Game – Korea

My informant is a Korean-American boy who has lived in California all of his life. He taught me this folk game that originated in Korea, called “ssireum.” Ssireum is basically Korean-style wrestling.

In the game, each contestant must wear a belt that wraps around both the waist and the thigh. This game is a very large part of Korean culture, and tournaments are often held in the summer and in the autumn. When this game was played in the past, the winner would be awarded a bull to take home to represent his strength. This game is played in a ring that is covered with sand. The two competitors grasp the belt and they both pull and yank on it until one person touches the ground with anything below his torso. The person who touches the ground first loses.

My informant tells me that this game is often played in a light-hearted way among boys. There used to be a large competition that had professional ssireum players. However, the tradition is dying because Korea is becoming more Westernized. Now, only one real team is left in Korea, and even this team has very little action during the year.

My informant says that this game is a good way for boys to bond, because showing strength is very important for Korean men. This game shows others that they are worthy of being friends. It also shows women that they are able to take care of them. This game seems to differ from American wrestling in that very little physical contact is needed. The players do not actually fight each other physically; rather, they are hands off in that they only pull on a string. This may make the game less brutal than the one that exists in Western culture.