Hongik University will conduct a comprehensive safety check in June on buildings on campus that are more than 30 years old, its student council said Monday.
The decision came as a series of student complaints about cracks in buildings bombarded the school. According to the student council, the university will hire outside experts to inspect 16 of its 28 buildings.
Among the facilities scrutinized over safety were buildings C and D, used by the university’s humanities department. Last month, a graduate of Hongik University uploaded pictures of the two buildings on his blog, pointing out the cracks in the walls, corridors and classrooms with uneven heights.
Building C, built in 1977, had multiple cracks in its stairs, while a small fissure had extended down the wall in building D. The unnamed Hongik graduate urged school authorities to come up with proper measures.
“Prior to the Sewol incident, I didn’t even notice these cracks,” he said, adding that the fatal sinking of the ferry in April that took more than 200 lives has made him safety-conscious. “As a graduate, it’s really not my business. But I feel responsible for condoning such safety hazards over the four years I had attended the university.”
Local media confirmed that the cracks in the two buildings still existed as of Monday.
Students had already raised questions about the safety of the cited buildings in 2010, after cracks appeared, apparently induced by the adjacent construction site. The school conducted a safety check of its own in 2010 and this year and concluded that the buildings were “safe” both times.
“The buildings have no structural problems. Most of the students are fine with it, but some students are ‘maliciously’ targeting the school by raising the issue,” a school official said.
Students, however, were unsatisfied with the school’s explanation, pressuring the university to conduct a third-party safety check.
Safety concerns were raised in various sectors of society after the Sewol incident, with school safety being one of them. It was revealed that of over 12,000 buildings at elementary, middle and high schools across the country, over 100 of them required immediate repairs. The Education Ministry belatedly decided to repair them on May 21.
Seoul National University also carried out a safety check on its buildings and found minor defects. It said it would repair the buildings by the end of summer break.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)