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Korea’s Tradition of Kicking Balls Contributes to Success in World Cup

Korea’s Tradition of Kicking Balls Contributes to Success in World Cup

Posted July. 04, 2002 22:33,   


A professor opined that Korea`s advance to the final four is partly due to its 2,000 years of a traditional culture of kicking balls.

Shim Seung-ku, a professor of Korean National University of Physical Education, argued in his paper ‘The History and Characteristics of Korean Chuk-guk’, which was published in the summer issue of Quarterly ‘Tradition & Today”, that "Chuk-guk" ("to kick a football"-an ancient game played with a ball of leather stuffed with hair) was used in the Three Kingdom era.

It has been known that the oldest reference to the term was in Samguk Sagi (“History of the Three Kingdoms”, written during the 12th century) and Samguk Yusa ("Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms", written during the 13th Century), which mentioned that in Shilla Dynasty, Kim Choon-choo, who became the Kingdom`s 29th king (AD 654 ~ 661), and General Kim Yoo-shin played “Chuk-guk” together.

But Professor Shim found a record in ‘Hwarangsegi’, which was written by Kim Dae-mun more than 100 years earlier than the two books.

“There is a reference in the book that the Kingdom’s 23rd king (AD 514 ~ 540) kicked a ball with a son of his sister in the courtyard of the royal palace. It is highly likely to have referred to “Chuk-guk” in the form of kicking a shuttlecock.”

There is a record in the Koguryo section of a history book in the Song Dynasty of ancient China that “the Korean people are good at kicking balls.” He says that in Shilla Dynasty, “Chuk-guk” might be in the form of kicking a shuttlecock and played mostly by the aristocratic class, but in Koguryo, soldiers might kick balls for the purpose of military training.

In Unified Shilla Dynasty or Balhae Dynasty, cavalry played “Stick and Ball game,” which kicks balls riding horse, as a means to drill tactics instead of Chuk-guk.

Chuk-guk, however, revived in Goryo Dynasty. Lee Kyu-bo, a literary man and scholar in the middle of the dynasty (1168∼1241), likened futility of life to a ball in his book ‘Donggukisanggukjip’.

In ‘Backsajip’ written by Lee Hangbok, the prime minister in the middle of the Chosun Dynasty, there is a passage that he was scolded by his mother when he was young because he was absorbed in Korea’s traditional wrestling and Chuk-guk. It, he says, shows that Chuk-guk was evolved to be a national play in the dynasty.

“In the late 19th century when the modern football of the West was introduced to Korea, the traditional form of kicking balls disappeared and only a kicking brass coin game survived,” said the professor. “There were once a straw ball kicking game and a bladder ball kicking game. Kicking paper cup, which is popular in domestic universities, is influenced by such a traditional culture of kicking balls.”

Tae-Hun Hwang beetlez@donga.com