Tag Archives: social

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.

Crossing Obstacles on the Same Side When in Groups

Background: My informant, HS, is a 52-year-old professor at USC. She was born and raised in Estonia and moved to the United States when she was twenty. Her mother and father were both physicians in Soviet Estonia. Even though she no longer lives in Estonia, she still stays connected with Estonian tradition through her involvement with the Los Angeles Estonian House and still speaks the Estonian language with family and friends. She also happens to be my mother.

Context: One lunch, during quarantine, I decided to sit down and interview my mother about interesting Estonian folklore she was aware of and has experienced.

Main Piece:

“If you are in a group of people, or even two people, and you come to a post of any kind, you have to cross on the same side so that there will be nothing that comes in between your relationship to splinter the relationship. So it avoids conflict or, y’know, teaches you or makes sure that if you have conflict you resolve it in a way that you stay in a relationship.”

Interpretation: This is essentially a superstition to avoid bad relationships. I have never noticed this when I visited Estonia but I am sure that people were doing this as they were walking down the street. It seems that if a group of people split up to go around some kind of post in the street, whether it be a mail box or stop sign, it reflects a breaking of bond in a sense and a reflection of a dysfunctional relationship. My personal interpretation is that many Estonians likely believe in some kind of bond or energy that unifies groups. If a group splits up to walk around an obstacle, then the group is no longer unified and the group relationship will likely go south. 

Insider and Outsider

Original Script: 인싸, 아싸

Phonetic (Roman) Script: Inssa and Ahssa

Full translation: Insider and Outsider

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the interviewer and the informant, and it was translated from its original language Korean.

Informant: There’s this popular slang in Korea, especially for school and office settings, mostly college. It’s “Inssa” and “Ahssa”, they alway go in Paris. Inssa is shortened for insider, and ahssah is shortened for outsider. They describe the type of person you are in a given social setting. Insiders are those who can blend well with the crowd. They’re popular, outgoing, they’d get drinks all the time, talk to professors well, all that. Outsiders are, well, outsiders. They’re the people who don’t have any friends, who are not up to date with pop culture and all the new slangs.

Interviewer: Is this concept any different from the pre-established introvert and extrovert?

Informant: I think inssa and ahssa are more exclusively to these specific social settings, like schools, and more specifically colleges. I think it’s just a newer way of saying the same stuff, but it has slightly different tones. Introvert and extrovert are more like internal, personality trait things. I think you can be an introvert and an inssa, like you don’t have to be an extrovert to have good connections.

Interviewer: Are there any variations of these terms?

Informant: Yes. You can add the word ‘haek’ in front of them. Haek is Korean for nuclear, and Koreans use that word as kind of an additive to really emphasize things. So a ‘haek-inssa’ would be a really extreme insider, someone who knows everyone in their school. A haek-ahssa would be someone who’s like invisible.

Interviewer: How would you describe yourself when you were in college?

Informant: I think I was more of an inssa at first, but towards later years I jus stopped caring so much


My informant is a Korean male in his mid 20s, working as a barista in Seoul. He graduated from college already, but he describes himself as well versed with current Korean lingo and college culture.


The conversation took place on the phone. The informant was in house by himself in a comfforbtale setting.

My thoughts:

These new words came across as more jokey than serious, but they still gave me the sense that it was to point out people who weren’t outgoing. I’m not sure if categorizing everyone in these standards would be positive, but I did find the terminology very catchy.

Happy Llama


Happy llama

Sad llama

Mentally disturbed llama

Super llama

Drama llama

Big fat mama llama

Llama llama llama llama







The informant learned this song while attending an elementary school in the orange county area. She said that she and her friends would sing the song to a handshake similar to patty cake followed by hand gestures that represented the animals they chanted at the end. They would also occasionally sing it while playing jump rope.



The informant goes to college in Southern California and grew up in Orange County. She attended a reputable public school in the orange county area.



The song itself is not particularly significant and was most likely just used as a form of entertainment on the playground. However, as the informant was sharing the song with me, several of her friends who were in the room chimed in, saying that they also knew the song but knew different versions of it. All of the girls grew up in very different areas across the country, so it is interesting that this song was able to be passed along such vast distances. Additionally, the version of the song that a  person knows might be a way of indicating what school he or she went to or where he or she grew up. In this way, the version song is a representation of the specific culture it is performed at. Upon doing further research, I found a version that replaced “mentally disturbed llama” with “totally rad llama.” The concept of being “mentally disturbed” is a little dark for a children’s rhyme and it could have been edited out of other cultures’ versions for this reason. If this is true, it would say something about what that culture deems acceptable and unacceptable for children.


For another version of the song, please go to: https://campsongs.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/llama-song-the-one-with-actions/

Other version:

Happy llama / upright llama

Sad llama / point llama down

Totally rad llama / turn llamas on their side towards each other and shake up and down

Super llama / scoop llamas upward

Drama llama / make llamas kiss

Big fat momma llama / join llamas together by by putting two pointer fingers down

Baby llama / place llamas on dimples

Crazy llama / circle llamas around your ears

Don’t forget Barack Ollama / scoop llamas upward

Fish, fish, more fish / place right hand out, palm down, then left hand on top, roll hands around each other on “more” and return them to original position on last “fish”

Turtle / Hands together, palms down

UH! / pull turtle into stomach

Unicorn / make horn on head

Peacock! / put arms out to side with fingers spread like feathers


Eye Contact before the First Shot

Everyone participating in a toast or the first drink of the “night” or celebration has to make eye contact with everyone else before taking the drink.

Custom described verbatim by informant:

“We need to make eye contact with each other, all the people who are taking the shot or it’s bad luck if you don’t. I learned that a while back and now I’m all about it. It might be a lingering thought in your mind but I really doubt if there’s any effect on your life if you don’t (laughs) I think people believe it because they don’t want to be sick at the end of the night so they feel like if they make eye contact with people they drink with they’d be better off. It’s like an anti-sickness superstition. We better our opportunity in waking up the next morning not feeling hungover if we make eye contact in the initial shot process. At least in my world. I don’t know about everybody else’s if they believe in something else but, it’s all witchcraft. (laughs then pauses) It’s about good vibes you know and if it’s about good vibes I’m into it.”

Though my informants description is humorous, he insists (at least in small groups) that you must do this every time a toast is made or the first shot is taken or drink is sipped. Maybe he views it as a way to forego getting a hangover and staying lucky as he continues drinking, but eye contact is also a simple way of establishing connection. Since drinking is very much a social activity, insisting on eye contact with everyone drinking with you, whether in celebration or not, gives the practice a deep-seeded feeling of togetherness—“Good vibes” in the words of my informant. Saying its bad luck to do otherwise is an easy way to get people to participate, especially if the flipside is getting sick later. Excluding oneself would be very anti-social, and the threat of bad luck and sickness lingers should you choose not to drink or follow this rule. I think its less about actually believing it and more about being social and connecting with people, if only for a moment.