SKT Speaks: How & Why He Changed the HAFS Festival

Youngbean Kim  ‘18 , Naeun Lee ‘19

This year’s HAFS Festival that took place on May 25 has been interesting indeed. The juniors and the seniors would know how drastic the changes were: Newly stylized “Participatory Booths” such as Noise Karaoke were run by performance clubs. Fashion Show and singing competition among teachers were introduced.  And there were  no plays whatsoever. Examining the HAFS Confession Page’s posts up to the date of festival, it seems as though many students expected it to flop. Then came the mixture of positive and negative feedback right after the festival, which shows that it wasn’t as bad as students expected (with some saying it was rather enjoyable).

  There was one person that was most mentioned during these times; the person who was in charge of a big part of the festival. It is Mr. Song Ki Taek, one of the most widely known HAFS teachers due to his frequent appearances during GAs as the head of Student Life Affairs. It was him who has planned most of this year’s festival and gave its briefing to the students.

Though most students have heard that the new booths were designed to bring out more  participation from the audience, no one really knew the reasons behind the sudden changes.

And that is why HAFS Harbinger gathered up the most asked questions from students and brought them to Mr.Song for an interview on May 30.

Q: Could you tell the readers a bit about yourself?

A: I’ve been teaching since 2001, and have been in HAFS since the very beginning. During the years when I wasn’t in charge of a homeroom, I volunteered to stay in Student Life Affairs because I wanted to support the Student Council. It was only last year that I became the head teacher of the department.

Q: What prompted you to bring such drastic changes in this year’s festival?

A: The four main themes for this year’s festival were “Agora, Communication, Participation and Us.” And it seemed better for the students to enjoy and experience new things through participation-oriented booths instead of just watching performances like they used to do in previous festivals. Naturally, there were no musicals nor plays since those it is hard for such clubs to involve active participation of the audience. Additionally, it was always a mystery to me why every type of performance had to take place together in the same day. Clubs were pressured from the lack of time, and the audience weren’t able to see everything thewanted to. I thought it would be better to separate those events, and even changed the names of different festivals (“체육제,” “축제,” “연극제”) to imply the separation.

Q: Through which procedure did you decide to? What exactly happened?

A: Though it wasn’t my original plan, I took on most of the responsibilities for planning this year because the Student Council found the new suggestions for change burdensome. I wanted to show the new theme clearly, and to let students know that there’s an alternate way to run the festival. And as I planned, I felt that many clubs were overly self-centered. They argue that they have to do an event just because they had done it the previous year. All the clubs ask for their performances to be the highlight of the festival. That’s not the spirit I’m happy about.

Q: There were some students who missed the food booth organized by parents. Why weren’t there any of them for this year’s festival?

A: I have to make sure that this issue is actually related to the legal restrictions. I also am aware of the popularity of the “mother booths,” but it couldn’t take part of the festival from this year as it was considered as illegal donation. According to the law, it is now illegal for parents to collect money for school-related events. For the same reason, school-made notebooks are also not available to the students. I feel sorry for the students who are disappointed with the change, but I would want to say to see this situation in the positive point of view, as it might provide more chance to the students to build up and organize their booth on their own.

Q: Some students showed disappointment on not being able to watch plays. Could you tell us about the specific plans on the play performances?

A: One of my major concerns on original form of the festival was the lack of interaction. Only few students were able to perform as the members of certain performance clubs, and the others did not have any other choice but to be an audience. I believed that this one-way interaction of the festival caused students to feel bored and go up to their dormitories during the “Night of Passion.”  For this reason, a few performance clubs which applied for their booths had some kind of interaction-based programs, such as karaoke or rap competition. There weren’t any clubs who wanted to do plays during the booth period, and I understand the difficulties for those clubs to simultaneously perform plays and employ the interactive program with audience. So, what I have thought for the solution was to set certain months as “the month of Outburst,” or “the month of Scene.” With original “Drama Night” maintained, if this “month of the club” system is launched, each club will be able to gain additional chance to perform in front of the audience. But just in case: this is just my suggestion, and nothing is finalized yet.

Q: Could you give us the overall assessment on 2017 HAFS Festival as a whole?

A: I actually feel guilty to make a lot of changes on my own. (As I mentioned before, I had a vision of the festival, and I tried to persuade the student council to follow my path. However, as many of the members showed reluctance to accept my suggestion, and as I deeply wanted to fix the original shortcomings within the festival, the only choice left for me was to carry it independently.) I recognized some oppositions, some weak and some strong, to the plans that I had made. However, I am glad that many of those people changed their opinion after the festival. I heard from fellow teachers that “this festival was the best one that I have ever seen in HAFS,” and I even got a touching text message from an anonymous student praising the programs of the festival. I am truly content to hear a lot of kind words and encouragements from people in HAFS.

Q: Could you tell us the plans on the next year’s festival? Would it be similar to the festival this year?

A: To be honest, there aren’t yet anything that I can confidently tell you as a “plan.” However, I believe that it would be much easier for me to work with students when organizing the festival, as they also might have changed their minds after attending the festival this year. I initiated the change, hoping that other students might be able to feel the need to abandon the old and to move onto the new, more developed system. If they felt some kind of thrill from the new programs that I organized, I might be content to cooperate with them next year and make up more novel programs that can fascinate the students. I still heard some complains about how it is hard for students to participate in the festival in May; if I hear more suggestions to move the date of the festival, maybe I might change it again to July.

Q: Our last question: are you aware that you are sometimes referred to as “Big Brother”? What do you think about this nickname?

A: I was quite shocked to hear that. Some said that I referred to myself as a “Big Brother” from the novel “1984,” but that is not true; I assume that this rumor is formed based on some kind of misunderstandings between me and other students. I was talking about the CCTVs at that time, and the only reason why I used the phrase “Big Brother” was to allude to the characteristics of Big Brother in the novel while explaining the omnipresent CCTVs in the school. My stance is that I, in fact, hate to become a “Big Brother”-like person.



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