, universities blooming flowers of knowledge have also changed.  The open squares where students cried for democratization was replaced to Starbucks and established fancy buildings and all sorts of convenient facilities for students.  Many students do not care about this as universities collecting donations for their development is doing any harm to them.  However, it is difficult to judge if the donation systems between universities with companies are actually helping universities in their developments.

1. University, It Is Not Just a Place for Education Anymore

An encyclopedic meaning of university is ‘a higher educational institution where one can study all the ologies and cultivate talent as a leader.’2  However, it seems to need a discussion whether present meaning of university is limited as educational institution only.  In the past, universities were not only educational institutions but also centers for representing truth and justice.  However, universities are becoming as commercial products in the marketing field between business companies.  The huge capital is invading campuses as universities are interested in various businesses and constructing commercial building these days.  For improving and keeping quality of education, making money is an essential precondition in universities.  In the case of Yonsei University (YU), they are gaining profits through renting their buildings and also by selling Yonsei Milk.  Seoul National University (SNU) announced its own agriculture and stockbreeding food processing brand which will be placed on sale from 2010.  The organization offices of universities can earn profits through business although they are not a juridical foundation.3  Like this, now universities are passing over the boundary as an educational institution.  The universities have become commercialized as they attracted many industrial buildings into campuses.

2. Correlation between Universities and Companies ; Hidden Shadow
In the case of KU, Centennial Memorial Hall is called S amsung Hall and the college of business is call ed the LGPOSCO Hall.  Also, the name of the dormitory is CJ - International House and there are HANA Square and Lee Myung-bak Lounge.  Samsung supported not only KU but also Hoam Faculty House in SNU and the library in YU. In SNU, there are POSCO Sports Center and SK Business Center.  In addition, In Ehwa Women’s University, there are Ehaw-Shinsegae Building and Ehaw-SK Telecom Center.  SMU there are Shinhan Lobby, Eun-Won Hong Film Archives and Samsung Convention Center.  What do companies seek through investing such large sums to universities? The purpose of these donations of companies is not only to support universities for their educational development but this helps companies to create a marketing public relations and good images toward customers. On the other hand, universities are also gaining benefits by advertising their campuses.  The support from big titled companies is now settled as university’s pride.  In case of Sungkyunkwan University, the division of Semiconductor Systems Engineering is which all the lectures are from the Samsung Electronics.  Next Generation research team give a lecture.  YU decided to create a department related to the field in concert with Hynix Semiconductor INC.4  In addition, vested companies sometimes want to secure all undergraduate student as their main customers.  For example, most of SMU students are mainly using Shinhan Bank.  Due to these given benefits, universities are rejecting to care about how companies and individuals are evaluated.  Universities are considering the action of ‘receiving donation’ as their success and honor.  Park Noja, a Russian-born progressive historian said, “Is there any problem as a university that students are taught management without labor unions is normal through the names of buildings like Samsungkwan to students who enter the field of the relations between labor and capital?” And he also said that he can’t know when university with spirit of rebellion changed to such a quite place. Also he mentioned about three thousand parttime lecturers and asked again whether investing in lecturers and education is more proper and efficient than investing 65 billion in Samsungkwan.5  What does this mean?

3. What Is the Problem? Symbiosis between Universities and Companies 


However, anyway it is a fact that students are granted with special favors.  Also former President of KU, Euh Yoon-dae said, “Far from expanding the number of professors, even the situation of excellent professors leaving campus is happening due to the lack of finances.  It is difficult to invite superior professors as time goes on.” and he emphasized that receiving donations is essential.  It is true that Korean universities are processing very little amount of budget compared to other universities in the world, especially the universities in united state, where it is naturally supported by government and many enterprises.  In addition KAIST former President, Robert Betts Laughlin said, “Universities should become as the bases and birthplace for the venture foundation.  Then, this will help universities to improve the meager finance structures.” That is, he wants to improve the quality of education for students through left profits from profitable projects.  Students can get practical education through the connection with companies.  Also they are offered with a good environment and they are able to use modernized universities comfortably.  Then, what is the problem?  To figure out this problem, we need to find out how this enormous capital has affected the universities’ environments.  Now universities are considering studies which are shaped to put in practice right away to earn money and gain economical profits more importantly.  How will commercial faculty and invasion of huge capital change the universities eventually? In addition, universities have lost ‘sprit of rebellion,’ too.  These commercialized universities cannot critique neorealism and present society. They cannot also create critic and creative study easily.  Undergraduates are accepting change gradually because they are used to convenience and their safety.  They are proud to have good educational background which receives donations and benefits of famous groups inwardly and repeat studying for employment and activities for SPEC.  However, how can the dilemma of lack of finances be solves? Already, universities are having a lot of physical benefit from companies although they discuss a lot of weaknesses mentally.  If universities cannot cut the link of donation due to their need of development, these donation systems need to be established fairly and officially getting out of vague existing system.  For example, in the case of U.S.A., they institutionalized donations from alumni and alumnae.  This kind of donation is that alumni and alumnae donate for development of the university, so this doesn’t have hidden economical purposes.  In the case of universities in Korea they have weak alumni and alumnae networks relatively, so if donations from alumni and alumnae are institutionalized regularly and intentionally, although these are small sums, they will be able to solve the problem linearly.


In 2008, according to Samsung Corporate Citizenship, they donated to universities continually but Samsung judged that vague donations can’t contribute to education for business development, so they reduced donations to universities. This means unconditional recreating campus and making gorgeous buildings are not a big help to develop study of universities.  A lot of undergraduates want pretty campuses, various conveniences, and gorgeous buildings where they can have lectures comfortably. However, before these primary desires, it is important to consider whether improving students’ convenience can indeed contribute to the ultimate development of universities. What does connection with famous group mean in the long term? The seamy side is that the companies want their demand to be applied into universities by donating. The change is not only superficial, but also expresses an unconscious mechanism which blocks any attempt to fight. In universities without open squares, students cannot argue or express their opinions, and speak out politically. The problems will be not solved by fixing donation systems only.  How much do universities develop by receiving such sums? It is the time for universities to consider deeply about how they can grow themselves as global universities of future through uneasy financial expansion and think about their chronic problems. Planning a relationship for the growth between students, universities and companies is definitely the important issue to be known for the students who have paid expensive tuition fees and will lead their universities independently in the future.   














1) Journalist Yoon Jakyung∙Park Junmo「, University donation, almost one-time donation...... Alumni voluntary activity is in great shortage」, Meail Business Newspaper, 2006. 03. 03  

2) Doosan EnCyber 

3) Hankyung Magazine「, Universities are changing ? profitable business ‘profit-making, public interest in one hand’ ... purse strings diversification」, Hankyung Business No. 3-483, 2005, p. 9 

4) Hankyung Magazine「, University community, earning money fever ‘pull, start and run’, Hankyung Business No. 10-569, p. 29」

5) Park Noja「, Are you proud of the lounge made by Lee Myung-Bak alumnus ? No hope is in universities which became young plutocray」, Pressian, 2007. 08. 29











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