Songdo global campus project stalls
By Kang Shin-who
The Songdo Global Campus project in the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) is up in the air as many planned overseas campuses have indefinitely delayed or canceled the opening of their schools. The campus zone was supposed to begin operations from last September but was postponed to next year.
According to IFEZ authorities, Monday, memorandums of understanding (MOU) have so far been signed with nine overseas universities, with initial aims to draw 10 schools enrolling a combined 10,000 students.
The city government has allotted 1 trillion won ($8,578 million) for the project and financial assistance worth about $1 million has been set aside for each university.
However, only the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook has applied to the Education Ministry for a school license in the free economy zone.
Among them, George Mason University and the University of Utah are still talking with the IFEZ authorities, while all other universities have withdrawn or postponed their ventures into Korea without mentioning specific dates.
The special zone authorities had already paid the University of Delaware, which canceled its plan, some 600 million won for the establishment of the school, according to city officials. The city government can claim back only half of the money from the American university under the agreement.
“It is hard to map out when we can draw the targeted number of universities. I believe everything will go smoothly once the first university (SUNY) is well established,” said Cho Won-jong, an official.
He blamed the global finance crisis in 2008 for the cancellations and postponements.
The IFEZ authorities are currently looking for other universities to replace the schools that have backed out. One of them is Ghent University in Belgium.
The first step in the construction of the Songdo Global Campus will be completed by 2012. After that, the city government plans to proceed with the second phase of the project.
The global campus zone is planned on a 295,000 square meter site, equipped with a shared network of facilities such as libraries, student union buildings and gymnasiums. On-campus dorms, staff and faculty quarters and guest houses are also available.