It has been 27 years since the abolition of the May Queen Pageant and still, to many, it is remembered as one of the most memorable and symbolic traditions of Ewha. But it is doubtful that Ewhaians nowadays know much about the history of this 70 year long event and the specific reasons for its ending.
Under the theme of "Truth, Goodness, and Beauty," the first May Queen, Mrs. Mary Scranton was crowned in 1908. Until 1925, it was mostly professors, both Korean and foreign, who won the position of May Queen. Then in 1927, following Dr. Helen Kim, who became May Queen as a senior student, the pageant was made a student-oriented event.
The standard for choosing the May Queen then shifted to physical beauty as suggested by the Japanese in 1933. However, this qualification did not last for long after Ewha as well as the whole of Korea experienced liberation in 1945 and, soon after the Korean War. In the aftermath of the chaos, the pageant continued to take place, only Ewhaians wanted a May Queen who could represent Ewha not only in terms of physical beauty but also intelligence. Thus, nominated runners had to have GPA scores over 3.0 in addition to having good manners, and a well-proportioned figure and being Christian. For another 20 years the May Queen pageant experienced no trouble.
From what we hear now, rumors are that the last May Queen pageant was terrorized by Korea University students. Although it is true that Korea University students riot during Ewha? festival became the cause for the ban of male student entrance in the campus, this was not until the 1990s.
The actual reason for its abolition is that, progressing into the 1960s and 70s, the opposition of students who believed that the May Queen pageant was degrading to women reached a peak.
According to results of the Faculty Council's vote in 1978, out of 4,983 students, 62.29 percent of the student body, who participated in the vote, 51.35 percent were against the May Queen program. This included 32.31 percent of the freshmen, 43.99 percent of the sophomores, and 73.34 percent of the seniors. The acknowledged problems were identified as the excessive response of the media to Ewha's selection of the May Queen, the standardization of female beauty, the evaluation and commercialization of an individual, and crucially, the lack of student participation.
Thus, with Cha Moon-jung (78, Liberal Arts) as the last May Queen, the pageant was held for the last time in 1977. Though the pageant had to end due to opposition, this opposition was intended to mark a new beginning of the festival tradition: The May Festival, the festival Ewhaians now hold today. Now, instead of the selection of a single representative of Ewha, the participation and unification of Ewhaians as a whole have become the main goals of the May Festival at Ewha.