With $1 million Korean donation, GW will explore underground heating uses

Updated: Monday, April 29 at 10:04 p.m.

A $1 million donation to the University will fund an exchange program for graduate students and faculty in South Korea and explore building a residence hall on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

The endowment from Joong Keun Lee, the founder and chairman of a Seoul-based construction firm, will focus on researching new ways to use ondol, or underground heating, technology, through traveling with Seoul National University.

Ondol technology is a 5,000-year-old heating method used in Korea to heat houses by directing heat from a fire outside the home to a chimney on the other side. Charcoal, glass bottles and soil keep the heat in the house.

“Ondol, traditionally utilized by Koreans for thousands of years, promotes a healthy housing culture with an energy-efficient and eco-friendly environment,” Lee, who runs the Booyoung Group, said in a release. He and University President Steven Knapp signed the agreement Tuesday.

Seoul National University is ranked No. 37 in the world by U.S. News and World Report, and is a destination for many GW students studying abroad in South Korea.

The Booyoung Group has donated to American organizations like UN-Habitat and has built more than 600 primary schools in 14 countries including South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

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