Tug of war is one of the folk games the Korean people have played since olden times.
It is introduced in old records including Tongguksesigi (book dealing with folk customs of Korea which was written in the first half of the 19th century) and Tonggukyojisungnam (geography book in the middle ages of Korea which was compiled in 1481).
The folk game was usually played on the fifteenth day of the first month by the lunar calendar, or on Chusok (the fifteenth day of the eighth month by the lunar calendar) according to regions.
According to the specific features of local areas, the rope was mainly made by twisting rice straw or arrowroot vines in those days, and it is said that the thickness and length of the original cord were decided by the scale of the match.
Since the original cord was too thick to be pulled by contestants, two or three metres of thin cords were connected at intervals of about one metre. They were called tongjjul.
According to Kim Son Yong, researcher at the Folklore Research Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences, children aged 12 to 13, divided into two teams, played tug of war game at first, which was called aegijuldanggigi, or pulling a thin rope, followed by the match of adults. On the morning of the contest day, the venue was packed with crowds from different villages.
The game is usually over in 20 to 30 minutes, and it was a custom that the winning team returned home and made a round of their village, carrying the rope on their shoulders and playing farm music, to demonstrate their power.
Though there are some differences in its scale and form, tug of war is one of the popular games enjoyed by all even today.
In the present-day tug of war match, scientific numerical values are introduced to maximize tensile strength, especially players’ posture, tensile angle and frictional force.
“The victory of the game hinges on how to concentrate the strength of players to the maximum,” said Ri Pyong Hun, researcher of the Sports Science Institute. “A number of technical factors exist, but the most important thing is the unity of collective. Therefore, tug of war is the most favourite one among the sports games of any class.”