Today my good friend Jee Seong invited me to go to a school festival at Koryo University (aka Korea University and part of the SKY schools). Koryo is one of the three top universities in Korea. As many of you may know, SKY stands for Seoul, Koryo, and Yonsei universities. The current president of the ROK, Lee Myung-bak, graduated from Koryo.
Going to Koryo was the farthest I’ve been into Seoul by myself. I guess I’m really cautious and it takes awhile for me to warm up rather than take on Seoul on the first couple days. After a nice bowl of Japanese ramen (this is highly quality ramen. Not your weak ass, gross, Mauchran or whatever it’s called ramen), Jee gave me a tour of her campus. Being enrolled for a semester so far, my coming indirectly forced her to get around her own campus and see parts she never have seen. Koryo campus was pretty awesome. There is a good contrast between urban and nature. The gothic architecture was a surprise. But I was really impressed at the level of technology the school posesses. You have to have a card to scan yourself in to certain buildings and use it for reserving spaces in study lounges and what not. It’s seriously something that W&M can dream about since we don’t have enough money. With a pitiful endowment program and cheap alumni, we are at the mercy of the state. There are also nice eateries and mini marts that dot the campus ending hunger within the student population. With all this excitement and activity, I can understand now why some international students may find my own school disappointing.
Anyways, as the time grew closer to the festival, Jee and I met up with a friend of hers and together, we walked up a road leading to the school stadium. As we got closer, the number of red shirted people (red and the tiger are the school’s color and mascot) became more ubiquitious. A noise in the distance grew louder and louder as we reached the top of the hill. My mouth dropped as I reached the top and saw a gigantic sea of red covering the stadium. All the KU students were singing, chanting, and shouting in unison. I’ve never seen such social cohesion with my own eyes. It certainly looked like a communist rally as people in red waved red colored bags and red banners with traditional Chinese characters hung from the walls. There was a stage in the middle of the stadium the could serve as a stage for a rock band. Different colored lights hung from rails. Later we found out that the stage could shoot out fireworks and flames!!
Koryo’s idea of a cheerleader squad was very different from what I had in mind. No poms, tight fitting uniforms, or simple chant that no one listens to. These students were freakin’ legit and very professional. All trained to follow certain choreographs, this cheer group was lead by two people who wore a distinctive suit and dress. Those two were lead by a guy who wore a modernized version of the traditional Korean hanbok. He would lead the schools songs and chants. Everybody would follow him on command.
As I was being introduced to more of Jee’s friends, I noticed that while everyone wore red, the inscriptions or decals would be different to signify what major or club a person was in. Designs ranged from “Koryo IR club” to “biochemistry” to “Yonsei can kiss my ass” (Yonsei is the chief rival of Koryo). They were all pretty creative and amusing. I got to have a hands on, well… more of a body on experience of the status of k-pop stars. Being on the middle of the field, I was subjected to this massive surge of people as k-pop groups such as Rainbow and SNSD came out. Every male student seemed to go… bzonkers! Cries of “I love you!” and “Ahhhh!” were shrieked across the stadium as we would see a revealed upper thigh or provacative movement of some girl singer. As people drew closer and closer to the stage, Jee, her friends, and I got squeezed to the point where even if you lost your footing, instead of falling, the surrounding bodies would keep you up. There is no such thing as personal space here folks! Sweat, hair, arms, boobs, cameras are all around and smashing into you. “Fuck safety” was the main theme during this hot afternoon. The day would have more surprises for me. When I was just standing on the field with people all around me when a familiar face just burst through the people in front of me! It was Rachel Choi! WTF?!! I just yelled her name and found ourselves asking each other why the other person was here. “I thought you were in China!” and “I thought you were going to Yonsei later in the summer!”
This festival would last until 10 PM. I did not get to sit down for 6 hours and my body punished me for such abuse. My heels and back were screaming to be stretched as my new sneakers were scuffed to oblivion. For such a galant effort, Jee and her friends decided to go to a roasted lamb house where skewers of mutton are revovled in this contraption as they are cooked over white hot coals. My eyes became wide as the melting grease caused the coals to sizzle as it dripped off. Jee’s friends were so nice and inclusive. Even though they all spoke Korean, they would ask me whether it would be easier for me if they spoke English. I declined saying that I needed to pratice my Korean. The Korean conversations in Korea seems to be different than conversations in the U.S. There is less gossip and more joking and interesting conversations. Simply more merriment, I think. With a couple bottles of Qingdao, the night went perfectly.
Thanks Jee for such a great experience! I was a KU student that night.
Good seeing you again Rachel!