As students prepare for college, many note the importance of extracurricular activities to make themselves look “special” and “unique” to the admissions offices. While there are literally thousands of different activities that one may want to pursue, a handful of students in South Korea choose debate as one of their primary extracurriculars. The thrill of congregating in mass with hundreds of avid debaters, allocated to certain rooms against rival teams, and screaming for an hour is a seemingly unorthodox yet very popular hobby for many. Today, we will be looking at all the major competitions that a debater may want to compete in.


First and foremost, the biggest competition in South Korea is the annual YTN HUFS debate competition. While freshman debaters are eligible to compete in the Middle School division, sophomores, juniors, and seniors must compete in the High School bracket. In 2017, around 100 teams competed from 4 different countries to win the grand prize of 2000 USD and a live interview on the YTN news channel. The YTN HUFS debate competition is held in August, and winners of the competition are normally acclaimed as one of the best debaters in South Korea. A couple important things to note is that YTN HUFS uses the traditional Asian Parliamentary debating style(a 3v3 debating format) including whip speakers. They have five preliminary rounds, normally used to determine the “breaking” position of the lucky 32 teams that compete in the elimination rounds during the second day. A team with 3 wins will be able to break in the high school division, but the freshman competing in the Middle School Division will need 4 wins and high individual speaker points in order to advance.

2. Gwangju Metropolitan Debate Competition

Another big competition, although currently shrinking in size, is the annual competition held in Gwangju. This tournament, although significantly smaller, is still relatively competitive in the break rounds due to many strong debaters from the YTN HUFS competition usually competing in this tournament as well. Unlike YTN, GMDC allows teams to break from the octo finals. The tournament entrance is free, and the winners of the tournament receive the “Gwangju Mayor Special Award,” while the runner ups receive the “U.S Ambassador Award.”

3. Mekyung Economics Debate Competition

The third biggest domestic competition is the Mekyung Economics Debate Competition. This tournament, contrary to its name, does not require any econ knowledge in order to compete. The debate tournament is run by the news group Meil Kyungjae. MKEDC allows its team to break from Octos as well. The competition is normally held in Sugang University, although the locations are subject to change based on tournament conflicts.
It is important to note that while the tournaments above are highly competitive Korean tournaments, they are all domestic. Two other international tournaments that students may be interested in are NSDA and WSDC.


NSDA, also known as the National Speech and Debate Competition, is held by the United States NSDA group. While debaters in America must go through the lengthy process of passing through the local and state competitions in order to reach nationals, students from South Korea only need to compete in one tournament, NSDA Korea, to reach the US Nationals. This tournament, unlike the previously mentioned ones, utilizes prepared 2v2 and 1v1 rounds known as Public Forum and Lincoln Douglas. Participants are allowed to enter one of the two types of formats. After five preliminary rounds are held, the adjudication core will either select four teams to compete in the elimination rounds starting from the semi-finals or pick a winner based on the results of the preliminary rounds. The winners of the 2018 South Korean NSDA competitions will represent South Korea to compete in Florida this summer.

5.World Schools Debate Competition Team Korea

Last, but not least, is the World Schools Debate Competition Team Korea. As long as the applicant of Team Korea has a Korean passport or studies in a Korean high school, he or she is eligible to be part of the team. The process of Team Korea is unlike others; it does not utilize a competition to pick its members. To join Team Korea, applicants must submit an official registration from their high school with their top 10 best results from debate-related competitions. The resume that the student sends can include a variety of different awards from MUN to Mock Trial to Speech competitions in order to show their potential proficiency in debate. After all schools have sent their applications, the World Schools Team Korea coaches will pick the top 24 best students. The selected students will, in front a camera, debate amongst one another in an intense round. The applicant’s teammates, opponents, and speaker positions will be completely randomized to maximize fair competition among each other. After all 24 students have spoken and been recorded, the videos will be sent to the official KFL (Korean Forensics League) liaisons for review. On that day, 12 of the 24 students will be cut. After the remaining 12 have been chosen, these students will be forced to meet every Sunday to spar among one another and show off their skills to the coaches. For three months the students will be evaluated by the coaches. After about three months of the pool debating session, the official KFL liaisons will come and watch the students in a “try out debate.” After making their evaluation, they will take into consideration the coach’s recommendation and select the final five that will represent Team Korea to compete against the best among 50 other nations’ World Schools Team. While the selection process begins around September, the teams will be competing next August, meaning that applicants must show substantial commitment to the team.

Ultimately, South Korea has a variety of different awards and competitions to their debaters. While the achievement of the competitors may be to gain invaluable experience or outstanding awards, the premise is clear: to reach the top of these competitive competitions will require hard work and attitude, something that people should consider before committing.