Students of Korea University and Yonsei University cheer at their annual sports festival on Oct. 6. This year the event ran from Oct. 4-6, and ended with Korea University winning four out of five games. / Courtesy of Park Jong-woo
By Jay E. Kim
The rivalry between Korea University and Yonsei University, the country's top two private schools, is nationally renowned. ``Ko-Yon Jeon'' according to KU, or ``Yon-Ko Jeon'' according to Yonsei, is an annual fall sports festival between the two colleges that embodies the heated rivalry.
This year, the annual games ran from Oct. 4-6 and ended with a sweeping victory for KU, winning four out of five games. A competition that started in 1965, the festival features five matches in baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby and soccer where the winner wins gloating rights for the year, and school spirit and unity among the students runs high.
The event kicked off with a cheering competition _ complete with the elaborate body motions, colorful cheerleaders and catchy songs _ and then two days of sports matches. With nearly 40,000 students, alumni and spectators supporting the universities, sports stadiums were filled with royal blue and crimson, the colors of Yonsei and KU, as cheers rang throughout the sports grounds to encourage athletes.
The timeless rivalry has also become more internationalized with hundreds of foreign students dotted among the crowd and blending in with the Korean students. Brought together by school spirit and pride, the students wearing the same colors as their Korean hosts were almost indistinguishable. According to the Korean Language Institutes Council, there are nearly one million foreigners here in Korea, among of which about 33,000 are students.
Although most students will agree that the competition between the two universities is an event that brings students together, and is something they look forward to, criticism and opposition has surfaced from ``Anti-Ko-Yon Jeon'' groups. Some say that the annual games are a waste of money, as it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars from student fees, alumni associations and the schools themselves to rent stadiums, buy fireworks and provide cheering materials.
The games are also criticized for being inherently sexist. Centered on a masculine culture, featuring sports where only males are the stars and women can only participate by cheering. Lastly, some say that the competition exacerbates rivalries and that the games perpetuate academic cliques, which advertises KU and Yonsei as special while discriminating against other universities that cannot participate.
Although universities cannot grow and improve without competition, it is questionable whether it is a good thing to have too much university pride. However, one thing is for certain, and that is ``Ko-Yon Jeon'' or ``Yon-Ko Jeon'' is here to stay, and we can only hope that the universities will carry out the competitions in the right spirit and with a healthy attitude.