The Friendship Games: A Rivalry of Korea’s Best

Michelle JungCulture

When the leaves begin to change colors in Korea, most people head to the mountains for the spectacular view of nature indicating the transition into a new season. However, in the heart of Seoul, two of Korea’s most prestigious universities prepare for the Annual Yonsei-Korea University Friendship Games. The annual festivity is dubbed the Yon-Ko Jeon or Ko-Yeon Jeon depending on which university is hosting the games that year.

The rivalry between Yonsei and Korea University has existed for decades and is a topic of public interest outside of just the participating universities. The Friendship Games consist of five sports: baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and soccer. All of the sports allow free entry to all audiences with the exception of basketball and ice hockey, due to limited indoor seating.

Aside from the actual games, the highlight of the Friendship Games is the cheering led by the color guard of both universities. The energetic cheers are accompanied with songs rearranged to diss the other university. The crowd is encouraged to follow the choreography and based on certain distinct direction from the color guard, the audience will gather shoulder to shoulder and move together in unison. The cheers are never ending throughout the entire game. The athletes might leave for half time but the cheering only escalates. First time goers get so overwhelmed with the cheering that by the time they turn their attention to the actual game, they have already missed half the action. For outdoor games, fireworks with colored dust resembling each team’s school colors, identify which team has scored to indicate to the crowds the proceedings of the game without disturbing the cheering process.

The energy that radiates from the students is phenomenal. A popular variety show in Korea, Infinite Challenge, did a Cheering Squad project by dividing members into the Yonsei and Korea University color guards to join and lead cheers during the last day of the games. The members of the show were also amazed by the energy of the young students and their dedication to the event itself. The show shadows the color guard practice routines and you can also catch a glimpse of the energy poured out by the students in cheering for their schools through the broadcast.
The days leading up to the Friendship Games can be considered spirit week. A mass number of students can be seen sporting the letterman apparel of their schools. The areas surrounding the schools are decorated with banners encouraging the home school and dissing the rival school.


However, both universities stay true to the idea of the games being a “Friendship Game” because no matter the outcome, after the final game (soccer) all students gather in either Sinchon (Yonsei University) or Anam (Korea University) for celebratory drinks and mingling.