SEVERAL MONTHS ago, two basketball players, Woo Ji-won and Hyun Joo-youb met
and confronted each other in the final round of one television quiz program,
"Brain Survivor". The MC stimulated the game saying there was a sensitive
atmosphere between those two players. Why did the MC make that statement? Did
they fight before? It is because, Woo is from Yonsei Univ., while Hyun from
Korea Univ. It may be that not only the MC but also most people who watched this
program, thought it was like a small Yon-Ko Fete and considered it as a pride
confrontation of both universities. Such as this, Yonsei and Korea Univ. are
approved competitor against each other in Korea even in a public television
Actually, in various fields
such as sports, science, culture, and social atmosphere, Yonsei and Korea Univ.
have been rivals for a long time. Today, the competition between Yonsei and
Korea is more and more intense, interchange between the two universities is
increasing, and the 2004 Yon-Ko Fete is just around the corner. At this point in
time, becoming aware of the competition between Yonsei and Korea Univ. is
necessary and meaningful, for a more desirable relationship between both
The students of Yonsei and Korea Univ. have been full of
competitive spirit in almost every way. However, the history of it was
especially notable at athletic meets.
The origin of competition
between Yonsei and Korea Univ. can be found at the semifinal game of Chosun
Dynasty National Soccer Tournament in November, 1927. At that time, Yonsei Univ.
was named Yonhi College and Korea Univ. was Posung College. Therefore, the
Yon-Ko Fete was called "Yon-Po Fete". After the first match, Yonsei and Korea
Univ. met at lots of sports events as many as 84 games from 1927 to 1942. After
the restoration of independence in 1945, the formal Yon-Ko Fete began to take
place regularly. Starting with soccer and basketball at first, the Yon-Ko Fete
was completed with the addition of baseball, rugby, and ice hockey. Since 1965,
it settled down into today's program, where whole events are played in two
The competition between Yonsei and Korea Univ. began
to spread into other area from the sport events.
The competition between both universities can be seen through sports or even
cheering. "When we have a game with Yonsei, we are more nervous and practice
much harder than other games," says Lim Jun-rok (Soph., Dept. of Physical
Education, Korea Univ.), a member of the Korea Univ. ice hockey team. Lee
Jung-sub (2nd Sem., The Graduate School of Physical Education), the former
captain of the Yonsei ice hockey team, says, "Actually, when we make an annual
plan, we usually focus on Korea Univ. much more than others. For this strong
competitive spirits we sometimes receive extreme stress." Even in both
universities' cheering songs, it is easy to find ridicule against the opposite
university. "When I participated in Yon-Ko Fete, I was surprised that both
universities make fun of each other even in their cheering songs," says Yoo
Kyung-eun (Soph., Dept. of New Media, KyungIn Women's College). Han Won-il (Jr.,
Dept. of Physics), a present vice captain of Yonsei Yell Leader says, "Many
Yonseians like and enjoy these songs making fun of Korea Univ. students. For
this reason, we compose these kinds of cheering songs."
Yonsei and Korea Univ. students have pride in their departments. Generally, for
example, there are thoughts that the Dept. of Law in Korea Univ. is better than
that in Yonsei, and the Dept. of Bus. Admin. in Yonsei better than that in
Korea. Some argue that each department's cut-line of KSAT (Korea Scholastic
Aptitude Test) is much higher than that of the opposite school. For example,
seeing the result of the 2004 KSAT, some Korea Univ. students called it into
question. They insisted that some departments in Korea are better than that in
Yonsei. An argument about KSAT grade is truly representative of competitive
awareness about their own departments. The difference between each departments
in both universities also appears in other people's consciousness. Min Yoon-hong
(Jr., Dept. of Bus. Admin.) says, "Some high school students do not know that
there is a Dept. of Law in Yonsei Univ. It can show that the Dept. of Law in
Korea Univ. is more famous than that of Yonsei."
"When I think
of Yonsei I imagine polish and individualism. It can be found even at structures
in campus. While most structures in Korea Univ. are made of stone and look
united into one, those in Yonsei are more individual and destitute of
consistency," says Hong Kyung-hwa (Soph., Dept. of Korean Lang. & Lit.,
Korea Univ.). "In cheering culture, we can find each school's character.
Yonsei's cheering culture is more complex, polished, and following the fashion;
while Korea's is simple, powerful, and even somewhat boorish," says
In the system of authority, there is also competitive
spirit with Korea Univ. Paik Ki-beum (Journal Manager, Div. of International
Education and Exchange) says that in Student Exchange Program, Yonsei Univ. is
better in scale, but public relations of Korea Univ. is much better than Yonsei
Univ. "Korea Univ. gives the foreign professors financial support, their
quarters, and newest classrooms, while Yonsei cannot because of the financial
problems. In fact, Yonsei has paid no attention to public relations until now,
but we feel a necessity for it. To supplement these problems, Yonsei is
developing various programs like corporation internship," says Paik.
The reason of competition
Prof. Lee Hoon-koo (Dept. of Psych.) explains that the main
reason of competition is an interchange between two universities. "When the
Yon-Ko Fete was held for the first time, there were few universities. I think
two prestigious universities held the Yon-Ko Fete to cultivate mutual
friendship. This festival could contribute to the popularization of Korean
sports, and the competition appeared in most areas such as a science, culture,
social consciousness, and school features." It may be that cultivating mutual
friendship between prestigious universities and making Korean sports popular are
Prof. Choi In-choel (Dept. of Psych., Seoul
National Univ.) interprets the reason from the psychological perspective.
Theoretically, if there is an competitive group, the group identity of oneself
becomes stronger. When group identity is strong, members of the group usually
have a sense of superiority to another competitive group and compete more with
it. "In the case of Yonsei and Korea Univ., they started their competition
through athletic matches at first, and later this competitive atmosphere is more
strenghten by this society," says Prof. Choi. Therefore, although Yonsei Univ.
may try to follow Seoul National Univ., their standard group is Korea Univ. "I
think it is a desirable cycle. Their group identity becomes more intense by
competitive sprit. This is why Yonsei or Korea Univ. students have a stronger
sense of belonging than any other university students," says Prof. Choi.
Some people point out that competition between Yonsei
and Korea Univ. is oriented from their elitism. They insist that by holding
special event only for the two universities, Yonsei and Korea Univ. students
feel superiority and elite consciousness in this society. About these opinions,
Kang Min-jung says, "It is just a traditional festival that is similar with
other universities' festivals and we can have important experiences through
this. I would like to say that it is our privilege." On the other hand, Hong
Kyung-hwa says that elitism overflows in Korea and Yonsei Univ. students. "When
SungKyunKwan Univ. and HanYang Univ. planned to make Sung-Han Fete, there were
some students that ridiculed the school authorities. They said that the school
authorities are making a Sung-Han Fete just after Yon-Ko Fete to join the group
of prestigious universities. To produce a leader of Korean society in the near
future, both university students must abandon their elitism."
Impact of the competition
Competing with Korea Univ., most Yonseians have felt pride in
their position as a member of Yonsei Univ. "From my university days, Seoul
National Univ.'s individuals could not unite into one, while Yonsei and Korea
Univ. were strongly united," says Prof. Lee Hoon-koo. Now, the universities'
scales are so big that it is somewhat hard to have a sense of belonging.
However, in this situation, the competition between Yonsei and Korea Univ.
serves a role to unite students into one and assures that they belong to their
school. "Yon-Ko Fete is the festival that only Yonsei and Korea Univ. students
can have, so they may be able to have special experience by this and learn a way
to be one," says Kang Min-jung. Lee Ha-na (Soph., Dept. of Secretary, Suwon
Women? College) says, "Sometimes I get irritated with their festival, but I
usually feel such as big event is enviable. Yon-Ko Fete is one of the reasons
that I envy Yonseians."
The competition can also be a basis of
development. Prof. Choi says, "I think the competition between Yonsei and Korea
has advantages rather than bad effects. In any field, proper competition
promotes development. I hope other universities make their own competitor such
as Yonsei and Korea Univ." Kwon Min-sun (Sr., Dept. of Physical Education), a
present captain of Yonsei Yell Leader says, "The cheering song that makes fun of
Korea Univ. is just a cheer. This kind of competition in this degree can make
both universities more stimulated and developed. Seeing it seriously raises an
emotional fight between the two groups of university students."
From a the wide point of view, some explain that the competition between Yonsei
and Korea Univ. is a stimulant to all Korean universities. "It is still obvious
that Yonsei and Korea Univ. are prestigious universities, so many other
universities seek to follow them. If Yonsei and Korea compete with each other
and develop, other universities are also stimulated and make more efforts to
develop," says Chung Sang-won, (`68, Dept. of English Lang. & Lit., Korea
Univ.). Lee Jin-myung (Soph., Dept. of Econ., Seoul National Univ.) also says,
"It may be a problem for other universities that they do not have a traditional
competition such as a relationship between Yonsei and Korea. All Korean
universities need competition that helps them to develop."
enemy that we should fight is not others, but
- Miguel de
Carvantes Saavedra -
However, the competition between Yonsei and Korea Univ. have a negative effect
in some ways. Hong Kyung-hwa points out that an antagonistic relationship
between both universities can be more severe if competition is serious. "Yonsei
and Korea Univ. students say that they are partners, but they seem to consider
each other as their enemy. The students of each school students think that they
must win their rival unconditionally." For example, both universities are
sensitive to the number of successful candidates for state examination compared
to each other.
Besides, other university students can feel the
sense of alienation. "Yonsei and Korea Univ. students sometimes think as if
there are only their school in Korea. It seems that other universities are
excluded from their mind," says Kim Ji-hea (Soph., Dept. of Computer, Ewha
Womans Univ.). Noh Hyun-ki (Sr., Dept. of Estern Philosophy, Sung KyunKwan
Univ.) also says, "Every time when Yon-Ko Fete takes place, Yonsei and Korea
Univ. occupy Shinchon as their own area. It is a problem for residents and
general passersbys that they fight each other and obstruct streets."
there are lots of people who have a negative view about the Yon-Ko Fete. Prof.
Lee analyses the reason as the following. "When the Yon-Ko Fete was first held,
there were few universities. Then Yonsei and Korea were the wish of people.
Besides, since there were few televisions and broadcasting companies, people
could not watch sports game well. Therefore, Yon-Ko Fete was the only and most
popular sport in Korean society." However, nowadays there are numerous
universities and lots of television channels. People are not interested in
Yon-Ko Fete any longer and they do not even understand why Yonsei and Korea
Univ. hold the special festival. "Yon-Ko Fete has not followed the change of
people's thoughts," says Prof. Lee.
For a desirable relationship
It is clear that competition between Yonsei and Korea Univ. has
both positive and negative roles. For making competition more helpful to not
only both universities, but also Korea society, both universities should do
their best to build up a sound atmosphere. Prof. Choi advised that the
competition between Yonsei and Korea. should be widened to science and study,
not just staying in sports.
Interchange through competition is also important.
According to Hwang Chang-kyu, Vice-president of SamSung, Sony is not their
enemy. He thinks, by competition Samsung can grow, and rather the enemy is
within Samsung. Continuos self-examining is more important than comparison with
competitors. The relationship of Yonsei and Korea Univ. is the same as that.
Self-examining and stimulating oppsite university can make both universities
more developed and it is a real competition. Korea Univ. is not a contender of
Yonsei any longer. Now, Yonseians should consider students of Korea Univ. as
companions, competing with the world together.