University cave addicts unveil the unknown world
University cave addicts unveil the unknown world
  • Lee Joo-ah
  • 승인 2017.09.07 12:11
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Instead of enjoying their weekends in downtown Seoul, students check their gear and head to their destination, a cave. After arriving at one of the well-known caves in Korea, they make sure their seils, a climbing rope for vertical drops, and stoppers are all set. When everyone’s equipment is prepared, they are ready to explore the mysterious places that not many people dare to visit.
“Not many students get the chance to explore these caves,” said Park Joon-young, chief of the Konkuk University Cave Exploration Team. “It is a priceless experience that only cave addicts like us could have.”
In Korea, there are only seven university cave expedition clubs. The existing seven clubs partake in activities ranging from cave expeditions, camping to observing cave structures such as stalactites. To hear more about their special experience, Ewha Voice interviewed two of the most active cave exploring clubs: Konkuk University Cave Exploration Team and Dongguk University Caving Club. 
Although cave exploration is a rather unusual field of interest for university students to fall into, these clubs have more than 40 years of history. Over the years, there have been over 100 seniors that have been a great help to the members. They accompany the juniors and supervise them on safety issues and expeditions. The support of these seniors always helps spark their juniors’ enthusiasm, guiding them deeper into the caves.
The members of the club consist of an exploration team, equipment team and speleology & measurements team, according to Dongguk University Caving Club. These teams are managed by the chief for an efficient expedition. Through meetings, students decide when and where to explore. Gender ratio of these cave expedition clubs is almost one-to-one.
“Female students are very active in our team,” Park said. “For two years in a row, our chiefs were female students.”
To explore caves, students have to use special equipment because of numerous vertical sections in the cave. For vertical drops, they use seils, stoppers and harnesses to connect their body with ropes. Student safety matters have always been a crucial issue, so they gather information from their seniors or go to caves their chiefs are familiar with. Students told Ewha Voice that their safety is secured if they are well-acquainted with how to properly use the equipment.
“To train with seils, we hang seils to the outside walls of our school buildings and practice the vertical drops and climbing,” Park said.
As it is an unusual club for students, members of these groups have their own special memories that could be only experienced in the club. Han Hyeong-ju, the chief of Dongguk University Caving Club, shared one of his most memorable moments.
“After finishing the first one-year cycle, our members got a badge from the seniors to become an official member,” Han said. “When I got the badge, all the precious memories with the seniors and in the cave went through my mind. It was really touching.”
There were also memories of hardship during the expedition. Last winter, Park made his way to the cave called Sanho Cave in Gangwon-do with two of his seniors and his colleagues. However, due to the cold weather and the location of the cave, he had to wait for the sun to rise to climb down the snowy mountain. 
“The cave was so large that it took us 11 hours to explore just part of it,” Park said with a laugh. “When we got out, it was dawn. We couldn’t move down and had to stay at the entrance of the cave. We used snow and ice to make ramen and brew coffee to stay warm. It was the most delicious food that I have ever eaten.”
As well as caves in Korea, they also go abroad to explore caves with local university students such as Japan and the U.S. These alliances are a rare opportunity to share experiences and explore caves of different countries. For example, Konkuk University Cave Exploration Team goes on a joint exploration with Indiana State University students every year, alternatively visiting each other’s countries. 
“American caves are bigger, but have a simpler structure,” Park said. “However, even though Korean caves are smaller, they are more beautiful and have more complicated cave structures.”
Cave expeditions are not a familiar activity for university students. However, these university cave addicts are eager to explore the hidden world with their passion.
“If there is a mystic place on earth, it is the cave and the ocean,” Park commented. “How about jumping into these mystic wonders.”

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