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Traditional Korean Games: A Glimpse into Korea's Cultural Heritage

Traditional Korean games are not only forms of entertainment but also an integral part of Korea's rich cultural heritage, reflecting the values, social practices, and communal spirit of the Korean people. These games, which range from board games to physical activities, have been passed down through generations, playing a significant role in festivals, celebrations, and everyday life. Here's an overview of some of the most cherished traditional Korean games.

Yut Nori (윷놀이)

Yut Nori is a traditional board game played during Korean New Year (Seollal 설날). It involves throwing four wooden sticks (yut sticks) to determine the movement of pieces on the board. The game is deeply strategic, encouraging teamwork and cooperation among players. The aim is to complete a circuit around the board with all four pieces before the opposing team does. Yut Nori is celebrated for its communal spirit, often bringing together family members of all ages.

Jegichagi (제기차기)

Jegichagi is a traditional Korean game that resembles the Western game of hacky sack. It involves kicking a jegi (a small object made of paper or cloth tied around a coin or a small metal piece) and keeping it in the air for as long as possible without using hands. Played during the Lunar New Year and on Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), it was originally designed to improve physical agility and strength. Today, it continues to be popular among children and is a nostalgic reminder for adults of their childhood.

Neolttwigi (널뛰기)

Neolttwigi is a Korean seesaw game, but unlike the Western seesaw, it's performed as a form of entertainment rather than as playground equipment. Two players stand on opposite ends of a long, narrow board balanced on a central pivot. By bending their knees and then extending their legs forcefully, they propel each other into the air. Neolttwigi requires balance, rhythm, and coordination, and it was traditionally played by women during village festivals and holidays.

Tuho (투호)

Tuho is an ancient Korean game of throwing sticks into a narrow-necked jar or container. It was popular among the royal court and the aristocracy during the Joseon Dynasty. The game tests players' precision and control, and it is often featured in Korean historical dramas. Today, Tuho is commonly played during traditional Korean festivals and by people of all ages, serving as a fun and competitive activity.

Ssireum (씨름)

Ssireum is a traditional Korean wrestling sport that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty. It's a test of strength, technique, and balance, where two competitors try to bring any part of their opponent's body above the knee to the ground. Matches take place on a sand-covered ring during festivals and public holidays, drawing large crowds of spectators. Ssireum was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018, highlighting its cultural significance.


Traditional Korean games are a window into the country's past, reflecting its social values, community life, and the importance of harmony and balance. These games, whether played during festive occasions or as part of daily leisure, continue to be a vital link to Korea's cultural identity. They not only offer insight into historical leisure activities but also serve as a reminder of the importance of community, cooperation, and the joys of simple play.

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