By Erica Wong |Staff Writer|
The two-day sports tournament is technically called the “friendship games,” but how students reference it depends on their respective school.
Students from Yonsei call it YonKo-Jeon and students from Korea University call it KoYon-Jeon.
According to Yonsei history, this friendly competition dates back to the early 1920’s, and the rivalry has only increased over time.
The two schools go head-to-head in baseball, basketball, hockey, rugby, and soccer.
Whoever wins at least three out of the five games is the winner, earning bragging rights for the academic year.
Uncharacteristically, Yonsei lost every single game this year, but it quickly turned out that the real sports of YonKo-Jeon have to do with the spectators.
The cheerleaders, more famous than the sports players, have a stage set up in front of the crowd, singing and dancing to their respective school’s songs.
They lead the cheers and hype up the crowd in colorful, almost comical outfits.
Korean cheering is not simply screaming for your team to score. It involves full songs and coordinated dances.
The cheerleaders and students in the crowd danced so fiercely that the sports players could have been playing hopscotch and no one would have noticed.
The whole point of the YonKo games ended up being about who could cheer the hardest and the loudest.
The school spirit here is much stronger than back home at CSUSB. Looking out at the moving sea of students flailing in unison, it was simultaneously overwhelming and contagious.
Every time one of the teams scored or the game got especially intense, there were fireworks, explosions of colored smoke, confetti, and flames spitting from the cheerleaders’ stage.
The cheering is taken so seriously that there was a cheering orientation hosted at Yonsei two days before the first day of the games, after distribution of tickets and free t-shirts.
Essentially a dance party that lasted for hours, Yonsei and Korea University students linked arms, making a dizzying mass of red and blue, dancing and learning the book of songs together.
According to the Jamsil Olympic Stadium box office, host of the YonKo games, the event brings more than 40,000 fans each year, including students, faculty, alumni and spectators from all over South Korea.
The event is broadcasted on national television and celebrity alumni frequently show up to wish their school luck, making the crowd go insane.
The after-party is always hosted by the champion school, and the cheering moves from the stadium to the district of the winning campus.
With school colors still in full force, students flood the streets, blocking traffic and turning the streets into one giant block party.
Chamsul and Hite, a popular soju and beer brand, are huge sponsors of the game and they served free alcohol during the after-party, which was shocking, since CSUSB has such a strict dry campus policy.
Another long-standing tradition of the after-party is called the “train game.”
With hands on each others’ shoulders in a kind of conga line, students go around to local restaurants and bars, chanting and cheering while storekeepers serve food and drinks for free.
The incredible competition that has resulted from the long-established customs of rivalry between two such esteemed schools is an eye-opener for someone from CSUSB, where sports or school spirit isn’t a huge part of campus life.
YonKo-Jeon is a once in a lifetime chance, recommended to anyone that happens to be in South Korea during October.
It is a spectacular show of student morale, teaching the valuable lesson that even if you’re losing, the most important part is having fun with your peers and showing unwavering school pride.