SWU germinated in the relationship between Christianity and women
Reaching a consensus on the dire need for higher education for women, the Presbyterian Church of Korea passed a resolution for founding a tertiary school based on the Christian faith at its 12th general assembly in 1923 right after the 1919 Independence Movement, only to find itself frustrated in the face of the harsh Japanese colonialism.
Following the post-independence approval in July 1958, the Jeongeuihakwon Foundation was accredited in December 1960 for the founding of Seoul Women’s University, which was opened in April 1961. The first resolution passed in 1923 was implemented 38 years later, surviving a plethora of appalling adversities and hardships of Japanese colonialism.
After its first arriving on the Korean peninsula in the late 19th century, Christianity became widely propagated among progressive liberal intellectuals, young patriots and contemporary women who were concerned about the precarious conditions in the country. Many Christians regardless of gender joined the 1919 Independence Movement, which significantly enlightened women on social consciousness. Such a relationship between women and Christianity, engendered SWU against the backdrop of the spreading campaign of Christian evangelism led by churches, and the urgent need for a tertiary school for women, was ultimately intended to develop society and improve the national consciousness and standard of living.
For 38 years, from 1923 when the Presbyterian Church of Korea resolved to found a tertiary institution to 1961 when SWU was inaugurated, Koreans suffered a series of appalling historic hardships and turmoil on a continuum of Japanese colonialism, post-independence commotion and the Korean War, which imposed serious challenges on them. The prickly situation underscored the initiative of founding a tertiary institution, which would lay the foundation for women’s engagement in society. The then social and historical settings leading to the foundation of SWU underlay its commitment and practical approaches to education in tandem with the Christian philosophy of education pioneered under the leadership of the first president Dr. Goh Whanggyeong.
Initiative in Women’s Social Engagement
Women need to engage in social activities as well as home management for the advancement of the wider society. In the same vein, tertiary education should actively respond to the needs of the times by educating women on their personal development and roles at home and by equipping them with leadership qualities for the benefit of the society.
Need to Address Anomie
Arguably, a well-defined value system sways the destiny of a nation. A tertiary institution for women, as a means of turning out young talent with well-rounded values and attitudes toward life, was particularly pertinent to the then transitional period during which SWU was founded, which was rampant with inverted values, egoism and materialism focused on pursuing personal success and prosperity. In particular, with women’s roles becoming more important at home and in society, it was necessary to found a higher educational institution for women that could implement Christian ethics.
Need for Practical Learning and Service
Academic research at universities comes to full fruition when it is combined with practice, application and community service. Thus, universities need to offer some courses for community practice and training to enhance students’ competencies as would-be practitioners and service providers. Therefore, university education has set up an overarching goal of fostering young talent serving the empathy and common good predominating over the mobs seeking private interest only.
SWU has implemented an unparalleled life education system since its foundation and is committed to its educational mission of emphasizing the roles of citizens as members of the society.
Need to Serve Rural Communities
Given that the rural population in Korea accounted for approximately 70% of its total population at the time of SWU’s foundation, developing rural communities was an important cause for Koreans. The fast-paced shift toward industrialization disproportionately boosted industry and commerce, leaving rural communities devastated. Thus, it was urgent to produce leaders capable of balancing the urban and rural communities while enlightening and motivating farmers so that the latter was woven back into the fabric of Korean culture and life.
In its early years, SWU offered an 'Agricultural Science' course and articulated a policy that required all senior students to engage in the yearly compulsory service in rural communities for at least a week, which was consistent with the university and its founder’s, commitment to implementing the creed that the development of rural communities is at the core of national development.