"When I was an Ewha student in the 1970s, I really enjoyed the May Festival. But I recall that it was very different from today? May Festival," says Professor Choe Sun-yuel (Journalism). The May Festivals of today do not seem as happy to her as the ones she treasures in her memory.
"I really dislike the food stands that students organize. Just selling food is not an activity students can learn from or actively participate in. When I was a student back in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, there were more intellectual and enjoyable activities that most students would participate in. There were performances put on by different divisions, art galleries composed of the art works of students, concerts performed by the music clubs, and many other exhibitions. My friends and I used to work for over a month before the festival to prepare a play. We even stayed overnight at school for rehearsals. To us, preparing for the festival and participating was to relieve the stress we received from schoolwork," says Professor Choe.
In the 1980s, Choe says that the May Festivals also reflected political ideas since a small group of students, including the leaders of the student body such as the Student Government Association (SGA), were involved in political struggles. But she believes that this decreased students participation in the Festival since the majority of Ewha students were not so interested in politics. Even so, students involved in such political activities still had passion to participate in and enjoy the May Festival, said Professor Choe.
According to Professor Choe, the 1990s was when Ewha's May Festival started to become subordinate to mass culture. Professor Choe blames several contemporary trends for this shift in priorities. "Students lost their passion and forgot the value and meaning of the May Festival. They are also too busy preparing to get employed, to get good grades, and to develop their skills. Therefore, they cannot spare extra time to something that does not directly benefit them. The pressure put on them by Korean society has made students lose inner peace of mind," she says.
Professor Choe believes that another big reason why the May Festival has lost its meaning is because students nowadays are "part-time" students. "Unlike past Ewha students who did not have enjoyable activities outside campus, current Ewha students find school events dull and thus, they do not cherish the festival as true enjoyment," she says.
If students wish to change these trends, says Professor Choe, they will have to make the festival less of an imitation of mass culture. "I think the clubs should be the main organizers, not the SGA. Students should focus not only on making profit, but on sharing their experiences with students from other clubs and divisions. I strongly suggest performances by club members, art shows, concerts, picture galleries, and other methods to show the uniqueness and individuality of each club that students take part in."
As a final piece of advice, Professor Choe mentioned, "The May Festival is a time for students to form unity and to make new friends, but I only see very few students who participate and actually enjoy the Festival. This is not fully making use of the May Festival. I believe that, if students organize activities that cannot be experienced anywhere else except during the university festival, and if the festival becomes more intellectual as it is supposed to be in a university, teachers will even be willing to excuse students one day of class like they did before. I hope students will make more use of the May Festival and make an effort to turn it into one in which both students and professors can enjoy."