About Korea > Customs and Traditions

Traditional Games

Traditional Games

A number of traditional Korean games are still played either in a modern version or as part of the activities/events on special holidays. Both expats and local can enjoy many of these at Chuseok or Lunar New Year events in a variety of locations, including museums, folk villages, etc. Note: You can see some of the games in our Video section (K4E homepage). 

Chajeon Nori - 차전놀이 was a giant jousting match between two teams of villagers, usually men. The two commanders were atop large log frames maneuvered by their teams. These log frames, known as dongchae ("ships"), consisted of two 10-meter-long logs tied together with straw rope. Some members of the team carried the dongchae, while others fought with the opposing team to help their side advance. The teams were traditionally named "east" and "west" rammed into each other.  If a leader falls down or if the dongch'ae is allowed to touch the ground, the opposing side wins.

Dan Chhae Jul Normgi - 단체줄넘기 is very similar to 'skipping'. Two people each hold one end of a rope and spin or swing it around, and a of group people representing the opponent group must jump up together at the same time so that the rope will be unable to touch their legs. If the spinners are unable to swing the rope due to the opponent’s legs, they will take turn as jumper and an opponent will come and swing the rope instead.

Geunetagi -그네타기 - Swing-riding was a game for women during the Dano festival on May 5th. A swing was attached to a high branch of a big tree located near the entrance of the village. The woman who goes the highest wins.

Jegichagi - 제기차기 is an outdoor children's game. It involves the use of a Jegi/제기 that ressembles a badminton shuttlecock and is made of a small coin-size paper, or cloth. The idea is to keep the jegi in the air by kicking it and keep it from touching the ground. It used to be played mainly in winter but has become a year-round game.

Kite Flying - Yeon - 연 - began in Korea for military purposes but it eventually became a popular pastime. Traditionally, on Lunar New Year, people flew kites to wish for a good harvest and for the well-being of their family and their country.The traditional Korean kite (yon or yeon) is made with bamboo sticks and Korean paper.

Kongki Noli, a traditional childhood game, is similar to "jacks" that is played with five small stones.

Nol-Ttwigi - 널뛰기 (Korean See-saw) differs from the Western version where riders sit atop either side of the see-saw, in that nol-ttwigi participants stand on their side, then jump up, forcing their partner into the air on the opposite side. This game is popular among females, usually during traditional holidays and festivals. Originally, it provided a means for upper class girls to see over the wall surrounding the family home, since they were not allowed to leave the enclave. It also gave the boys a chance to see what the girls hidden behind the wall looked like.

Paengichigi -파엔기치기 has traditionally been a boys' game. It is played by spinning a round wooden top on its pointed end by whipping it with strings attached to a stick used to keep the top in motion. Players try to knock down their opponents' tops since the one who keeps his top spinning the longest wins. , and the one whose top spins the longest is the winner.
Spinning Tops - 팽이놀이 - Korean-style involved spinning the top in an enclosed box, with points scored for various actions. Also popular were fighting tops where players tried to knock their opponents' tops out of a designated area.

Tuho - 투호 involves pitching arrows into a pot from a certain distance. The modern version which is part of traditional Lunar New Year and Chuseok events/activities is played with rubber-tipped arrows and a simple canister. Tuho was also a drinking game where every miss required the player to take a drink.

Yutnori - 윷 / 윷놀이is a Korean traditional board game played in family gatherings, especially during Korean New Year and Thanksgiving. “Yut/윷” refers to the four sticks used in the “nori/놀이” , which means game. Yutnori consists of the Yut (four sticks), the Mal, (tokens) and the Mal-pan (game board). How the yut fall when cast determines how far a token can be advanced. The score is based on number of yut that are over or up. Each combination has its own name (Do, Gae, Gul, Yut and if all the yut are facing up, Mo) and its own value with Do allowing the Mal to be moved one space through to Mo, which allows an advance of five spaces. The player to bring all her/his mals home first is the winner.

Image: Paengichigi-파엔기치기

K4E Editor: Korea4Expats want to provide the most accurate and complete information possible, so if you notice an error or omission in the contents above, please contact us at info@korea4expats.com.

Last Updated on 2013-12-12

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