Sookmyung University Head Defends Power of Women
By Kang Shin-who
Sookmyung Women's University will pursue blue ocean strategy as its core mission for growth, Lee Kyung-sook, the school president, said in an interview with The Korea Times.
Sookmyung will develop what it can do best in the world instead of being involved in a university ranking competition like other Korean universities.
``Some universities are established for research and development while others specialize in fostering high-quality students. However, university rankings given by magazines or journals are the results of research that don't consider the varied character that each university has,'' Lee said. ``Our school attaches little importance to the ranking lists but instead focuses on a field other universities have largely ignored.''
The area Lee is referring to is the school's leadership programs. Since taking the office in 1994, she decided to steer the school toward fostering world leaders for the future.
In accordance with her vision and dream, the school started leadership-orientated curricula in 2002, a move which resulted in the recognition of its excellence by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.
Also, renowned overseas universities such as Cambridge in Britain and Waseda in Japan have benchmarked the school, the president said.
``The education ministry has decided to provide 10 billion won for our project, and we plan to produce at least 10 percent of female leaders in all sectors of society by 2020 with this support,'' Lee said.
Sookmyung is also famous for its TESOL(Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs at its graduate school.
``I believe our school is a world Mecca to train English teachers and experts. Our TESOL program is 17 years old this year and has produced about 6,000 graduates,'' Lee said.
On top of its academic excellence, the school is putting great effort into developing a service-orientated education culture.
In addition, the president who is scheduled to serve in her position until August next year, hopes to build a school where students have clear vision and dreams of their future careers.
``I will not burden the next president of our school with many projects. I will only lay the foundation for a dream campus to produce world leaders in the future,'' Lee said.
Lee said that the education environment should be improved to boost the competitiveness of Korean universities.
``Currently I think the education environment is dominated by the unilateral policy of the government. Also financial restrictions don't allow universities to do what they want,'' Lee lamented. ``I believe education needs more investment to produce success. According to an OECD report, developed countries spend at least 10 percent of government budgets on education, but we have only three or four percent allocated for education here.''
Lee called on all fields of society to help in the development of universities. ``If the government doesn't have enough money, corporations need to support us. Also I hope people remember there are no universities that don't want to improve themselves,'' Lee said.
As for the ``three-no policy,'' Lee asked the media to deal with the three issues separately rather than dealing with them all in one category.
``The media pushes university heads to decide whether they agree with the three-no policy or not. This is why the presidents are reluctant to comment on the issue,'' Lee said.
Lee pointed to the competitiveness of women-only universities with their high employment rates compared to female students at coeducational universities. ``While only 50 percent of female students at coed schools land jobs, 70-80 percent of our school's students succeed in finding employment,'' she said.
``Female students here have to cope with all kinds of work even that usually done by male students at coed schools, and learn how to survive independently as well as build strong networks among women,'' she added.
Regarding global campuses that many universities in Seoul plan to build in Kyonggi Province, Lee said that though her school is also considering it, she thinks the existing campus would be sufficient if more cyber functions were added.
Sookmyung which turns 100 this year plans to develop itself as a world first ``mobile campus'' in line with the era of communication and IT.