|Choi Young-sook, a former national gymnast, who had been expelled from school due to "prohibition of marriage regulation" has finally received her diploma 51 years after her enrollment. Photo provided by Choi Young-sook.
In the morning of Aug. 26, the second graduation ceremony of 2016 was held at Welch-Ryang Auditorium. Among the many students who were seated in their graduation cap and bouquet, there was Choi Young-sook, a former national gymnast who finally graduated Ewha 51 years after entering college.
Choi was a prospective gymnast who started gymnastics when she was in middle school with her remarkable athletic skills. At the age of 18, she was already chosen as a member of the national team. In 1964, when she was at the final year of high school, she participated in Tokyo Olympics, and the next year she entered the Division of Human Movement Studies at Ewha.
“I was the only athlete who was commuting to school from Taereung athletic village,” Choi remembered. “At that time, it took about two hours since the transportation was not well developed. I even came to school during the training season and matches to attend classes.”
Although Choi found it difficult keeping pace as both an athlete and a student, she recalled that those hectic days eventually made her a high achiever in both areas. The reason why Choi chose Ewha among other schools that were giving love calls was also related to keeping up with both of these.
“My high school teacher recommended Ewha saying that studying is equally important as athletic training,” Choi said. “Also, I wished to go to Ewha since it is the best university for women.”
Although Choi was busy with her gymnast career, she tried to actively participate in school events as well. During the ceremony of Ewha’s 80th anniversary that was held in her second year, she was awarded with a distinguished service medal of Ewha. In 1967, she participated in Tokyo Universiad, a biannual global sports festival of university students.
When she was in her final year at Ewha, Choi married a national team member who was a Korean resident in Japan. However, at that period, Ewha had prohibited married women from entering the school and expelled any ennrolled student who got married. Such regulation was made to prevent women from getting their education right violated due to early marriage.
Due to the prescript, she was also expelled from school, leaving eight credits before graduation.
“That was when even men were not allowed to enter the campus without permission and I was well aware of the regulation,” Choi recalled. “However, I don’t regret getting married then because I thought that marriage was a chance that has its time while I could continue studying whenever I wanted to. I also wanted to study in Japan.”
About four decades later, in 2003, the regulation that prohibits marriage of students was finally abolished. Unfortunately, Choi was not aware of the news since she was living in Japan after getting married. However, after getting request for readmission she started to attend school last fall.
“I thought the school had made a proper decision,” Choi said. “When Ewha was established the environment for women to study freely was not set up. There were various reasons for students who could not graduate after four years such as financial reason other than the marriage. The school had realized the fact that marriage was not the appropriate reason to expel students. If I had known about the abolishment earlier, I would have requested for the reentrance much earlier, but I couldn’t and 50 years just passed away.”
When attending big athletic events, Choi was always understood and treated as a graduate of Ewha from others. However, personally, she has always wanted to get an official diploma. As she was living and working in Japan, she was given permission to substitute classes for reports. Also she came to school with her granddaughter who is attending the language school at Ewha. After finally receiving a diploma, after a half a century later, she said she was happy to fulfill her goal to complete her education at Ewha.
“I want the students to realize how precious their experience at Ewha is,” Choi marked. “The value of being within Ewha may not be evident right now. But after graduation, when we have to stand on our foot in the bigger world, it will be remarkable. I wish students to be proud of themselves about the fact that they are students of Ewha.”