Kim So-yeon, a Sophomore in the Division of Architectural Engineering, recently reflected on her life as a high school student. She recalls looking forward to performing at the Seoul campus Amphitheater, as known as the Nocheon theater, at Hanyang University(HYU). “When I got into HYU, my wish of becoming a member of Rhooters, the cheering squad of HYU, was realized. I will never forget the experience of appearing on the stage in front of a huge audience of Hanyangians. The Amphitheater was where I was able to fulfill my dream as well as being the place where I gained unforgettable memories,” said Kim.
The Amphitheater or open air theater at HYU’s Seoul campus has been a meaningful place for Hanyangians for many years. Many have and continue to gather there to enjoy relaxing, enjoying performances, chatting with friends, or eating delivered food with fellow schoolmates. However, these types of fond memories for many are in danger of becoming the last at the amphitheater.
On January 21, 2014, representatives of HYU, CJ E&M, and Korea Development Bank Infrastructure met for a mutual business agreement to develop facilities for a new cultural auditorium where the Amphitheater is now. Although the media is reporting that the signing of the agreement as an occasion to celebrate, it is questionable whether this deal took into consideration the thoughts and opinions of Hanyangians.
The Development Plan for the Seoul Campus
The plan to construct the cultural auditorium is a part of the Development Plan for the Seoul Campus, which includes building a new cultural auditorium, Sunken Garden, as well as the Chung Mong-koo Center for the Automotive Engineering Department. The Sunken Garden is a plaza planned to be built underground with an open ceiling near Aegimoon, the entrance/exit of the Hanyang University Subway Station. The Chung Mong-koo Center is a building that will be built near the current Amphitheater in order to nurture talented Hanyangians in the automobile industry.
The construction of the cultural auditorium is an investment project by CJ E&M, a Korean enterprise that focuses on supplying media contents in broadcasting, movies, music, and performances. The new facility is expected to accommodate about 1,700 people and will host professional cultural performances such as musicals, plays, and operas hosted by CJ E&M. The business agreement for this construction project is only in the early stages now and will take approximately three to four years for the construction plan to be finalized.
Redeveloped as a Place for Professional Cultural Performances
The main reason for the construction project is due to a lack of facilities than can house a large number of people. “The biggest auditorium on campus has only about 500 seats now. However, the new cultural auditorium is expected to accommodate 1,700 people, and bring commercial profits to both HYU and the investment companies involved,” commented a staff member of Seoul Office of Faculties Management.
The cultural auditorium is actually not to be used by only Hanyangians to perform in, since it is designed to be a venue for professional musicals, operas, and such performances. “It does not mean Hanyangians are not allowed to perform in the auditorium. Hanyangians who are prepared to offer performances on the same or similar level as those cultural performances that will be held there will also be allowed to use the cultural auditorium,” he added.
Will the Project Benefit Students?
According to a survey carried out by The Hanyang Journal, only 31 percent of Hanyangians said they were aware of the redevelopment of the Amphitheater. Since most Hanyangians do not know the specific details concerning the construction plans, more than half of the respondents replied positively about it, only focusing on the word ‘development’. Kim Shin-bee, a Junior in the Major of Political Science and Diplomacy at HYU said, “At first, I was happy to hear that a new auditorium with 1,700 seats will be constructed at HYU. However, after I realized that the auditorium will take the place of the Amphitheater I became very disappointed because it means the new auditorium is not for Hanyangians.”
The General Student Association(GSA) at HYU expressed concern over the matter, questioning whether the development plan that HYU is trying to push forward will benefit Hanyangians. “The Amphitheater is the place where Hanyangians most often visit and spend time in, eating lunch or just talking with friends. If the construction project does proceed, it will be a big obstacle during the Racchios Festival. The festivities cannot be held there as usual and instead, will likely have to be held on a temporary stage built in Track and Field(known as Daewoondongjang). Needless to say, this will cause a lot of inconvenience for students. Thus, this construction plan does not appear to benefit Hanyangians,” said Shin Ha-seob, the Vice President of the GSA. Furthermore, the GSA is worried about the excessive commercialization of the campus. “If the construction projects of this business agreement between HYU and outside investors go through, the facilities at HYU will be taken over by large enterprises, performances hosted by CJ E&M in the cultural auditorium will have priority over student activities, an commercial shops and restaurants will take over the campus in the underground Sunken Plaza,” said Shin.
HYU Needs to Keep Hanyangians in Mind
Whether the development plans have more positive outcomes for HYU than not, has yet to be seen. Meanwhile, the school’s decisions to undergo construction projects at places typically frequented by members of the large floating population of Hanyangians should be examined to determine if such developments are actually beneficial to Hanyangians.
The campus is where Hanyangians spend their most time in their young adulthood so all the facilities in the campus should really be for Hanyangians, to satisfy their various needs. The HYU administration needs to remind itself to whom the campus belongs to and keep Hanyangians in mind when developing places on campus.