K-pop ‘Coachella’ on campus? There’s a festival for that in Korean unis each year

Red Velvet at Korea University
South Korean girl group Red Velvet wowed a packed crowd at Korea University with their electric performance. Source: Jung Yeon-je/AFP

What would you do to have your favourite K-pop idols perform in your university? In South Korea, you don’t even have to try; they come to you in May each year. 

Social media was abuzz this past weekend with Red Velvet’s spellbinding performance at Korea University — and that’s after having other names like PSY and girl group Aespa taking the stage, among other guest stars, to wow a crowd of over 10,000 people.

As the closing act, Red Velvet had the audience wrapped around their fingers by the end of the night, thanks to their enthusiasm in rallying the school spirit. Students were near delirious seeing their beloved K-idols chanting the university’s cheering song together with its signature jingle.

“They had so much energy today, and the crowd was amazing,” wrote TikTok user @aliceindreamland. “My favourite session [was] when they [were] singing [the] university anthem.”


@aliceindreamland_ they had so much energy today 💫 and the crowd was amazing , my favorite session : when they’re singing university anthem (cmiiw) together with the audience #redvelvet #irene #seulgi #wendy #joy #yeri #koreanuniversityfestival ♬ original sound – rose’s🌹🌹

“Shaking that I saw PSY, holybang, sik-K, pH-1, Jay Park, Heize, G-Idle and Red Velvet for $10,” wrote user @oudthehud, an international student at Korea University.

@outthehud shaking that i saw PSY, holybang, sik-K, pH-1, Jay Park, Heize, G-Idle and Red Velvet for $10 #koreauniversity #ipselenti #psy #thatthat #studyabroad ♬ flashing lights – jaz

Needless to say, the “Hallyu” (“Korean wave”) fever is alive and well after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A “Daedongjae” tradition: K-pop in Korea University and other campuses

Studying abroad in South Korea is a major draw for many international students to live out their K-drama dreams. If you’re a Hallyu lover, why admire from afar when you can bask in its culture and pick up the language along the way? 

Then there’s the bragging rights you get for what is arguably the world’s coolest campus summer tradition: the university festival, or known as “Daedongjae”, which takes campus concerts to a whole new level. Picture Blackpink doing a world tour in a sold-out arena — that’s what you’re treated to at the end of your term examinations each year as a university student in Hallyu dreamland. 

According to Kookmin University’s website, the term “Daedongjae” means coming together in unity, an apt name for an event that unites all students. The timing of the festival, which typically occurs on the week of May 18 in many campuses, carries a significant history — it is believed that Daedongjae traces its origins back to the student democratisation movement in the 1980s, an uprising that was centred in the city of Gwangju against a then-authoritarian government. 

Although the festival isn’t exactly a commemoration, it does foster a sense of camaraderie and togetherness across South Korean campuses. After all, is there a better way to let your hair down and celebrate the end of your exams than riding the Hallyu wave in real time? 

If you missed all the action this year, here’s a quick recap of some memorable Daedongjae acts this past month:

Korea University

Aside from the Red Velvet craze, the university’s lineup for this year’s festival included other household names such as PSY and Aespa. The stadium was filled with endless chants and shrieks from eager fans as the night went on, such as during Aespa’s hit song “Black Mamba” and PSY’s new track “That That”.

Of course, it was “Gangnam Style” that got the crowd going wild on their feet:

Sungkyunkwan University 

The private university’s festival is named “Eskara”, and had its concert earlier in the month, making it one of the first campus festivals to re-emerge in the post-pandemic period. Headlined by PSY, the roster also included boy band WINNER and girl group STAYC.

University of Suwon 

The university’s 39th “Cheonma” two-day festival kicked off just yesterday, with singer-songwriter Dvwn and Korean-American rapper Jessi taking the stage. Rapper pH-1 and Zico are expected to cap off the event on the evening of May 31.