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Korean traditional games: what we all want to understand

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What’s that game I saw in a k-drama about? No matter how many times we see them, we find it difficult to identify when it is about Yutnori (윷놀이), Gonggi (공기) or Ddakji (딱지); however, language and culture shouldn’t be a barrier to understanding what these almost essential games are about in every Korean house.

There are certain traditional games that are part of our history and although the years pass, these remain as a tool to continue sharing with each other and creating new memories. Many of us are not sure how, but when it comes the time to do something entertaining with the family, without using technological devices, these activities are perfect. 

Strange as it may seem to us, many times people with whom we do not share nationality, do not have the slightest idea of how these games work. The same goes for us when we repeatedly see Koreans playing Yutnori (윷놀이), Gonggi (공기), or Ddakji (딱지); but good news! The time has finally come to understand how each of these games work, so that we can now get excited and not limit our understanding.

First, there is the Yutnori (윷놀이), which consists of a square board crossed by two diagonals, the diagonal lines have 7 squares, while those on the sides have 5, including the one in the middle. The chips always move forward, but it is up to the player if he goes the long way or the short way, and once they return to the starting place, the player or team will earn a point.

Tomado de: https://blog.trazy.com

As for the movements, these are decided by throwing four sticks into the air, which have on one side marks (cross), and on the other side nothing (face). When a single stick falls on the side of the face it is a do (도), which symbolizes the pig and gives a move. If two sticks fall on the side of the face, it is a gae (개), which symbolizes a dog and gives 2 moves. With three sticks falling on the side of the face, you get in geol (걸),  which is equivalent to lamb and gives three moves. When the four sticks fall on the side if the face, it is a yut (윷), which symbolizes the cow, gives four moves and the opportunity to hit it again. Lastly, if the four sticks fall on the side that has crosses, they are a mo (모), which represents the horse and gives five moves plus an additional turn.

Tomado de: https://www.korea.net

Now, let’s talk about Gonggi (공기), it’s a little easier to understand. Initially, the game pieces are spread on the floor, each player must try with one hand to collect one of the pieces that are on the floor while with the same hand throws another up and collects it. If these pieces touch the floor, the player loses his turn. The pieces you collect mutb be kept in your hand, making the game more difficult. In the end, the winner will be the one who can collect the most pieces or, by default, all of them.

Finally, we have the Ddakji (딱지). For this game, we must fold square origami papers, no matter their size if it is square at the end of the folds. Once the square is ready, the team selects a player who will be the shooter. The objective is to throw your piece over the other team’s piece, which will be on the floor, and to turn it over. It seems simple, but you must have a lot of strength and precision to achieve it.

Now that you know more, don’t you think a traditional game is much more than using a piece? It’s one of the many ways we can continue to share special moments.

Written by: Sara Varon

Edited by: Laura Fino

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