Korean Children’s Games

Text: Gong-gi is the name of a children’s game played in Korea

Context: One of my friends from Korea talked about a traditional children’s game that has been passed down. It is known as Gong-gi and she talked about how the game is “played with five stones and it’s very common to see stones on the floor” which is why she believes it’s passed down. She also mentioned that “usually in elementary school or before elementary school” is the age most people play this game “but [one] can still play as [they] grow up”. Overall, the game is played through 5 stages that are repeated. Essentially, “every time [people] start with 5 stones and every time [people] would spread out the stones on the floor”. For the first stage, players would grab throw 1 and grab 1 each. The second stage is similar except you grab 2 at the same time twice. In the third stage, 1 stone is thrown and 3 are grabbed at the same time and then 1 stone is thrown again and the last stone is grabbed. For the fourth stage, 1 stone is thrown while the other 4 are placed on the floor and the 1 falling from the sky is grabbed. The 1 that was falling is thrown again but this time the 4 stones on the ground are grabbed and the 1 tossed in the air a second time is caught again. The fifth and final stage has people flip their hands (palm side down) so the stones will rest on the back of the hand and all of the stones are thrown into the air from the back of one’s hand and one tries to catch all of the stones. My friend explained the process and how “each stone is a point…at stage five [one] gets the point”. When I asked if the most points determine the winner she said “usually [people] can just go forever or set a goal score”. She thinks it was her “grandma and [her] aunt that taught [her] this when [she] was young but [she] really got into this in fourth grade…during breaks homeroom teachers wanted students to play this”. She mentioned that originally this game was “thought of as a game for girls but because [they] made it into…[they] became very competitive so the guys started to master their skills too…every break time everyone in the class would be sitting on the floor playing this game…had tournaments every day”. Overall she thought that the game was “really good with brain-hand connection because [one] has to think strategically how [they] are gonna place the stones…how are they gonna spread the stones…[one] has to think quick…moving [one’s] fingers around. When asked why she thought the game was important, she said that “to her, it’s important because it’s a Korean traditional game…keeping the tradition going…also because it can be very competitive…good game to pass time and be competitive with friends”.

Analysis: After some research, it became apparent that this game is not only played in Korea. Other European countries play this game with slightly altered rules and or objects used to play the game. Overall, the simplicity of the game shows a little bit about the culture in Korea. People don’t need fancy new kid’s games to have fun. I think here in America young children today are not easily entertained, even with expensive toys. The many aspects of this game also show that the Korean culture emphasizes more stimulating games for kids as well as competition from a young age. This game focuses on motor skills (physical), strategy (mental), and competition (social). It also shows that tradition is important to Koreans as this game continues to be passed down through generations.