On Oct. 8, 2008, delivery based restaurants around Hanyang University (HYU) were broadcast on KBS. Most of them were in extremely filthy conditions: cockroaches were present in their kitchen, raindrops were going into cooking pots, and a drawer where they place dishes had fungus. These were direct threats to health of Hanyangians. Hanyangians who watched that TV program were shocked because those were the restaurants that they have been using frequently. On the following week, many hanyangians posted their doubts and concerns on the HYU's website, questioning the sanitary conditions of diners in HYU.
What Kind of Doubts?
The Hanyang Journal ran an online and 480 offline surveys from Oct. 28, 2008, the list of the criticism which Hanyangians posted, were the following.
First, they criticized that sterilization of water cups is not thoroughly and correctly done. Sometimes cups are upside down making ultra violet rays not be able to hit the surface where people place their mouths. The doors of water cup sterilizers are often left open. Since sterilizers do not emit ultra violet rays when doors are opened, cups cannot be sterilized well.
Secondly, the students claimed that diners in HYU might be reusing the food that has already been served. One comment on HYU's website insisted that there was a tooth mark on the ham which is a clear evidence of reusing food.
Thirdly, a lot of students said that the purpose of the hygiene gloves employees use when cooking food in the diner, need to be readdressed. Purpose of wearing hygiene gloves is to keep germs off the food; however, employees have them on not only when serving the food to the students, but also when receiving the meal-tickets, cleaning the tables and washing the dishes.
Some students criticized the quality of the food served in diners at HYU. They said that sometimes food is either burnt or cold. There were also times where unknown substances were found in the food. One of the comments said that parts of scrubber used for cleaning dishes and rotten eggs were often found in meals.
Response from the Diners
After conveying the criticism drew out from Hanyangians to the representatives of every diner in HYU, some explanations were received.
Jeong Soon-ok, a representative of a Chinese Diner (Joongsikdang) located on the sixth floor of Student Union building gave explanation on the cup-sterilization issue. "For sanitary issues with cup sterilizer, many students think it is not sterilized when the doors are opened; however, we leave sterilizer on overnight and it only takes one to two hours to get cups sterilized. Therefore, the cups are already sterilized before we open our diners and students should not worry about this. Also, it is impossible for us to keep eyes on the cup sterilizer and keep the door closed every time students leave it open. Effort from students, thinking of others and closing the door of cup sterilizer when they are done, is needed." According to Jeong, students' argument about unclean cups was just an incorrect assumption.
Kim Jung-kyu, the owner of Nanuri diner located in Hangwon Park, gave comments about students' argument on reusing the left over food. Kim said, "This is not true. For diners in HYU, there is a great distance between the place where students get served and the place where students place their dishes when they are done. Also, we dispose all the left-over food."
Kim continued providing an explanation about the hygiene glove use. "Lack of ethics from students is one of the issues, for receiving food tickets with hygiene gloves. Students should know that it was students who forced us to receive food tickets with our gloves. When we first opened, we were aware of the sanitary issue and prepared a box for the students so they can just drop their tickets in there. However for the first few months we suffered from heavy deficit due to the students not putting their tickets in the box and receiving free meals. It was inevitable for us to change the ticket receiving system. Now we tell our employees to receive tickets with their right hand and serve food with their left hand."
The reason they started to receive tickets with their hands was due to lack of ethics and honesty from Hanyangians. All of the diners in HYU were using different gloves, chopping board, and kitchen knives for different purposes. All cups, gloves, chopping boards, and kitchen knives are properly sterilized. Also, refrigerator and storage place are well organized.
|▲ Diners in HYU have a design which students are able to observe the kitchen
The welfare division in HYU is also monitoring the conditions of all diners in HYU along with the Seongdong-gu Community Health Center. Han Pung-sik, the director of HYU's welfare division, wanted students to know that the school is doing its best. Han said, "The diners in HYU and some of the restaurants outside HYU operating only for profit are not an appropriate comparable value. Although, there are times where some objects are found in the food, yet these kinds of accidents are unavoidable. Things might have gotten in from outside the diner; from the factory for example or the employee could have missed it. In this case, students should directly talk to the nutritionist of a diner in order to get served a new meal. School is monitoring the sanitary conditions of each diner in HYU by periods."
The Department of Health Administration under Seongdong-gu Community Health Center is in charge of monitoring the sanitary condition of cafeterias in HYU. Kim Beom-cheol who is in charge of the Department of Health Administration in Seongdong-gu Community Center explained some of the tasks they perform. "Sanitary conditions for large sized diners like the ones in HYU are mostly clean. Conditions of those filthy restaurants which showed on KBS are not comparable to the diners in HYU. We visit every diner in HYU four to five times a year to check the sanitary conditions. We mostly look for the possibility of food poisoning; we take samples from kitchen knives and chopping board from every cafeteria and diner from HYU and we run tests to see if certain bacteria and germs are found."
Limits in System
However there are limits in the current monitoring system. Kim Beom-cheol who is in charge of the Department of Health Administration in Seongdong-gu Community Center commented, "The tests we are running have limits since conditions of kitchen knives and chopping boards can differ everyday. We are putting our best effort to monitor the hygiene condition of diners in HYU; however, we have limited number of people covering too many tasks. Monitoring the sanitary conditions of the schools in Seongdong-gu is not the only task we have. We are also in charge of the sanitary conditions of all the restaurants, bars and even vending machines in Seongdong-gu."
The tests and monitoring which Seongdong-gu runs are limited as Kim Beom-cheol mentioned. Conditions of diners can differ time by time and four times a year is just not enough. Some sort of student-based organization is necessary to keep watch on every diner. Kim Jung-kyu, the owner of Nanuri commented, "Communication between the diners and the students in HYU is essential for improvements and satisfaction of both. It is almost impossible for us to keep watch of everything that is going on in the kitchen. Although we try our best, sometimes we unintentionally miss things. Students can look into our kitchen because all of the cafeterias in HYU have an open-kitchen design. It is best to let us know immediately if there were some things which need to be addressed. Also, most of the criticism were either reasonably explained by the diners or just rumors. Most of the rumors and criticisms derived from lack of communication. It is important for students to talk directly to the person in charge for explanation before posting suspicions and doubts online which creates disputes."
With an effort to understand each other's perspective and their point of view, the level of satisfaction for the HYU diners and Hanyangians will both increase in future.