The title may be a bit misleading. My first semester in Yonsei felt to me like a 4 month adjustment period and as such I spent much of the time adjusting to my life in Korea and not so much on things like extracurricular activities at school. Well this semester things are different and I currently have an active club life here at Yonsei. Like my home University of Toronto there are a wealth of student clubs available at Yonsei which range from board games to scuba-diving. This semester, the clubs I’ve joined are a mixed martial arts club and traditional “pungmul” club. The clubs differ considerably both in nature and the types of students they attract.
The mixed martial arts club is made up largely of foreigners such as myself and consists of doing a rather strenuous group of exercises and drills, largely related to kick boxing with punches, kicks and lots of cardio. It meets three times a week. We don’t really have a formal training place and therefore we are regulated to working out in the hall-way of one of the school’s auditoriums. Still it’s a lot of fun and works out a lot of stress. The second club however, maybe a bit more interesting to describe.
The other club I have become a dedicated member of is the “pungmul” club. Pungmul is a kind of traditional Korean drumming method in which an ensemble of drummers get together and play any one of four instruments to a rhythm set by the leader of the group. The drumming itself has a long and complicated history and is tied closely with indigenous Korean shamanism, and on top of that it’s a blast.
The music can be played solo, with a band, or in a giant group parade style which I experienced last Friday. Traditionally when spring is just around the corner Koreans pay homage to the “ground god” presumably this was done in order to ensure the seeds sewn by the farmers would yield bountiful harvests. In the city however, it seems to be more centered around bringing good luck to local businesses and that’s what we attempted to do, or so I’m led to believe.
The parade worked as such. We exited the school and paraded up and down the streets of Sinchon (the neighbourhood Yonsei is next to) stopping at seemingly random restaurants and playing in front of them for an allotted period of time. After this the boss of the restaurant would come out and give us free food and often drinks in the form of pop, beer, or rice wine! It was great! After visiting a number of businesses we eventually headed back to the school grounds where we joined a massive congregation of other pungmul groups from nearby universities and ran in formations while playing for what felt like an hour at least! The whole parade lasted about 5 hours, but it just flew by because I was having so much fun! After the parade the entire assembly went out for drinks at a massive pub and all manner of debauchery followed. It was the most fun I’ve had since I arrived here – good exercise too!