Student and university culture in South Korea

University culture in South Korea is different from that in other countries, consisting of events such as Student Orientation (OT) and Membership Training (MT), as well as festivals and student clubs.

Soongsil University Festival (Daedongje) 2010-10-06 12h25m

University culture in South KoreaEdit

In the early 1950s, development of South Korean University culture was inhibited by the Korean War. At the time, the existence of universities and the lives of students had received many threats. Until the 1960s, the concept of university culture had not been used. After the war was over, universities regained stability.[1]

Around university towns, a unique and special culture unique to Korea has developed. South Korean university students usually enjoy doing activities in groups. For example, they would join a club such as dance, do volunteer work, study or travel, and spend a lot of time with other group members. The important aspect is that the student system is well developed and there are a lot of independent student organizations. The organizations host and manage many programs and events so that all students can enjoy university life.[1]

Among the various university cultures, the typical examples are OT (Student Orientation), MT (Membership Training), School Festivals, and Clubs. Events and programs represent university culture in South Korea.


OT (Student Orientation)Edit

OT is the abbreviation for orientation. It is meant as an introduction for people so that they can understand the system and adapt to the new surroundings.

Nowadays it is generally known as a welcoming event for freshman.[2]

Normally, the new lectures in the university start in March, but the university life of freshmen starts in February. There are a lot of events for freshmen held that month. For example, the welcoming event, classmate meeting, junior and senior meeting and so on. Among those things, the most important one is Orientation (a welcoming event). In this event, the freshman can not only make new friends and get to know the seniors, but also get some information about their classes and the university system.[2]

Orientation runs for 2 or 3 days. The student organization rents a large resort and all the students spend time together. The schedule varies at each university. Usually, the orientation introduces the university system and classes, includes some fun games that all students can partake in, or drinking games for the nighttime. The university recommends that freshmen bring some less formal clothes, writing utensils, and washing tools.[3]

For 2 to 3 days, freshmen can meet thousands of new people including their classmates, seniors, and other different major students. This time is a chance to make a lot of friends very easily and enjoy university life. Otherwise, there aren't many other chances to meet and become friends with upperclassmen. Freshmen don't need to be shy and just need go and make friends! [3]

MT (Membership Training)Edit

Membership training

MT is the abbreviation for Membership Training. It means all same major students from freshman to seniors spending time at same place promoting friendship and harmony.

April is the unofficial season of MT, one month after the beginning of the semester. April is very warm and a good month to do MT. It is one of the unique things about Korea's university culture that can't be seen in other university cultures. This is one of the aspects many exchange students from abroad appreciate about the Korean student life.[4]

Usually MT runs for 3 days. Same as in the orientation event before, they get organized to rent a big space for all students of the same major.

  • Major locations of MT
  • West of Seoul - Incheon Yung Jong Island / Eul-wang ri / Kang hwa do
  • East of Seoul - Gapyeoung-goon / Nearby Gang-chon station / PajuLimjin-gak / Po-cheun / Gwa cheoun Chung-gye mountain / Near Daeseong-ri Station
  • East of Gyeonggi-do- Chung-cheong do Ahn myeoun do / Dae chun / Dae bu island, Je bu island / Yong-in Gogiri valley / Everland (amusement park & Resort)
  • Gang-won do - Gang-reung si, Sok cho si (vallies located at Yang-gu goon, In je goon, Hong cheun goon)
  • Jeolla-do (including Gwang ju) - Jang-su goon, Nam won si / Gu rae goon / Dam yang goon / South coast
  • Jeju island - Internal of Jeju island
  • Gyung sang do - Daegu, North of Gyung sang do - Po hang si / Yung duk goon / Wool jin goon - Busan, South of Gyung sang do - Song jung beach / Yang san si / Geoje island

The students spend the time cooking and eating food, sleeping and playing some games together. The schedule and program are managed by the student organization. They plan some events and games so that all students can join in and enjoy themselves. There are a lot of games like dodge ball, a speed quiz where the team that can answer the questions the fastest is winner and so on. At night, all the students get together and drink some beer, eat delicious food and play some drinking games.[4]

After 3 days, all the students may become close with each other. They also share some good tips for university life or on how to get good grades on the tests. If some text books that student need for class are too expensive, this time is a chance for freshmen to get the books from seniors.[5]

While it may sound at first like an event that students go to just in order to play games and drink alcohol, it provides many good opportunities for students to meet their classmates, make new friends and develop a firmer sense of value about their major.[5]


Main festivalsEdit

Main big festival

When it comes to 'Campus Romance', we can come up with festival. Festivals are named differently, depending on the university's character. Mostly it means all the students get together and have fun. The festival consists of many performances, exhibitions or flea markets.

The university festival's history dates back to 600 years ago. There were festivals in 'Sungkyunkwan' which was the only national university in the Joseon Dynasty period. At that time, Sungkyunkwan's dormitory was opened and they permitted outsiders to come inside. Not only the students but also their parents, friends, and even relatives could participate in the festival and enjoy the many games and events.[6]

In the 1970s 'Mask dance', which is part of Korean traditional culture, was popular. Mask dance, Korean wrestling, and tug-of-war were the main events at university festivals. Also, traditional Korean performances or singing performances for political action had a role in the festival to criticize and satirize politics.[6]

In the 1980s, communal and cultural events like traditional performances, mask dance and tug-of-war were held at the festival called Daedongje which means 'become all-together'. Many academic seminars, mock trials and debates were also held. However, these festivals were sometimes delayed because of frequent demonstrations.[6]

In the 1990s, many traditional and political things had disappeared from the festival. The events at the festivals had started consisting of celebrity invitation performances, bars, flea markets and so on. The culture started putting more importance on personality and diversity than on the value of community.[6]

In the 2000s, most university festivals consist of many celebrity performances like Psy, Dynamic Duo, and IU. There are also a lot of bars set up by the students themselves. Not only the school's students but all university students in Korea can participate in and enjoy the festival. At night, some universities invite a club DJ and hold a DJ party.[6]

Normally, the university festivals are held in May for 3 days with many fantastic and enjoyable events.


There are sub-festivals organized by each department of a university. The festivals usually take place in the spring. The festivals include a range of events such as one-day pubs, quiz games and photo exhibitions. Student dormitories also host student festivals. Gwanaksa, the Seoul National University dormitory, hosts the Hanul Festival at the beginning of each fall semester.[7] Residential dormitory students can enjoy a night at the festival. Student clubs usually take part in the main university festival, but rarely host their own festivals.

Student ClubsEdit

Many Korean students join one or more student clubs. Various kinds of student clubs are available to university students. There are volunteer associations, debate clubs, religious clubs, bands and many others. Club activities are an important part of student life in South Korea. Many universities run student clubs for foreign students as well.[8] Amateur orchestra clubs or student bands sometimes hold concerts for the students.

Most universities have a student association that engages with the university administration. Four members of the Student Association at Sungshin Women's University were suspended after raising concerns about monetary dealings made by the university's president, but their suspension was ruled as unfounded in student disciplinary action.[9]


Many accidents occur during student orientation.

In 2014, nine people were reported dead after a collapsed roof trapped dozens of people at a South Korean university orientation. More than 70 students were injured following the roof collapse.[10]

In 2015, a first-year female university student fell unconscious after drinking alcohol during a school-organised orientation event for newly enrolled students. She was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, but she remained unconscious.[11]

A bus driver died and 44 students were injured following a bus collapse in 2017. The bus was heading to Wonju for a school orientation.[12]


  1. ^ a b "The university culture in south korea" (PDF). journal.
  2. ^ a b "[대학생 기자] 새내기들 어서와, 대학 생활은 처음이지?". 캠퍼스 잡앤조이 - 즐겁게 놀고 성공 취업하자. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  3. ^ a b "신입생, 새터(OT) 준비하는 5가지 방법 "어서와~새터는 처음이지?"". media. 2013-02-18. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  4. ^ a b "대학생 MT시즌, 대부도펜션시티로 떠나볼까 - 머니투데이 뉴스". Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  5. ^ a b "서울대저널 - 대학 엠티, 어디까지 왔나" (in Korean). 2009-12-22. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  6. ^ a b c d e "The history of university festival".
  7. ^ "The Gwanaksa Hanul Festival – A Valuable Opportunity For Cultural Exchange". SNU Media. October 5, 2015.
  8. ^ "University Clubs - Hanyang University". Retrieved 2017-05-28.
  9. ^ "'총장 비리의혹 제기' 성신여대 학생들, 징계 무효소송 승소" [Sungshin Women's students who raised 'suspicion of misconduct by the president' win disciplinary action]. Yeonhap News (in Korean). 30 October 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Nine People Reported Dead After Collapsed Roof Traps Dozens At South Korean University Orientation". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
  11. ^ "Freshman unconscious after drinking at orientation session". koreatimes. 2015-02-27. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
  12. ^ ""대학생 OT 하지 마라" 금오공대 관광버스 추락사고 '시끌'". Retrieved 2017-05-28.

External linksEdit