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The Gwanaksa Hanul Festival – A Valuable Opportunity For Cultural Exchange

  • October 5, 2015
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People gathered at Hanul Festival in the Gwanak-sa dormitory
People gathered at Hanul Festival in the Gwanak-sa dormitory

At the beginning of every fall semester, Gwanaksa, the SNU dormitory, hosts the Hanul Festival, where SNU students can enjoy a night out at the fair, and also experience diverse cultures of the global student body.

As a place of rest and residence for more than 5,000 SNU students, Gwanaksa, the SNU dormitory, is usually highly cautious about maintaining a quiet and peaceful environment. However, this conduct is excused on one particular day of the year. At the beginning of every fall semester, Gwanaksa hosts the Hanul Festival as part of their Global Culture Event, where international students residing in the dormitory can share their cultures through traditional foods and performances.

Gwanak-sa dormitory
Gwanak-sa dormitory

As Gwanaksa is home to a majority of international students in SNU, it encompasses a multi-cultural living environment with students from more than 80 countries and diverse nationalities. Despite these merits, in everyday life students are simply focused on their own work and do not have their eyes open to their surroundings. Thus, the annual Hanul Festival, organised by the Gwananksa student council, is a valuable opportunity for students to take advantage of the global surrounding that they are immersed in.

Poster of this year’s Hanul Festival
Poster of this year’s Hanul Festival

This year, the Hanul Festival took place on the 23rd of September around the graduate dormitories. The global food booths, where international residents prepare inexpensive yet delicious cuisines of their countries maintained their usual high popularity this year. This year, students from Indonesia, Vietnam, Ghana, Cambodia, Malaysia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, and Uganda prepared their country’s traditional foods, ranging from main dishes such as Pho (Vietnamese rice noodles) to snacks and dessert such as Kazakhstani chocolates and oatmeal cookies.

Students preparing Migoreng (Indonesian ramen noodle) at the international food booth
Students preparing Migoreng (Indonesian ramen noodle) at the international food booth

In addition, the cultural performances make up a significant aspect of the festival as they bring to life the cultures and traditions, and thus provide a more authentic cultural experience. This year, Vietnamese and Balinese traditional dance performances enriched the stage and offered a taste of Southeast Asian cultures. Quid pro quo, Pansori, the SNU Korean Traditional Opera Club, welcomed the international students through a performance that exhibited Korean culture.

Balinese traditional dance
Balinese traditional dance

Pansori’s performance
Pansori’s performance

JIBUKHAIA Nini N. (Department of Politics and International Relations), an exchange student from Ireland, shared her experience on the cultural aspects of the festival. “There were so many people from different backgrounds. I got to chat and bond with a few of them while waiting in the queues for the international food booths, and got to know more about their food, countries, and culture. The show was cool too, especially the guy in the costume. (Referring to the Balinese traditional dance)”

However, the festival also attended Korean students who simply wanted to enjoy an evening at a fair. Dormitory clubs such as the Soccer club, Baseball club, SoriNuKim (Rock Band Club), Hansori (Chorus Club), SNU Dorch (Christian Club) etc. and Gwanshim, the dormitory Counseling Centre, ran individual booths and prepared fun games and activities to introduce themselves and welcome new members. For example, SoriNuKim led the Jeol De Eum Gam (Perfect pitch) game, Gwanshim prepared psychology tests that students could take, and the Soccer club arranged a shooting game, awarding free beer to students who scored. Another factor that motivated the students to visit different clubs was the incentive that each booth gives a stamp for participating in their activity and after collecting a total of five stamps, they could receive a free drink and bowl of Dakgangjeong, Korean sweet and sour chicken.

SoriNuKim booth (Student far right leading the perfect pitch game)
SoriNuKim booth (Student far right leading the perfect pitch game)

Soccer Club booth (Student far left playing the shooting game)
Soccer Club booth (Student far left playing the shooting game)

An inflatable slide and trampoline was set up in the sports field, which further enhanced the festive atmosphere
An inflatable slide and trampoline was set up in the sports field, which further enhanced the festive atmosphere

The highlight of this year’s event however, was the free pork barbeque and beer catered by the dormitory dean, OH Gwang Son. In fact, this special occasion was what attracted a vast amount of students to this year’s festival compared to previous years. A swarm of students started to form a queue at 7:30 PM as the barbeque was to be served at 8PM on a first come, first serve basis. It was not a surprise when the dean announced that they had run out of stock in less than 20 minutes. Most importantly, the dean himself also attended the festival, serving the barbeque and beer and socialising with the students. He also arranged a comment board where students could freely express anything - from gratitude to prospects for improvement - to the dean. Dean Oh’s efforts to interconnect with the students revealed his genuine care for them, and further assured the residents that their voices were being heard and taken into consideration.

The evening ended with dormitory club performances from SoriNuKim and Hansori, providing a festive closure to the event
The evening ended with dormitory club performances from SoriNuKim and Hansori, providing a festive closure to the event.

HYUN Soo Min (Department of Industrial Engineering), a dorm resident and overseas Korean student, expressed her overall thoughts on the festival. “The games were fun and I actually learned about the different clubs that the dorms had to offer. The music performed by the dorm clubs was also great.”

Overall, this year’s Hanul Festival was a successful event for SNU students from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds to socialise and enjoy a festive evening. The event provided an invaluable experience of cultural exchange for both the Korean and international students, and enhanced appreciation of cultural diversity among themselves.

Written by Hye Bin Lee, SNU English Editor, hahahybes@snu.ac.kr
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies, eps7257@snu.ac.kr

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