There is an interesting phenomenon at Korean universities that is made possible by Korea’s strikingly different attitude towards alcohol in comparison to the U.S. During the spring semester, Korean universities hold school-wide festivals. These festivals include games, music and dance school club performances, and musical performances by famous artists. International students set up booths and sell traditional food from their home countries. More than any of that, though, these festivals are about drinking.
In stark contrast to the University of Oklahoma’s dry campus policy, Kyungpook National University holds a festival where each department sets up booths around school and sells overpriced alcohol and side dishes to students. A LOT of alcohol is consumed during this three-day event. Koreans are famous for heavy drinking, and this festival turned out to be no exception. All across campus, students ate, drank, talked, and played games in these small booths beginning in the evening and going late into the night. Although there are definitely some issues with the excessive drinking that can occur at these festivals, it is an exciting event where a strong feeling of university-wide community can be felt. I have not been to an event at OU that made me feel such a sense of unity, not just among certain groups of students, but among the whole student body. The festival is a time for hard-working students to relieve stress with their friends and classmates, and even occasionally with professors.
On top of that, these festivals are a chance to attend a free concert of a popular Korean singer. At our university, each night we had multiple artists perform. This element, however, becomes a point of competition among schools as schools with more money (usually private schools) will be able to afford the biggest names of the moment. Although some students complained that nearby private schools had better performers, most students I talked said that KNU had been able to bring in some very popular singers this year. I was perfectly content, as I was able to see Crush perform, a Korean R&B singer whose music I quite enjoy.
Korean university festivals are an interesting mix of performances, student body-wide bonding, and borderline alcoholism for three days in a row. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the festival, however, was that it started on Wednesday and only some professors were willing to cancel classes on festival days. As a result, while some students simply skipped class, there were a great number of students who would stay up late into the night drinking, and still drag themselves to class the next morning. That determination was likely the most amazing thing I saw during the festival.