▲ A member is pulling a string. Photographed by Lee Hye Jin.
What do you think is one of the oldest sports in Korea? Some say taekwondo, and some say archery. The Korean archery teams are very strong on the world stage, which makes Koreans feel proud. Archery is traditional Korean skill which has been practiced for centuries. Korea University (KU) can boast of two archery clubs. One of them, Han-Ryang-Hoe, the Korea University Korean Traditional Archery (KUKTA) in English, works to represent the national spirit of KU.
Gukgung, Korean traditional archery, may be unfamiliar to many people. Gukgung differs from most types of archery in that the position where the arrow is placed on the bow is different and the arrow tips are blunt. To succeed in shooting the arrow a distance of 145 meters, a gukgung archer needs several months of training. While it is not always easy to learn, gukgung has its attractions. A player pulls string of a bow entirely by his own power, and aims at a mark by his own sense and experience. Therefore, during the sports, player can focus and reflect on oneself.
In July 2014, KUKTA was started by a small group of congenial students who gathered at a university community website. The students, who had already been trained in archery, did not have a place to practice and, therefore, started a gukgung club. The purpose of the club is to make gukgung more accessible to young people and enable them to experience gukgung.
Former president of KUKTA, Kim Won-sang (’12, Graduate School of Energy and Environment) said, “Although Koreans are famous for archery, students have few chances to experience it. Most students do not even know of a place to learn archery. Even if they do know, it is very difficult to follow the training courses provided due to busy school life and studying.”
▲ Kim Won-sang is concentrating on himself. Photographed by Lee Hye Jin.
The founding members built an archery field at KU in order to make the sport accessible to students. This year, the club has more than 40 members. Seven are foreign students, so members can learn a variety of cultures and languages from people of different countries. Moreover, the foreign students are very active and take full part in the club’s activities. They also introduce KUKTA to other foreign students, and this helps Korean traditional archery gain a global following.
Kim Jin-seung (’13, Chemical and Biological Engineering), current president of KUKTA, said that one of the advantages of the club is its full autonomy. The club respects the personal life of the members. For example, its practice schedule does not push members too hard so that club activities can be enjoyed. Joining or withdrawing from the club and participating its activities all depend on personal choice. For these reasons, the members who have the pure passion for archery can enjoy the club.
Having autonomy does not mean that the club is unorganized. KUKTA meets on weekdays as well as on weekends. Weekday meetings are held at 5:00 P.M. at the archery field in front of Inchon Memorial Hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Weekend meetings are held at Sukhojung in Namsan at 2:00 P.M. During vacations, there is no set schedule.
Students who have never practiced gukgung do not need to worry. Choi Ju Hae, a gukgung master in Sukhojung, coaches from the basic stages, such as how to pose and how to stand and hold the bow. The club’s senior members also teach and explain gukgung. Such systematic training is paying off. Currently, five KUKTA archers achieved the goal of shooting the target that was 145 meters away. Four of the five managed to do it just this year. In April, KUKTA won three prizes in the Korea Military Academy’s National University Gukgung League and won first prize at the Seoul University Gukgung Interchange Competition.
Kim feels great about being president of KUKTA when the members work hard at practices and their skills improve. Recalling one memorable incident with the club, Kim said, “When we participated in competitions, not only did our club put on a good show, but we also enjoyed the preparation process and grew closer to each other.” He said that through participating the competitions, he had made a lot of good memories and felt really great about the outcome of their hard practice.
KUKTA interacts with many other universities, including Seoul National University (SNU), the Korea Military Academy (KMA), and Chung Ang University (CAU). Most of these gukgung clubs also have been recently established. At interchange events, the club members can exchange ideas about Korean traditional archery and promote friendship.
Kim said there are many valuable things achieved through the activities in the club. “Gukgung has noticeable aspects of training our minds such as courtesy, manners, a spiritual culture. However, the atmosphere of our club itself is neither heavy nor stuffy.” He also added that the advantage of the KUKTA is that members can meet with various people who are interested in gukgung and their meetings are friendly like those of a family.
▲ “The club respect the members of it,” said Kim. Photographed by Lee Hye Jin.
As a club in Min-jokGodae, KUKTA is a valuable club in that they try to promote national spirit. KUKTA can be well suited to a person who is interested in the traditional Korean archery. In this respect, Han-Ryang-Hoe provides the perfect condition in supporting students to have such valuable experience. Do you want a valuable and unique experience? Knock the door. Han-Ryang-Hoe will be welcoming you.
KUKTA constantly recruits new members. There are no tests or interviews; just contact the president. Since the club was established last year, there have been no required events. Rather, it encourages active, voluntary involvement.
Period of recruitment: anytime
Requirements for joining KUKTA: all students and all ages are welcomed
Contact Information: Kim Jin-seong (010-4452-3912)
▲ A member teaching the reporter how to hold the bow. Photographed by Lee Hye Jin.