Have you ever had an experience when you were trying to study in one of the study halls in Korea University (KU) but were not able to get a seat because it was already full? Or else, have you ever seen a suspicious person who does not seem to be a KU student that is using one of the school facilities? If so, you have been a victim of the problems caused by barcodes.
There are many things that students of KU can do with their smart student cards. They can use it as a debit
card, they can use it to identify themselves and they can use it to benefit from discounts for performances and
restaurants that the KU Students’ Association (KUSA) offers. Besides all these advantages, students mostly use their student cards to reserve seats in the study hall and
borrow books from the library.
Although the student cards that most of the KU students use today are very high-tech and are considered
as smartcards, it was not always like that. Until 2009, barcodes were given out to students separately from
student cards. Thus, in order to use one of the study rooms or the library, students had to use their barcodes.
Moreover, barcodes are still distributed to KU graduates or short-term users of the library even today.
Unfortunately, there have been many reports on the problems of such barcodes used throughout the university.
▲ A student trying to reserve a seat through kiosk using the barcode copied by smartphone.Photographed by Lee Jun Geon.
One of them is the inconvenience of the barcodes. “It is really hard to carry and take care of both the barcode and the student card, since we use both of them often,” says Jung Yujin (’07, Korean Language Education).
Another problem is that some people take advantage of the fact that barcodes can be easily copied. By simply copying the barcodes, many people, including those who have never attended KU, use the copied versions to enter the study halls and check books out from the libraries.
Some people even sell their copied barcodes to others outside of KU through the Internet. Moreover, since barcodes are carried separately from the student cards, it is much easier for people to lend it to others, who would abuse it to reserve a seat that no one is actually using. This is especially a problem during exam
weeks as many students want to find a seat, but are not able to because of those who misuse the system. “Although I have not done it myself, I have heard of many cases of such abuse and I feel that it is totally unfair. Something must be done by the school to solve this problem,” adds Jung.
Making copies of the barcodes has unfortunately become even easier thanks to the invention of smartphones. By downloading apps and clicking some buttons on the screen with one’s thumb, one can copy the barcodes of another student without any difficulty at all. There is even an app in the Play store which allows people
to get free barcodes easily, if they simply enter in anyone’s
Many students agree that this is undoubtedly a serious problem, especially because the study halls and the
libraries are one of the privileges of KU students. They argue that since all study rooms are run by the tuition fees paid by the students, they should be the only ones who have the right to use such facilities.
As posted in front of the study halls in the Central Plaza of KU, the university has made some attempts in
preventing such abuse by making the regulations harsher. However, although the poster had been posted since March, many students think that there are not much, if any improvements of the libraries.
▲ The entrance of Centennial Memorial SAMSUNG Hall, where one of the study rooms thatstudents can access with barcodes is located. Photographed by Lee Jun Geon.
Regarding this current situation, KUSA has made several attempts in order to alleviate the problem. At the moment, they are arguing that it is necessary to get rid of barcodes completely and only make the students and even the short-term visitors use smartcards. “KUSA has constantly suggested that the barcode system should be abolished completely and that we should give out smartcards even to those using barcodes including the enrolled and the graduated students,” says Lee Na Young (’10, International Studies), the Director of Education Welfare in KUSA.
KUSA also suggests that they have already made arrangements with Hana Bank to allow KU students to
have new smartcards that enable them to use it as deferred transportation cards. Thus, they argue that KU just simply has to make new kiosks that read such smartcards, and distribute them to every student without excluding anyone.
Some people, including the university, oppose the idea of a new universal smartcard. The biggest reason is the
great cost of making new cards and installing new kiosks in every study hall and library. The school estimates
that it would cost about 100 million won. “Although we have constantly held meetings with the libraries, we kept hearing the same response that new smartcards cannot be made because of the budget,” says Lee.
“We have contacted the school various times but we have not received any practical or clear proposal of a
budget yet,” adds Lee. “Therefore, we demand that the school should expand the budget support for the change of such a system, as it is directly related to the rights of the students to study.”
Even though it might be hard to completely solve the problems that are occurring due to the use of barcodes
right at this moment, it is undeniably a serious issue in KU today. Therefore, it is time for the university as well as KUSA to take more advantageous and progressive actions in order to make such facilities more useful to all of the students.