Have you ever tried to pull a giant rope with thousands of people laughing singing and dancing? Never? So you must visit the Korean Tug-of-war folk festival!
This tug-of-war festival takes place in a town called Gijisi, which is located at Songak-up, Dangjin-gun in Chungnam Province. It is very easy to get there and takes only 90 minutes away by bus from Seoul. The festival normally lasts for 4 days from Thursday through to Sunday in the second week of April.
Jultarigi (a tug-of-war) came to Korea from the farming culture of the South Asian countries and has a 400-year history which is relatively short. Anyway it is one of the main festivals of Danjin area. The central government designated the Gijisi tug-of-war as an important intangible cultural heritage and it is might be registered as an UNESCO intangible heritage in this year.
There is a so-called “pre-festival” period which starts on February 1st of the lunar calendar where you participate in making the rope to be used in the tug-of-war match. The main rope is massive, measuring up to 200m in length, 1m in diameter, and weighing as much as 40 tons. The rope used during the match is composed of the female rope called amjul and male rope called sutjul. During the festival the two ropes are connected together to symbolize solidarity and unity.
You can experience other various Korean traditional cultures. Programs include tug-of-war games, contest of traditional Korean farmers’ music and dance, traditional wedding ceremony, international folk arts performance etc. After you pay 5,000 won and register, you can participate in the tug-of-war and get 1 meal ticket and a souvenir. Also, there are lots of chances to win other prizes. Of course, if you don’t want to participate and just want to be a spectator, you don’t have to register.
“That was a great experience! – Maria Varankina, a student from Russia, said. – I couldn’t even imagine that the rope could be so huge. It is amazing that so many people took part in the event. They did their best to pull the rope, helped those who lost their strength and even served participators with free drinks. I could feel that unity and joy!”
Gijisi Tug-of-war with countless of people on both sides pulling the rope, shouting and cheering together is a spectacular event that definitely worth becoming a ‘must visit’ place on your list. And no matter how young or old you are, you can participate in this traditional sport. Especially for a foreigner, being able to see and participate in a Korean traditional festival would be an even more memorable experience. But remember to arrive at Gijisi no later than 1PM to see all the highlights of the festivities from the moving of the ropes to the actual tug-of-war itself.
Don’t miss the next year Gijisi Tug-of-war folk festival!
Written by Evgeniya Akulova