Cheerleading (응원단) in Korea
When it comes to the school festivals concept, Japan and Korea immediately come to mind. Korean Cheerleading is a totally different thing compared to the western counterparts since the highlights of the cheerleading squad actually falls on the strength the male cheerleaders convey, apart from the short skirts the female cheerleaders don on.
The costumes are reminiscent of baroque French romantic style, with frills, elaborate emblems and using luxurious fabrics like satin and velvet. Don’t let these frivolous uniforms fool you, the precision and quality of the Korean cheer leading teams are nothing but top notched; a result of their determination, sweat and tears whilst undergoing months of arduous training prior to the festivals.
The responsibility of these cheerleaders is beyond leading the crowd in cheers, it is also a representation of the 미남미녀 (flower boys and pretty gals) from that particular university and hence also a competition of school pride. For the record, Korea University 고려대학교 is famous for manly guys over 180cm tall while Yonsei 연세대학교 is prided for having pretty ladies with great fashion sense (they exhibit great creativity when it comes to tearing up boring tee shirts to “jazz it up”). There is a certain “je ne sais quoi” charm to how stereotypes like these are strange but true. There I was wearing my red tiger tee with pride without any alterations and then we met the Yonsei ladies with all sorts of spray painted/ripped variations of the equally boring blue tee, when my Korean friend told me about this stereotype; I had an epiphany – Koreans take pride in being part of a certain stereotype, and even as an international student there, I couldn’t help but get sucked into this spiral of mad revelry too. It’s really “one blood” 민족고대 indeed. ^^
The cheers are made up of chants and also popular songs, and each school has their own cheers. And for Korea-Yonsei’s case, they have a few shared cheers. There are also dance moves incorporated into these cheers that are catchy and easy to follow but still looking good. No wonder all Koreans seem to be dance gurus who know how to dance to just about every popular Kpop song.
I have personally experienced the magnetic charm and charisma of these cheerleaders when I first went to Seoul as an exchange student and participated in the annual college games festival held in autumn where her college, Korea University faces off the traditional rival Yonsei University in 5 different sports, namely, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, rugby. The Ko-Yon Jeon (Korea uni vs Yonsei uni games) is also known as Yon-go Jeon in Yonsei University. It is from these slight contextual nuances of spoken Korean that one knows where one’s affiliation lies.
For summer however, there’s another series of school festivals where concerts featuring famous Korean celebrities and musicians visiting the school campus. We even saw PSY, wonder girls, Epic High in the flesh!
The best thing is, these performances are free! Or almost free at a low price of 15,000-30,000 won. The festivals not only have outdoor concerts, but sometimes you get to see something very East Asian like a guy confessing his love for another girl from the school and he gets rejected or accepted.
If you get the chance to visit one of these university games, do get a few Korean friends to go along to get into the fiesta mood better! There’s always an after party to look forward to too, if one’s a drinker. Last but not least, don’t forget to don on a tee that’s either blue (for Yonsei) or red (for Kodae) ^^ lest you stand out like a sore thumb in seas of blues and reds!
Precisely because I was from Korea University, I’m just going to be a wee bit biased here and link a victory song video of an after party for last year’s Ko-yon games. ^^ Really miss the days in 참살이 길!
Image credits: Korea university, Yonsei University