Game – University of Southern California

“’Paptong’ is literally translated from Korean into English as rice bucket. It is a… both the name of an object and uhh… game that every new member of USC Korean Student Association [KSA] plays as part of their initiation. It is set up by the upperclassmen as a rite of passage. And these ‘seniors,’ or older members, pour a large content of alcohol into a bowl. Then… uhh… they mix a variety of food into the bowl. And usually, the food is whatever is available at the time. Sometimes it has ramen [Asian instant noodles], kimchi [fermented lettuce], and spam. After the seniors are finished preparing the “paptong” [bowl with alcohol and food], they hand it over to the younger class and tell them to drink and finish everything in the bowl. Uhhh…there are usually a lot of underclassmen to initiate, but they tell the underclassmen to drink as much as they can for the group before passing it on to the next person anyways.”

Alicia participated in “paptong” during the winter retreat. The game only takes place during KSA retreats, usually held once during the fall and winter. During the retreat, the upperclassmen of the club initiate the game. Alicia said that they do not disclose the contents of what goes into the “paptong,” but it is generally understood that the mixture would not be pleasant and would include copious amounts of alcohol. All of the new members are expected to participate and she says that peer pressure plays a large part in the voluntary game. Although it would be acceptable for new members to opt out of the game, Alicia said that no one does because everyone understands that it is just a part of the tradition.

Alicia said that sometimes when other schools plan their retreats to coincide with USC’s retreat, the clubs come together to form a competition amongst the schools. The school that can finish the “paptong” the fastest wins. However, she claims that even in these cases the game is less of a competition than a form of bonding amongst the new members. The retreat is a time for new and old members to get to know one another, and the “paptong” serves as a medium to achieve that purpose.

I think that “paptong” is also a clear reflection of the respect shown to elders within Asian culture. It is widely known that the younger generation is not meant to challenge the older generation and should listen to them obediently. New members of KSA probably play this game primarily because of this reason. Since most members of KSA are of Asian descent, many of them have been taught at a young age to follow their elders, which can be exhibited in their behaviors in regards to this game.

Another possible reason is because the game is generally understood as a rite of passage. It is an initiation ceremony that transforms new members into senior members. “Paptong” is a tradition that has been held at every retreat, so members do not necessarily view the game negatively. This mentality is also very similar to fraternities and their hazing rituals. Despite not necessarily liking a task, pledges go through with them because they know that previous pledge classes have done it before them. It becomes a rite of passage that a new member must go through in order to feel part of the group. Especially during youth, the need to be accepted plays an enormous role in motivating actions and behavior.