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This Year’s Ssireum: Rivalry of Heroes in Times of War

Posted June. 09, 2004 20:57,   


Unlike the Kum-gang category (under 90kg), the lightest category of ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling), in which “the master of ssireum” Chang Chung-il (Hyundai Heavy Industry) has won two out of the last three regional championships, the Halla (under 105kg) and Baek-du (over 105.1kg) categories do not have any dominant wrestler, with championship trophies changing hands at every tournament.

Hence the “2004 Ui Jung-bu Ssireum Championship,” which will be held from June 10 to 14 at the Ui Jung-bu Gymnasium, will be an important barometer in wrapping up the first half of the ssireum season.

In the case of the three regional Baek-du championships held this year, “techno goliath” Choi Hong-man (LG Investment & Security) won the Ham-yang championship, but in the Chun-an and Ko-hong championships, “dexterous” Hwang Kyu-yun (Shin-chang Construction) and “former junior champion” Baek Sung-il (LGIS) won respectively.

If one considers the unofficial ssireum tournament commemorating Korea’s hosting of the 2005 APEC meeting, in which “original goliath” Kim Young-hyun (Shin-chang Constructions) won, every championship has had a different winner.

In the upcoming Ui Jung-bu Championship, only Baek Sung-il, who became champion for the first time in 25 months in Ko-hong, has been seeded in the quarterfinals, and the other wrestlers were seeded through random drawings. One of the must-see matches in the quarterfinals is the one between Choi Hong-man and Hwang Kyu-yun.

Choi, whose main technique is a pushing strike, has a slight edge over Hwang, with his record against Hwang at 4-3. Nevertheless, Choi lost to Hwang in their last match at the semifinals of the APEC commemoration championship, therefore it is difficult to predict the outcome of their next bout.

Another point to watch is whether Kim, who avoided a tough rival in the first round, and Baek will continue their ascending streak. In addition, there are expectations for Ha sang-rok, who has recently come up from the minors.

As for the Halla class, which had three different champions this year--Cho Bum-jae (Shin-chang Construction), Lee Jun-woo (Shin-chang Construction), and Kim Ki-tae (LGIS)-- it has another runner-up, Kim Yong-dae (Hyundai), who is attempting to win a record 13 Halla championships.

Soon-Il Kwon stt77@donga.com