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Folk Games

Ssirum (Korean Wrestling)

Ssirum is a game in which two stooping contestants hold each other’s thigh band and strive to throw the opponent to the ground.

The remains portraying the lifelike scene of ssirum are the mural paintings of the Ssirum Tomb (in the late 4th century) and the Changchuan Tomb No. 1 (in the mid-5th century) in Jian, Jilin Province, China. Both of them are Koguryo’s tombs. They show that Korean ssirum has a long history.

Ssirum has been regarded as a must on Chusok (the 15th day of the eighth month by the lunar calendar), a Korean folk festival.

The champion in ssirum contest received a bull as a prize and would ride home the bull decorated with flowers.
Even now the Grand Bull Prize National Ssirum Contest takes place every year on the picturesque Rungna Island in Pyongyang to mark Chusok.

Tug of War

Tug of war, a team play, has a long tradition. In the bygone days, it usually took place on the 15th day of the first month by the lunar calendar and Chusok, and it has now developed into a sport of team play that can be held in any place and at any time.

The time-honored game of the Korean nation has now become a nationwide folk game that demonstrates the might of unity and helps build up physical strength and endurance.


Swinging is a contest in which a person standing on a board held by two ropes hanging from a certain height tries to swing as high as possible, moving back and forward. Swinging includes single and double swingings.

In the contest the swinger who kicks the bell hung high is the winner, or in other case, a calibrated line fastened to the swinging board can be used to measure the height it reaches for each swinger. One who swings the highest is the winner.

Janggi (Korean Chess), Paduk (Go), Yut and Konu Games

Janggi (Korean chess), though simple in composition, has so many varied moves that the more you play, the more interesting it gets. As a Korean saying goes that the weak has the first move, the ethics in the Korean chess has it that the inferior takes the first move, and the older player takes the red chessmen and the younger the blue.

Paduk (go) is an interesting game associated with the ancestors’ simple outlook on the universe that the sky is round and the land is square. It was widely propagated in the period of the Three Kingdoms (Koguryo, Paekje and Silla) as well as in the ancient times.
As it was one of the intellectual games that drew interest from not only the public but also the government, the book that explains the tactics was even published in the period of the feudal Jason dynasty. The playing method is that the two players alternately put a stone at an intersection on the board to encircle each other’s stones, and the number of stone captives in the captured territory is decisive of the winner.

Yut game is one of women’s games in which they compete by moving markers on a board according to the patterns in which four sticks thrown in the air fall. In the old days it was played around New Year’s Day, but now it has become one of popular games that everybody enjoys regardless of time and place, season and gender. The four sticks form five patterns when they fall on the dice board: When three of them fall on the obverse side and one on the reverse side, this is called to, worth one point. When two of them fall on the obverse side with the other two on the reverse side, it is kae, worth two points. When one falls on the obverse side with the other three on the reverse side, it is called kol, worth three points. When all of the four sticks fall on the obverse side, it is called yut or ssyung, worth four points. When all of the four sticks fall on the reverse side, it is called mo, worth five points, the top points. The board has 29 positions in all which are said to represent constellations.

The winner is the one who scores more yut and completes more rounds along the course of the board. How to drop sticks for desired marks is essential, but the tactical move of the stone is also important.

Konu game is also played by moving stones.

Children’s games include kite-flying, rope skipping, top spinning, etc.

Peasants’ Dancing and Singing

Peasants’ dancing and singing is one of the traditional folk events. There are peasant dance, mask dance and kanggangsuwollae (a Korean circle dance usually played by girls under the bright full moon), etc.

Peasants’ dancing and singing is a folk play associated with farming, in which several people in traditional attire dance merrily, while singing.

It took place before and after a day’s work and at breaks, mostly during the seasons of rice-seedling transplanting and weeding. It was also performed on holidays and ceremonies, between labour and as a pastime.

It includes men’s dance of turning round decorative tassels, and dance of persons wearing masks of different faces, among which the Pongsan Mask Dance has long been a renowned folk event.

Major Holidays

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