The main subjects of the upcoming Coming-of-Age Day this May are young adults who are turning twenty this year, typically in their second year of university. Most students usually celebrate the Coming-of-Age Day by receiving roses, perfume or a kiss from their loved ones. This has become a popular ritual in contemporary Korean society. However, how each student perceives the Coming-of-Age Day and what coming-of-age actually means or meant to them differ from student to student. The Ewha Voice interviewed two students, Lee Yeon-woo (International Studies, 2) and Park Cho-rong (English Literature, 2) who will be making an official transition from adolescence to adulthood this year, as well as three other students who have already become official adults including Jung Hyo-rin (English Education, 3), Ahn Joo-yun (Science Education, 4) and Jeon Yu-ri (Public Administration, 4). Each shared their thoughts about the concept of coming-of-age in Korean society. Through these students, the significance of Coming-of-Age Day and what it means for them to become adults in contemporary Korean society will be explored.
Ewha Voice (EV): First of all, what significance does the Coming-of-Age Day have for you?
Lee Yeon-Woo (Lee): Becoming an adult means becoming independent. As adolescents, we were, at least to some degree, dependent both physically, but especially economically and mentally to our parents. Last year, graduating high school and becoming a university student made me feel like I am starting a new life of my own. I think the Coming-of-Age Day officially confirms my freedom and responsibility as an independent adult.
Jeon Yu-ri (Jeon): I don’t think the day itself holds any special meaning. Looking back, I had moments when I felt that I have already become an adult before that day or times when I still felt like a child after that day. The Coming-of-Age Day is just a ‘date’ that officially makes us adults in the society and as for the mere significance of it, I think it is being able to get congratulated of reaching that official age and being able to be at the spotlight for that one certain day.
EV: How do you perceive your ideal Coming-of-Age Day?
Ahn Joo-yun (Ahn): Nowadays, since a lot of students live away from home and are too busy with their lives, it is difficult to perform the traditional rituals with their family like in the past. Thus, I think it would be a good idea if the school organizes an event for those who are coming of age on that day. The school can prepare programs in which the students can actually feel and think over the fact that they have become adults through holding lectures by our seniors about their experiences as adults.
Lee: As an independent individual, my ideal Coming-of-Age Day will be browsing for my true identity or the calling He has made me for. I would like to first thank God for bringing me up so far and plan my future by establishing a clear vision the Lord approves of.
EV: What was a defining moment that made you feel like you had come of age?
Park Cho-rong (Park): I remember two moments that made me feel like I had become an adult. The first moment was when I realized that my parents, whom I perceived as flawless beings, to be, in fact, imperfect human beings. Moreover, I was able to understand them and their lives as a person before perceiving them as my parents. Another moment was when I saw myself reacting to hardships in a rational way rather than turning emotional as I did in the past.
Jeon: It was when I realized and actually felt the truth of wise sayings such as not everything you can see is the true and that your mindset determines yourself. I feel that I am growing mature as I realize that the wise sayings to be true in the experiences that I encounter in my life.
Ahn: I live alone away from my family. I am not yet economically independent from my family, but paying for my management expenses, doing the laundry, cleaning the house on my own and not calling my parents even though I am having trouble is what makes me feel like an adult. Moreover, my parents ask me about my younger brother and his studies or behavior. I think this shows how much they trust my judgment as an adult now.
Lee: In my case, I experienced a 180-degree change one year in university. I have been a Christian ever since my birth, but I fell into worldly pleasures during the first semester of university. However, the camp that I went during the summer with CCC (Korea Campus Crusade for Christ) changed me and my life. I can say that I have become much more mature and closer to an adult through prayer and God.
EV: Lastly, the Coming-of-Age Day is a day to endow responsibility and self-esteem as mature adults that will lead Korean society in the future. What kind of measures should be taken to establish an ideal Coming-of-Age culture for young adults your age?
Jung: Rather than depending on a certain date or line that makes us official adults, I think it is us that should take responsibility. We should rely on ourselves to determine what it means to be a mature adult when we come of age.
Ahn: As I said before, I think the school should organize a program for students to participate in. Then, we can avoid the meaningless culture of students going to drink after school to congratulate ourselves.
Lee: Above all, the most important part of being an independent adult is having a clearly identified vision of oneself. This should not be limited to what jobs one wishes to get later on, but focusing on the purpose of one's being as an individual in this world. Moreover, promoting Korean identity is very important. As the leaders of the next generation, the government should promote campaigns according to which the new adults are encouraged to form a clear identity, which includes the Korean one, on the Coming-of-Age Day.