Many people expect Ewha students to be self-centered and individualists. For instance, students having lunch by herself or taking classes alone is not a rare sight in Ewha. Contrary to this prejudice, students of Ewha actually have a stromg sense of community. Ewhaian (http://www.ewhaian.com/), an official Web community of Ewha, is a place where this sense has been constructed and continues to grow. Ewhaian provides various services, such as second-hand dealings, part-time jobs, audio recordings of lectures and etc. The group purchasing culture, “Gong-gu” in Korean, and the Secret Garden, the anonymous board of Ewhaian, shows how well students interact and unite. In this issue, Ewha Voice will cover how students feel connected through the Gong-gu culture and the secret board.
Group Purchasing culture of Ewha
While Ewha is famous for a lot of things, as a university consisting of all women, students are mostly focused on fashion items. They are interested enough to design their own varsity jackets, jerseys, windbreakers or water bottles, and get in direct contact with the manufacturing company to receive the products, which is the school’s Gong-gu culture. In other universities, such group purchasing culture is not widely spread among students. However in Ewha, Gong-gu culture is a popular trend.
The designers who organized memorable Gong-gus earn nicknames such as “Sooyeoni bud,” in which bud means friend or buddy in Korean, and the nicknames become a sort of popular brand among students.
One of the popular products that initiated the Gong-gu culture is the flower lettered varsity jacket with blue jeans background designed by Bud Han Soo-yeon. “Sooyeoni bud,” as she calls herself, is a junior majoring in Chinese Language & Literature. The airline jumpers she is currently working on is also popular.
Han confesses starting a Gong-gu is difficult because all the work has to be done by herself. Gong-gus can be a long, difficult task. Starting from organizing excel files to checking deposits and distributing products, each and every step needs to be taken with much care and attention. Distribution can be especially hard because if the delivery service leaves the packages somewhere else instead of the promised place, she has to come to school and move the products to another place alone.
Han said that finding the right manufacturing company can also be tough as it takes time for her to find the company to fulfill the designs that she has in mind.
“The Gong-gus that I am responsible for are not just for saving money,” Han said “As the clothes I design have school marks on them, there is no one else but me to take charge. This is the primary reason why I go through all the troubles, because I want to wear the clothes just as I imagined it.”
Even though Han finds leading Gong-gus arduous, she does not give up and continues to provide sensational products so that she and the rest of the school can wear clothes of marked individuality.
“Although the work is hard and I promise myself I will never go through another Gong-gu, I do this again and again because it’s always worthwhile to see the happy faces of fellow students when they receive their clothes. They exclaim how pretty and perfect the clothes are and thank me for taking charge.” Han said.
Through Han, we can see the student spirit of innovation and dedication. The process of Gong-gu may be long and difficult, but buds such as Han continues to do it so that students of Ewha can enjoy the products. From the perspective of purchasers, they find a sense of belonging and comfort through their products, as almost all the products have Ewha marks on them.
“As majority of the Gong-gus are taken care of by the students themselves,” said Lee Jung-min, a junior majoring in International Studies. “I fully trust the quality and design of the products, and in an affordable price too.”
She purchased a lot of products from Gong-gu, such as a windbreakers, hoodies and water bottles.
“As students of Ewha love their school, the products such as varsity jackets and water bottles have been designed with the school marks,” said Lee. “I think that this gives students a sense of unity, like how we used to wear our school uniforms in high school.”
According to Lee’s opinion, her friends in other universities envy Ewha’s thriving Gong-gu culture which sells varsity jackets and windbreakers, because these clothes can be matched their everyday wear. Therefore Lee appreciates all the work the buds are doing so that students can wear fashionable and pretty items, and she was more than happy to add 500 won to the original price for recompensing.
Ewha’s lively Gong-gu culture is the most representative characteristic of the school community. Through Gong-gu, students interact and feel a sense of unity. The student spirit can be proven through the bud’s responsibility of making sure the products are manufactured in the way she wants and that they are distributed to every purchaser. The purchasers also are aware of the difficulties the designer buds go through, and appreciate it, which shows that affection among students still does exist in Ewha. The common stereotype that women’s university lacks friendliness and intimacy can be proven wrong as long as Gong-gu culture continues.