Why Does Korea Have ‘Women Only’ Universities?

Women’s Universities in Korea

Today, Korea has a total of 14 universities and colleges that only women can attend. 7 of them are 4-year universities and other 7 are community colleges.

4-year university

Deokseong Women’s University
Dongduk Women’s University
Ewha Women’s University
Gwangju Women’s University
Seoul Women’s University
Sookmyung Women’s University
Sungshin Women’s University

Community college

Baehwa Women’s University
Busan Women’s University
Hanyang Women’s University
Kyungin Women’s University
Seoul Women’s Nursing University
Soongui Women’s University
Suwon Women’s University

But why is there such a thing as “women only” university?

Men studying at school

Women sewing

For a long time, only men were allowed to go to school. Education was a privilege of men. Women didn’t benefit from education at all. Only a few upper-class, noble women could be educated at home.

In fact, there was a negative perspective on women studying. Until modern times in Korea, women’s duties centered around housework skills and families. 

The First School for Korean Women

Mary F. Scranton

Students learning at a classroom

Mary F. Scranton was an American Methodist missionary who came to Joseon in 1886 to do missionary work. There, she saw how poor the educational environment was for women in the Joseon Dynasty. She bought a plot of land in Hanyang (today’s Seoul) and established the first modern educational institute for Korean women, Ewha Hakdang (이화학당), which later on became Ewha Women’s University. The school started with only one student and taught Korean, English, Chinese characters, and the Bible.

Korea’s Conservative Society

Ewha Women’s University

Sookmyung Women’s University

After Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945, more women’s universities were established to go against gender stereotypes and to provide equal opportunities for women.

It was an era when there still existed gender inequality and a lack of women in society. Moreover, it was an era when people couldn’t even imagine men and women going to the same school. In this period of time, women’s universities played a pivotal role in women’s education and career. Many female intellects were cultivated and became a part of society.

Gender-Separated High Schools

This phenomenon was also seen in high school. In the past, there were separate high schools for girls and boys. Even today, there still are girls’ high schools and boys’ high schools, but the number is decreasing. You can easily see this in K-dramas.

In Reply 1988, girls and boys went to separate schools.

In Reply 1997, girls and boys went to the same school, but had separate classrooms.

Status Quo of Women’s Universities

Today, it has become so natural for men and women to go to school together! As women started enrolling into coed universities, women’s universities started to go into financial trouble. Starting from 1990s, many women’s universities turned into coed universities.

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