I got up on a Sunday morning earlier than I usually do, to get a haircut with my friend in the Ewha University area. Usually I don’t go anywhere on Sundays, as I observe the Sabbath as much as I can. But the guy I was going with is a current Hongik University student, and I thought it’d be interesting to interview him and see if I could find out more about the school that made the area of Hongdae such a popular destination. Hongdae itself, is actually a Korean nickname for the full “Hongik Daehakgyo (Daehakgyo meaning University in Korean).” So many students just started shortening it to Hongdae. And therefore, the famous name was born. “Most people don’t even know that” Bum Joon said. “They think that Hongdae was the name of the area first, before the school.”

After I got my hair cut to a length that would actually be tolerable in this June summer heat, and Bum Joon got his standard Korean man perm, we sat down at the lush Paul Bassett Café right outside of Ewha University Station, to both beat the heat and find the ins and outs of being a Hongik Student.

*Korean culture is obsessed with anonymity when giving open and honest answers about something in the media. Saying the wrong thing, can go viral easily on Korea internet, and can mean getting fired from a job. So to protect his identity, we’ll refer to my friend in this article as Bum Joon.

How long have you been a student at Hongik?
Bum Joon: Five years. I’m finally going to graduate this August, so this is my last semester.

What is Hongik known for?
BJ:
It’s famous for its art school. It’s the No. 1 art school in South Korea, and is even more famous than Seoul University’s art program (Seoul University is the most prestigious university in South Korea).

About how much does it cost a Korean to be a student at Hongik?
BJ: We’re on the semester system, and for one semester it’s about 4,500,000 won (about $4,200). The price has been pretty high for awhile. College tuition is one of the top issues a President addresses when elected. So in the past year, it has gone down, but not by much.

How many students are there currently at Hongik?
BJ:
About 10,000 total.

Out of that infamous “Top Universities in Korea” list that everyone talks about so much, where does Hongik rank with Seoul University ranking No. 1, and Yonsei ranking No. 2?
BJ: Most people will say around No. 10.

Who is Hongik’s rival school?
BJ: We don’t really have an official rival, like how Yonsei and Korea University are. But if we did, it’d have to be Jungang University, which is a Mass Communications & Broadcasting university in Seoul.

How does Hongik’s campus compare in size to other universities?
BJ:
We’re normally bigger than other universities, but pretty small compared to top universities such as Yonsei and Ewha.

Are there any foreigners that study at Hongik? Where are most of them from?
BJ:
Yea. They come from all over. We have German students that come to major in Mechanical Engineering. And we also have a language school, so we have a lot of Chinese, Taiwanese, American, and Canadian students as well.


Student Life

What is the most popular major?
BJ:
Art and Architecture.

Do most Hongik students party and drink every night like many believe?
BJ:
Normally people think that every student at Hongik is a great dancer, singer, and drinker, but that’s just really because of the atmosphere of the area; not the school itself. When it comes to social life, we’re the same as other universities in Korea. Wait… maybe we actually do drink a bit more.

From what I’ve seen walking near Hongdae, it seems that every girl I see in the area is gorgeous. Does Hongik have a reputation for having the prettiest girls?
BJ
: You know, many people say our school has the prettiest girls, but that’s just because like you said, they see the ones walking around in Hongdae. But those aren’t always actually Hongik students. Most of them are tourists or students from other schools. But actually Sejeong University is famous for having the prettiest girls out of all the universities.

I see, but within Hongik, what major has the prettiest girls?
BJ:
Art and Education for sure. I don’t know why. But normally I think that artsy women just tend to be prettier. They take care of their appearance a lot more. As for the Education major….. I have no idea.

What is the most popular bar in the area for Hongik students?
BJ:
It depends on your major. Each major and club has their own bar or pub they go to. My major’s pub was called “16mm.” The owner knows most students in the corresponding major, and the leaders within each, so they’ll give those groups some “service” and other free stuff sometimes.

Is there a famous restaurant that Hongik students eat at the most?
BJ:
There’s two. For Korean food, it’s “Hyang Mi.” It’s near the Hongdae playground. The prices are really cheap, like 4,000-5,000 won for a full meal. They’re famous for their 제육볶음 (spicy pork). It’s really good. If you can spend more money, the other is Bono Pasto, an Italian restaurant, which has really good pizza and pasta.


Secrets

Does Hongik have any secrets?
BJ:
The president of our university is kind of under scrutiny. Our tuition is higher than most other universities in Seoul, but we don’t get enough benefits to justify the difference in cost. So there’s rumors that the administration is keeping it for their own benefit.

We also have a secret bar. The main gate is that huge building you see at the front of the campus, and it’s famous for being the biggest main gate in Asia. But anyways, at the top of the gate, there’s a sky lounge that has good food. But it’s kind of expensive.

Also there’s a rumor that the main gate was built on top of a huge rock that architects said would be dangerous to build on. But they built it anyways. So there are some architecture professors that refuse to go into that building because they think it’s too dangerous and might collapse.

Has there been any scandals at Hongik?
BJ:
Not many. There was a girl a few years ago that fell off the top of a building. A lot of people talked about it, and there were a couple different theories. Either she jumped off the top to commit suicide, or she slipped on something and fell off. A lot of people talked about it, and her friends said that she wasn’t the kind of girl to commit suicide, but no one knows really what happened.


Notoriety

Are there any famous graduates from Hongik?
BJ: Choi Soo Jung! He’s an actor. And Nancy Lang. She’s a body art performer. She was famous for having a cat doll on her left shoulder and showing off her body. She’s kind of crazy. She was in the news for getting naked in front of Buckingham Palace awhile ago.

Were there any movies or TV shows that were shot on campus?
BJ:
There’s no movies to my knowledge that have been filmed on our campus. But there’s been a lot of reality TV shows that have used our campus for their show. On the inside, our campus isn’t that pretty compared to other universities. But our outside area is famous (Hongdae), so a lot of TV shows film there.


Social Life

What is an MT?
BJ:
An MT is a celebration for new students. There’s two kinds of MT’s:  one is for all of the students within a certain major. The other is for students within a specific club, like the basketball club or photography club. It’s not just for freshman, it’s for students year-round. The hosts will be the older students, and the new students will be the guests. During a MT, it usually starts off with you introducing yourself, then after you drink, play drinking games, and just get to know each other. Most Hongik students go to Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi-do for their MTs. It’s about an hour to an hour and a half from Seoul.

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about scandals and accidents occurring during MTs. Everything from gang rape to students dying from drinking too much. Has Hongik had any MT scandals?
BJ: Not really. There was one time though, where a guy I knew didn’t use ‘Jondetmal’ (the polite way of speaking in Korean) to his senior. And the older guy fought the kid. But nobody has died…… at least not yet.

How are Hongik’s festivals?
BJ:
We have the No. 1 festival for universities in South Korea. We have night clubs in our festivals, and we also set up around 50 pubs to drink and eat at. Each major has their own pub. The Art major is the best, because they have tons of pretty girls dancing around almost naked. It’s great… if you’re a guy.

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Comments

  1. Melissa Khoo says:

    I’m curious to know what are the job options there are for foreigners (Asians) in Korea. Specifically in the area of accounting. Also, on a side note, it would be great if you could interview someone from Ewha Woman’s University, who is taking the Korean Language Program. Thanks.

  2. Dorcas Lum says:

    does hongdae teach in english if i were to take a full course there?