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"Graduation for Who"

  On the 17th of February, a big banner congratulating graduates was posted on the front gate of Dongguk University (DU). It was a good day for florists who had displayed flowers near the gate and inside the school. The campus was like an amusement park with people everywhere and street vendors selling character helium balloons and snacks. 
  In the main hall of DU, the graduation ceremony started when the president of DU walked along the red carpet, but no one paid attention. Instead, they took pictures with friends and talked on their cell phones. Together with several thousand students a movie star Kim So-yeon was graduating and was honored with the excellence PR award. She was being interviewed by dozens of TV and news reporters while the president gave his graduation speech. The ceremony got worse when graduates' families and reporters went up to the platform to take pictures.
  Because I was sitting in front of the movie star, my university motor board fell on the floor several times due to the aggressive entertainment reporters. Those who got awards or diplomas immediately left the auditorium. When it was my turn to receive my award, more than half of the audience was left and it was so noisy. I am not sure how the ceremony ended because I also left the hall with my family right after I got my award. Can you imagine this ceremony? I think it was more like a wholesale market.
  I couldn't attend my department graduation because I was one of receivers of the president's award, but I heard that not many attended the graduation due to their unemployment. I kept asking myself, "What is the objective of the ceremony and who are to be congratulated?"
  Japanese graduations invite only students and parents to the ceremony and hold thank-you parties for  teachers afterwards. They regard graduation as a new start for students and as appreciation for the teachers. In the Chosen era, parents gave noodles and Songpyeon, steamy rice cake on a layer of pine needles, to teachers as a token of appreciation. This is why Songpyeon is a symbol of the knowledge teachers gave to students.
  What was the meaning of the Dongguk University graduation? Was it appreciation for our teachers? Or was it a ceremony for the students who are ready to start their new life? Personally, I think it was more like a press conference for the movie star and a very formal PR event for the school.

By Yoon Ji-won  ryeong@dongguk.edu

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