<Interview with the 19th CNU Presidential Nominee to the MEST>
“CNU Needs Everyone”
By Rigoberto Banta Jr., Head Student Editor
Photo by Hwang In-sik, Student Editor
As Chonnam National University (CNU) held its last Direct Presidential Election System (DPES), the demand for change has been higher than ever. The CNU Press and Broadcasting interviewed Ji Byeong-moon (Professor, Department of Political Science and Diplomacy) last October 25, 2012 as he emerged as the top candidate in the past CNU Presidential Re-election. Reporters from Chonnam Tribune, together with The CNU Weekly and the CNU Broadcasting asked about his thoughts and plans ahead for the University. – Ed.
Ji Byeong-moon (Professor, Department of Political Science and Diplomacy)
Q1. You have become the president in a time of hardship, both internally and externally. Please tell us about your specific plans in order for CNU to recover.
JBM: Back in the 80’s CNU has been revered to be one of the top universities in Korea, topping even universities in Seoul. Due to centralization of almost everything in the capital, globalization and the low support from the central government, CNU has seen a huge drop in the rankings that ever before. I believe that by upgrading the educational support for our research facilities and creating a better environment for studying, this shall upgrade the employment levels of CNU students and the ranking of the University as well. In order to do this, the government needs to increase the support for regional universities such as CNU; university administration should cooperate and increase the capabilities of the academe to undergo research.
Q2. Amongst national universities, CNU has one of the lowest employment rates. What are you plans in order to develop the human resource in CNU?
JBM: The best welfare that a university can give its students is decreasing the school fees and increasing the employment rates. The government should help in order to give students lower fees fit for a national university such as ours. Employment is concentrated in the capital and we need legislative efforts in order to make a quota system for our graduates especially in state-run companies and institutions. CNU should create students that companies would like to employ. The Hub of Asian Culture Project in Gwangju will be employing around 500 to 600 people but we are not ready for it. Of course, the university is not only focused on employment. Researchers including graduate and post-graduate students should be connected with companies who are looking for their competencies. Information about employment should be given to students for them to be able to prepare accordingly.
Q3. Is there any apprehension on the fact that universities are becoming a seedbed for companies? What is your opinion on this?
JBM: The University is not a seedbed for companies. It is the Ivory Tower; however this connotation has changed in the past few years as the University is relied to aid in the economic development of the region. What’s important is to be a university that provides for what the students need: employment for those who would like to enter the labor force, an opportunity for further education for those who would like to pursue it. I think that the university needs to meet the needs of employment and the academia.
Q4. In the past few years, national universities such as CNU have been losing funding from the national government1, what are your thoughts on this?
JBM: The source of funding for national universities is the government itself. Amongst OECD countries, Korea only has been investing 0.6 percent of its GDP for higher education, lower than the 1 percent standard. On this light, there is a need to persuade the government to increase funding for higher education institutions. As well, we need to actively look for funding outside of the government, including company sponsorships amongst others. CNU should look more into the development fund available from conglomerates in order to increase the research capabilities of the University.
Q5. There have been overriding issues with the Yeosu Campus of CNU including physical and synchronization concerns. What do you propose about this matter?
JBM: CNU was looking forward to development when we had Yeosu2 back in 2006. Saying that Yeosu Campus was integrated with CNU can be mistaken as it only serves to be only absorbed by CNU. To look at it in a developmental side, we need to bring the best out of the two campuses. With the help of private companies, we can create specific departments in Yeosu and in Gwangju as well. We can develop the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to fit the projects currently done in that area and contribute to the development of the region. We can even introduce new departments such as Tourism in order to match with the rising demands for it.
Q6. The embarrassment that CNU received due to the failed elections last May has put CNU in shame. What are your thoughts about it?
JBM: Everyone including the faculty has been ashamed of the event, making even other potential presidentiables to back out. Because of such, all of the candidates for the re-election were sensitive to abide with the rules and regulations of the election committee where only three ways to campaign was possible: through phone calls, text messaging and email. I am confident to say that I have done everything in the past election lawfully and I attest that the unlawful events that happened in the previous election3 will not happen again. The final three candidates for the re-election have met and we decided and talked that we should do our best in order to not have any issues after the process. One week after the elections, results have shown that there were no issues related with the elections and I have reassured staff members and faculty that there is nothing to worry about.
Q7. What do you think about the DPES? Do you think that it is necessary to revive this system?
JBM: If the DPES does not contribute to the competitiveness of the university, I personally think that the DPES might not be necessary. While the government sees that the DPES creates different kinds of issues, the voting made by CNU professors say that there is nothing wrong with it. However, if the DPES will decrease the welfare of the students because it will significantly decrease the university funding, I think that there is a need to think twice about it. This issue needs time and discussion with the faculty and staff of CNU as well as with the central government.
Q8. Results have said that students would like to see a president ‘close with students’4. What are your views on this matter?
JBM: If it is an issue that students haven’t seen me for the time that they stayed in CNU, this is not an issue. As I have experience in the National Assembly5, I have met citizens everyday. I need to meet them because they are the voters. On the same manner, I need to meet, listen and talk with students as well because they are voters. I, together with the other final three candidates for the re-election accepted the request of the General Student Council (GSC) for an open forum, ignoring the fact that this might put our positions in a dangerous light. With this, whenever the students would need me, I shall go. I would like to be a president that shall be applauded by the students.
Q9. There are an increasing number of foreign students on campus, most of which do not even know who the current president is. What are your plans for these students for them to know more about the university?
JBM: While there are other areas to be developed for the welfare of foreign students, I think that foreign students should give an interest with the administration as well. With this, the administration will look at the welfare of the foreign students as well. Foreign students are the future assets of our university. Because of such, I think that we need to increase the efforts for these students more than ever. An international residence hall, culture spaces etc. should be provided for foreign students as well as a psychological uplifting that will make them think that the faculty and the president thinks about them. I hope that there will be more opportunity to meet foreign students and talk with them.
Q10. What are your plans to support the internationalization of CNU?
JBM: Looking at the university competitiveness index of CNU, internationalization is low for our university. We should look at this issue in two ways: inbound foreign students and outbound local students. We should develop students ready to go out in the world. While inbound students are important, I strongly believe that sending students abroad is more important. Because there is a huge issue with the language barrier, I think that establishing small to medium sized Korean language centers abroad will be of big help to promote the welfare of foreign students and the internationalization index of CNU.
Q11. Students from your class are worrying because of your election as university president. Will you continue to have classes for this semester?
JBM: Of course. I am planning to finish this semester and will do everything to finish it even as I enter office. Students from my class should not worry because I am planning to give good marks as compensation to my absence because of the elections.
As we are facing a new beginning, may everyone, through the leadership of the new university president, be vigilant in every step that we take in order to promote the best welfare for students, faculty and staff members. May the winds of change reach the ivory towers as we enter another era.
1CNU has lost funding from the central government because it has decided to stage the DPES. CNU is one of the few national universities that stood against the decision of the central government to restructure the administrative system of national universities.
2The former Yeosu National University was abolished by the central government and was annexed to CNU in 2006. However, the integration has faced different issues through the years.
3Park Chang-su (Professor, CNU Medical School) was proven to be guilty of not abiding by the election rules and therefore a re-election for the 19th CNU President was held where Ji Byung-mun was declared winner and will be recommended to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) for final confirmation.
4A result according to a survey done by CNU Weekly to CNU students on what kind of president would they like to have.
5Professor Ji Byung-mun was a member of the 17th National Assembly of Korea representing the Nam-gu District of Gwangju Metropolitan City. He has pushed for the increased national funding for higher education in his term of office.
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