“Hey, where are you?” “At Lee Duk-sun. I have a book to return.” HUFSans will have to get used to such a conversation starting in 2020. The university library of HUFS, which has been a public nuisance for many students, is currently planned to be remodeled by 2020. Bearing glad tidings, a number of HUFSans are buoyant with the expectation of its awaited rebirth. HUFS President Kim In-chul, meanwhile, announced the decision on the new name of the building, called the “Lee Duk-sun Building.” Some students are expressing various views regarding the issue. The Argus thus gathered their perspectives on the way they behold it and the detailed reasons behind their opinions.
What about other universities?
There are numerous university buildings named after an individual or organization throughout the world. Cornell University, for example, located in the United States, has “Willard Straight Hall” whose title is derived from a renowned reporter, and a graduate of the university. “Fukutake Hall,” similarly, is situated at the University of Tokyo in Japan, and its name came from the former chairman of the Benesse Corporation.
A number of similar cases can be found in Korea as well. Yonsei University has a dormitory called SK Global House, of which the first two capital letters represent one of the national conglomerates that significantly contributed to its construction. Sogang University, of which its early establishment was organized by the Korean Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII in 1948, has buildings taking religious figures’ names, ranging from “Loyola Library” to “Xavier Hall.”
Controversy at another university: Shinhan University changing its buildings’ names
There has been major backlash against the renaming issue at Shinhan University, located in Uijeongbu city north of Seoul, with accusations of neglecting students’ opinions on the decision by the school’s administration.
On Jan. 26, 2018, the university posted a notice, titled as “Alteration of the Names of Buildings in Campus 1.” It detailed the new names of buildings, manifesting strong religious tinges, such as “Sola Oratio” and “Sal, et lux,” “Pray” and “Light and Salt” in English. The announcement, meanwhile, invited fierce criticism by the students. “Never was the decision made through any form of mutual agreement,” claimed one of the opposing voices resonating throughout the social networks such as “Shinhan University Bamboo Forest.”
A brief tour of the background of the decision
According to The Korea Times, the HUFS president visited the HUFS alumni reunion, held in Washington, D.C. on July 17, pronouncing that the new library would be named “Lee Duk-sun Building.”
Mr. Lee, a renowned entrepreneur, stated, “Having managed a company on the moral premise of prioritizing employees’ well-being, my support was to deliver the very same mindset to the students of my alma mater, HUFS. However, it is imperative to cultivate one’s knowledge, so one can lead the world, and be devoted to humanity only after vesting in the virtuous spirit,” he added.
Who are you, Mr. Lee Duk-sun?
Born in 1939, Lee Duk-sun spent his early childhood in Hwanghae Province, currently a territory of North Korea. He and his family had to leave home behind due to the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. After the family settled in Seoul, Lee entered HUFS in 1958, majoring in German. He afterwards embarked on a challenge to embody “the American Dream” in 1966. One of his remarkable career accomplishments is that he was promoted to the vice president of computer programmers at Westat Corporation by distinguishing himself through extraordinary performance and diligence. After devoting himself to the company for 20 years, Lee started his own business, Allied Technology Group, establishing himself as a successful entrepreneur in the U.S. business realm.
It is difficult to disregard his acts of benevolence on top of his entrepreneurship. He and his father had participated in sending war orphans to the U.S. until his departure in 1966. Despite the hardships before him in the early days of his arrival, hardly did he spare himself from helping others. One of several anecdotes is about his $10 donation for the impoverished each month, when his salary barely reached $70. He afterwards established a charity, the “Matthew & Catherine Foundation,” in order to support more people in need. HUFS, in the same vein, has the “Lee Duk-sun Scholarship,” which has provided full tuition for 63 beneficiaries.
The library is deeply related to students’ well-being. Its budget, however, is definitively far from sufficient. It therefore seems reasonable to designate it as the “Lee Duk-sun Building” for his substantial contribution to betterment, as a token of gratitude.
We can also find a number of precedents using names of eminent figures as those of libraries, who enhanced the schools’ prestige or made donations, such as Baker Library at Harvard University. I , moreover, have heard that Mr. Lee has long provided financial support for scholarships. Considering his continued efforts, it seems reasonable to name the library after him. Worrisome is the scheme, meanwhile, when it comes to overshadowing others’ support by the emphasis of his name.
The name may not be so crucial an issue. The essence of a library is to broaden one’s horizon of information and to develop one’s insight through academic pursuit. The library itself should provide a favorable environment for students by fulfilling such an original purpose. Naming it as the Lee Duk-sun library, namely, does not necessarily mean that it would curtail the number of contents and in-house facilities. It is understandable that some may regard it as awkward or inappropriate as to call it by a person’s name. I, however, think the focal point should be set on its inherent purpose rather than its superficial name.
Mr. Lee is also the one who considerably contributed to the remodeling, whose assistance enabled us to study in a desirable environment. I, thus, feel grateful for his efforts, and believe that the name can communicate his support. We, moreover, can discover many examples of such including Underwood Memorial Library at Yonsei University. As this and other cases are common throughout the world, it seems that such a practice is irrelevant to absurdity.
Considering the issue, I believe our new library requires a novel name that displays HUFS’ potential and vision. It is a pity that the decision was made arbitrarily, without mutual agreement with students following such procedures as a contest and ballot. There are plenty of cases of gathering opinions on the naming of both university and public libraries. Such a unilateral decision lets me identify it with an outdated practice, contradicting other examples prevalent now days. I, without any doubt, appreciate his continuous efforts for the betterment of HUFS; nevertheless, I still have reservations as to whether the token of gratitude could not be anything other than the new library’s name.
I believe a university’s library is not only one of the representatives among the institution’s buildings, but also a medium that can help accumulate and share the knowledge of students, professors, and citizens. It seems far more adequate to project HUFS’ unique nature to its new name, rather than deriving it from an individual.
Mr. Lee’s contribution as well as his acts of benevolence are frequently mentioned throughout the campus. As an alternative, what the university can do may include, for instance, installing a plaque of honor for contributors.
By An Kwan-ho
Staff Reporter of Campus Section