“If you define Baduk in one word, it is a fight in which the person with more houses wins. So, from the end to the middle, you have to build your own house well and gradually tighten it while destroying other people’s houses. Fiercely in silence.” (In the Netflix drama ‘Glory’)
There is a sport (or game) that has once again received attention due to the global hit of the drama ‘Glory’. It is Go. In the work, baduk was a meaningful device symbolizing the revenge of the main character, Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo). According to an online shopping mall, sales of Go-related products increased by 134% after the airing of Glory compared to last year.
However, this kind of popularity is highly likely to stop at ‘sparkling bubbles’. In fact, Baduk has been evaluated as constantly facing a crisis. The reality is that even those common origins are now hard to find. In particular, last year was a year when the baduk world was seriously agitated. This is because Myongji University, which opened the world’s first baduk department in 1997, announced that it would be closed. Opposition voices are coming from inside and outside the baduk world at home and abroad, but at this rate, the department of baduk will not accept new students from next year.
Let’s postpone the judgment for a moment whether the abolition of baduk school is right or not. Either way, each can have their own circumstances. However, in the midst of the grand discussion of the ‘crisis of baduk’, I feel that something most important is missing. The students who are currently attending the baduk department are the voices of the people concerned. Young people who fell in love with black stone and white stone since childhood and chose Go as their major. How did they feel when they were notified that the department they belonged to had disappeared? I met Koh Young-hoon (25), a ’17 return student’ of the baduk department at Myongji University, and listened to his thoughts.
- Please introduce yourself first.
“hello. My name is Go Young-hoon, Department of Baduk University, Myongji University. He entered the school in 2017, went to the military in October 2018, and returned to school in the first semester of 2021. Last year he served as student body president for one year. He is originally going to be in 4th grade this year, but he is currently taking a leave of absence because he has something else to prepare for.”
-This is a university student-like introduction. When did baduk start?
“It started when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was in the early 2000s, and back then, teaching baduk to distracted children seemed natural. My parents said that I was very fussy and couldn’t sit properly anywhere. I sent him to an academy with his younger brother to help him improve his concentration. My older brother quit after two or three years, but I have continued until now.”
- That’s when his talent was revealed.
“Ew, it’s nothing compared to the real equipment. Professional players started when they were four or five years old, so it was late, and it was just a small neighborhood academy in Gwangju. When I was in the 5th grade of elementary school, I moved to an advanced academy, and I already felt a bit of a ‘wall’ at that time. There were a lot of friends who were younger than me but much more capable. But strangely, rather than being discouraged, I found Go to be more fun. I guess it’s kind of like a sense of challenge. After he went to middle school, he began to seriously consider his career path, but he wanted to continue playing Go. Although it is difficult to become a professional player, he thought that he would like to engage in something related to Go.” 스포츠토토
-What was your parents’ reaction ? It’s not an easy choice.
“Thankfully, you respected my will. My parents knew that realistically it would be difficult to become a professional player, but they encouraged me to do something I wanted to do. So from then on, I prepared for Myongji University’s baduk department. But luckily, when I was in my 3rd year of middle school, I heard the news that a Korean baduk high school would be opened in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. I am a second graduate, and the competition is fierce now, but at the time it was new, so admission was not too difficult. It was a school that even had a dormitory, so it was a good condition to focus on and build Go skills.”
-What is the curriculum of baduk high school?
“Haha, people seem to be curious about that the most. He asked me if I played Go all day. Just like other schools, I learn all the regular subjects, such as Kuk Young Soo. However, 10 hours of baduk per week is included in regular classes. In our free time, we play Go, play soccer, and each of us do what we want to do. Instead, there is a ‘league match’ on campus. Students play Go, and their grades are ranked from Group 1 to Group 6. It’s a school whose main purpose is Go, so Go skills are important.”
- What army did Younghoon mainly belong to?
“I went in and out of the 1st and 2nd divisions. Due to the nature of Go, it is almost rare for a friend from the 4th or 5th group to go to the 1st or 2nd group. Skills don’t suddenly increase like that, and it’s very difficult to climb up because the more advanced players work harder. However, when new students come in, the grades fluctuate once. Even if they are young juniors, if a new strong player appears, seniors are inevitably pushed out.”
-The drama ‘Glory’ is a hot topic these days. Baduk high school must be far from bullying.
“Anyway, since it is a Go specialized school, there are aspects like that. It is a place where students who play Go the best are most recognized. People who play Go usually have calm personalities. As far as I know, there was no serious violence or bullying. However, at our school, students from all over the country, including Seoul, come together and live in a dormitory. It’s not like it’s noisy because there are energetic children. But overall, I think everyone got along well.”
-Is it easy to go to baduk major after graduating from baduk high school?
“Not at all. It’s not like it’s a baduk high school, so it doesn’t have any additional points, but the competition is fierce because it applies from all over the country, including research students from each region. At that time, the competition rate for admission was about 3 to 1. Besides, baduk major aspirants have no alternative other than here. You can’t go to another department out of the blue just because you failed in baduk major. So, just in case, I prepared for the physical education entrance exam together when I was in my senior year of high school.”
- It would have been really difficult if I had also prepared for physical education.
“Fortunately, a busy life suited me well. In fact, when I was only preparing for baduk, there were times when I had a lot of worries and frustration. However, since I also went to an academy for physical education, I felt proud of myself even though time was tight. It was good because it felt like I was training myself to live diligently by dividing each day into 1 minute and 1 second. So even though I was notified that I had passed the baduk department while attending a physical education academy, I continued to attend until the end.”
- You’ve already passed, so why do you keep going to the academy?
“uh… , If I quit in the middle just because I passed, I might ruin the atmosphere. I feel sorry for the friends who prepared hard together. If someone slips away, your concentration may be disturbed. Later, I told a few people close to me, but I didn’t bring it up at all at the academy. For me, it was not a bad choice because I could train my stamina and gain new experiences.”
- You must have a very strong sense of responsibility.
“I’m the type of person who doesn’t avoid a given task. But more than that, I didn’t want to live as a single player because I was buried only in Go. When you say baduk player, there is such an image for some reason. Of course, it wouldn’t be too bad if I went out as a pro because my skills were good. However, because I wanted to be active in various fields through Go, I tried hard to experience anything. Even after coming to college, I participated in a lot here and there. Of course, since it’s a baduk department, there are not a few friends who only focus on baduk, but this style suited me well.”
-After serving in the military, becoming the student council president is of that nature.Is it an extension line?
“First of all, the senior student president at the time recommended that I go to the election. Originally, after being discharged from the military, I studied hard for the TOEFL with the goal of becoming an exchange student, and I was also learning things like coding and filming. However, she received a proposal to become the student body president and create a foundation for students to engage in various activities in the department. For me, I thought, ‘Then let’s try it’, thinking that the baduk department could create an opportunity to improve and grow one step further. But while I was president of the student council, I never imagined that such a huge incident would happen (a baduk department and abolition of the department).”
-It must have been harder because he was the student president.
“It was a big shock. I was trying to help create a better educational environment for students, but suddenly the department disappeared… It was a lightning strike in a really dry sky. If I had sensed something, I would have prepared for it, but it was really sudden. As you know, our department is a bit special. It is also unique in the world. It’s like a cradle for nurturing talent in the Korean baduk world, but at first I couldn’t believe that this could actually happen. I even felt like something I had built up my whole life was being destroyed by someone else.”