[Meet the President] Ewha Womans University focuses on empowering each individual
In a country that ranked 99th on this year’s Global Gender Gap Index rankings released by the World Economic Forum, Ewha Womans University President Kim Eun-mee still sees much work to be done by women’s universities. [PARK SANG-MOON]
It’s the 21st century — why attend a women’s university?
It all stems from the split second of hesitation many women experience every day, says Kim Eun-mee, president of Ewha Womans University.
The hesitation of wondering whether something’s a “man’s job.” The hesitation after being granted an opportunity yet second-guessing one’s own potential and strength merely because they are a woman.
At Ewha, that hesitation is shattered, Kim stressed.
“I was at an international conference held on our campus this morning,” Kim recalled during a recent interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, “and I saw our female students running around, putting the podium on the stage, bringing chairs and lifting everything without even thinking, ‘Is this something that my male counterpart should be doing for me?’”
Through experiences like these, young women learn about responsibility, Kim continued. They learn that they have to cover everything from A to Z on their own and that there’s no such thing as gender roles — or, at least, there shouldn’t be — in school or society.
“Students here are able to learn and practice in a gender-neutral environment, which I think is really critical and something that [women] at other co-ed universities are unable to experience.”
During the interview, Kim discussed why women’s universities still matter to the world and how international students can benefit from an education at Ewha.
The following are excerpts from the interview, edited and condensed for clarity.
How would you introduce Ewha Womans University to prospective international students?
Ewha Womans University was founded in 1886 as the first modern educational institute for Korean women, later becoming Korea’s first university to obtain government accreditation. Today, it’s the largest women’s research comprehensive university in the world, with undergraduate and graduate programs across a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. In 1996, we established the first engineering college among all women’s universities around the world. Ewha has torn down the wall of prejudice against women and led changes in our society through countless challenges and achievements. There are more than 1,500 international students from 78 countries currently enrolled in our school for a degree, and about 400 exchange students. Men attending foreign universities are allowed to come to Ewha as exchange or visiting students, or can participate in our International Summer College program.
An aerial view of the campus in Seodaemun District, western Seoul [EWHA WOMANS UNIVERSITY]
How does Ewha stand out from other Korean universities?
Ewha Womans University was the first, and still is the only university in many aspects, when it comes to building an international education environment. We were the first Korean university to establish a division of international studies, the first to launch a summer school program for international students, the first to sign a partnership agreement with Dior to boost the fashion industry and foster global female leaders, and the only Korean partner university in the Harvard College in Asia Program. We also have a beautiful campus located near downtown Seoul, a huge plus for international students coming to Korea for a full-on immersive experience. As a university accredited by the International Education Quality Assurance System (IEQAS), Ewha international students can benefit from simplified visa issuance processes and part-time employment opportunities.
The Dior Fall 2022 fashion show held at Ewha Womans University on April 30, a day after the school signed a partnership agreement with the fashion brand offering scholarships, training and mentoring programs to Ewha students [CHOI NA-RANG]
What benefits are offered to international students at Ewha?
All international freshmen are guaranteed on-campus housing, and a wide variety of scholarship packages are offered to high-performing international students. Fifteen departments also separately run their own Ewha Academic Assistance System for International Students (EAASIS), in which professors and teaching assistants are assigned to help international students with particular needs. These benefits come on top of Korean and English language learning services, one-on-one mentoring programs with Korean Ewha students, counseling and even a course registration support service, in which upper-grade students help out with online course registration.
Welch-Ryang Auditorium, a venue for chapel services, which, at the time of its completion in 1956, was the largest concert hall in Asia equipped with 2,800 seats [EWHA WOMANS UNIVERSITY]
What is Ewha’s globalization strategy?
Among our key pillars of globalization, one is to foster female talent in developing countries. Rooted in the Ewha spirit of service and sharing, we strive to provide educational opportunities to women from developing countries across the world who don’t have access to quality education. Through such endeavors, we hope to spread Ewha’s values, promote the excellence of Korean education and nurture Korea-friendly talent. For instance, in commemoration of our 120th anniversary, we launched the Ewha Global Partnership Program (EGPP) in 2006, through which we select outstanding female applicants from developing countries to provide full scholarships, free housing and stipends. We’re also a participating university in the Higher Education for ASEAN Talents (HEAT) program, a full scholarship opportunity for Asean faculty members to support the acquisition of a doctoral degree in Korea.
A male international student participating in Ewha ’ s International Summer College [EWHA WOMANS UNIVERSITY]
Are there any difficulties in Ewha’s pursuit of globalization?
I don’t really see it as a challenge, but it is our vision and mission at Ewha to reach out to countries and cultures where teaching a girl or woman is not part of their regular daily lives. We intend to reach out to those countries where women are discriminated against, not just to give them protection in a safe environment but to really empower them so they can become stronger women on their own. Ewha was founded by American missionaries in 1886 who had two very important missions. One was to make sure that all academic disciplines were open to women so that women weren’t just involved in studies that would lead to more feminine careers. The second goal was to make young Korean women the best women they can be. These two missions are very much embedded in our thoughts and minds to this day.
An Ewha student teaching children in Cambodia in 2018 during a volunteer program at Ewha Srang School, which was established by a missionary institute led by Ewha faculty and alumni [EWHA WOMANS UNIVERSITY]
Why is Ewha Womans University not spelled “Women’s” like many other women’s universities?
At Ewha, each and every student is respected as an independent individual with unique values. To reflect this philosophy in the school’s official English name, Ewha decided to go against English grammar rules and use “womans” instead of “women’s,” thus signifying that each unique individual contributes to the whole.
Ewha students at school after Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945 [EWHA WOMANS UNIVERSITY]
Last but not least, what message do you have for foreigners wishing to attend a university in Korea, but who aren’t sure whether to choose a women’s university or a co-ed university?
Our faculty gender ratio is 50/50. You will not be able to find any other higher education institution that has a gender balance like ours. And it wasn’t intentional. We just find the best talent, and it happens to be 50/50. I’ve been at this university for 25 years, and it’s always been like this. Students at Ewha can see leadership from both men and women. They’re trained in this very gender-neutral, gender-free environment. So if you want to have the full experience in jobs, positions and academic disciplines, I think Ewha would be the best option.
Kim Eun-mee is the 17th president of Ewha Womans University. Her four-year term began in February 2021. She is a professor at the Graduate School of International Studies and director of the Ewha Global Health Institute for Girls and Women.
In December 2016, she was appointed by the UN secretary general to serve as one of the 15 Independent Group of Scientists to work on the Global Sustainable Development Report 2019, which was presented to the UN secretary general and heads of UN member states at the UN General Assembly in September 2019.
In 2012, she received the Service Merit Medal for her contributions to the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan.
Kim received her bachelor’s degree in sociology at Ewha and her master’s and Ph.D. in the same field from Brown University.
Ewha Womans University
May 31, 1886
EWHA, THE FUTURE WE CREATE
Seodaemun District, western Seoul
544,927 square meters (134.65 acres)
Undergraduate colleges and departments
Departments and majors: 75
Academic staff (2022)
Administrative staff (2022)
Employment rate (2022)
Number of students (2022)
Short-term students (language learning, exchange program, etc.): 631
By country (2022)
China 45.7 percent
Japan 8 percent
United States 6 percent
Other 40.3 percent (85 countries)
Department with the most international students (2022)
Division of Communication and Media
Dormitory acceptance rate (2022)
Average tuition of self-funded undergraduate students per semester (2022)
8.69 million won ($6,240)
International exchange affairs
International student affairs
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]