Thursday, April 20, 2006

From wild drinking binges to reenactments of the Great Leap Forward

MT or Membership Training has come a long way, although it still seems no actual training takes place.

I have never been sure how to translate the konglish term, "Membership Training". Class Retreat? Orientation and welcome? I may be having problems due to my declining English skills (see April 19th post) or maybe it is a Korean activity that one should not translate, just as one normally doesn't translate food names. 'Samgyetang' is fine; one can add an English description but there is no need to change the name to 'Boiled whole stuffed chicken with ginseng'.

An article in the Times describes how MT is becoming less popular and also changing in focus. MT was a chance (and mostly still is) to drink without needing (or, with peer pressure, being able to) stop until every soju, makkoli, dongdongju, beer and cough medicine bottle was empty in a place far from home so someone else could clean up the resulting, reeking mess.

According to the article, some students are more eager to spend time in the library and prepare for an uncertain future. Only in Korea would that be considered noteworthy; university students studying rather than drinking. Well, that was true at my university, too; the main difference was of scale.

Other classes are going on MTs where the focus is volunteer work or training in other fields. One such group
... helped reconstruct farms badly ravaged by heavy snows last winter, ahead of the farming season. They stayed in abandoned elementary schools, which had been shut down, to reduce accommodation costs. They held a ``makkoli party,'' (makkoli is a Korean traditional unrefined rice wine), along with a pork barbeque which they shared with residents.

The students gave massages to the elderly and farmers, using what they learned from university, and held a basketball class for children living in the remote area. ``At first, students felt strange when they went on the volunteer trip in the region instead of their previous training which involved drinking binges,'' Kim Sang-chon, professor of the university, said.

Quoting another group:

``However, that kind of membership training is far from spiritual and academic training for freshmen. So we've decided to transform the membership training as a whole by inducing students to participate in the farmer's school,'' a school official said. Students are not allowed to consume alcohol nor enjoy ``karaoke,'' or dancing at the school. Their meal consisted mainly of vegetables harvested in the region without any meat. Under the theme of ``working, volunteerism and sacrifice'', students woke up at 5 a.m. and sang the Korean national anthem.

In the morning, they took a walk along a four-kilometer course and attended a lecture named ``successful careers.'' A 20-year-old student, identified as Kim, said that it was a great opportunity for him to understand the life and a spirit of farmers to harvest crops with their own sweat and labors.

Mao would be proud to see university students working in the fields. Alright, that's pretty sarcastic. I, too, would be happy to see students putting in a few days on farm work. I certainly wish I were available to help my father-in-law on his farm more often...well, a little more often; the right amount to make myself feel good without making myself too tired.

One final comment on students doing farm work: how does that affect FTAs? Is sending students to do free labor a kind of subsidy?

1 comment:

Nathan B. said...

I have to go to one of these things later this month, and am quite resentful of the extra hours of time I will give to the university in unpaid labor. That's time that I could spend with my very pregnant wife. On the other hand, I think she'd like me out of her hair!