South Korea’s pop-up campus bars face ouster during festival season
Students are calling for public discussions, insisting unlicensed pop-up bars selling alcohol during the festive season is a long-running tradition
By Jung Da-min
Pop-up bars run by students on university campuses during festivals in South Korea are about to fade.
The country’ Ministry of Education sent an official document to universities to ban unlicensed bars set up and run by students on campus.
This comes at the National Tax Service’s request after it received a report about an unlicensed bar at a local university during last year’s festival season.
Local university student councils in Seoul and the provinces have been quick to announce their suspension of their plans to run such bars during their festivals.
The festivals are typically held in May. Students celebrate at them and had been allowed to sell Korean rice wine and beer during the gatherings.
Many students have expressed disappointment, saying one of their campus traditions is fading away.
“University festivals without such bars is like nothing,” said a recent graduate of Yonsei University.
“I would feel so sad if they only sold pajeon (Korean pancakes), without makgeolli (rice wine) and beer.”
Kwon Song-yee, who graduated from Kyungpook National University, also said she would be sad to see the bars disappear once and for all.
“My university is the only one located in downtown Daegu. Its festivals are the same as other local celebrations,” said Kwon.
“Graduates and undergraduates gather to eat, drink and enjoy themselves.”
The practice of students running pop-up beer stands has stirred controversy over the years as they had been selling alcohol without any official license.
But universities and authorities had looked the other way as it had long been considered a campus tradition during the May university festival season.
Some say the government should have public discussions with universities and students on the issue before it unilaterally enforces the ban.
“Campus pop-up bars are part of our university culture,” said An Jeong-ki of Kunkook University.
“Rather than the government getting rid of them altogether, it would be better to have public discussions.”
Others, however, said banning the on-campus bars is legally the right step.
“We should not have to tolerate illegal practices,” said Kim Song-kyung of Yonsei University.
Jeong Woo-young of Seoul National University said students had been running them very poorly.
“They do not properly clean up the garbage and the makgeolli spilled on the ground,” Jeong said.
“The campus smells bad throughout the festival season.”