Jules Does

Jules Does K-Pop Academy: Week 11!

Posted on: December 1, 2014

I can’t believe that this Saturday was our very last class at K-Pop Academy! It seems like the time has gone so quickly. I’ve made so many good friends and met so many sweet people, I can’t imagine not seeing them every Saturday.

To round off our study of Korean culture, we played an adapted version of a Korean board game called yutnori. As we moved around the board, we had to do different challenges that were also traditional Korean games. It was much harder than it initially appeared!

Ruby gave us a brief presentation on certain popular games, as well as their origins and information about when they are traditionally played. Here in England we don’t tend to play specific games at certain times of the year (unless you count the Charades that everyone plays when they’re with their family at Christmas and can’t escape), but in South Korea this is not the case. Certain games are played at specific times of the year, usually festivals such as the Lunar New Year and Chuseok (Thanksgiving), where people are spending time with their families.

We learned about eight traditional games, and honestly hearing them explained for the first time answered a lot of questions about things I had seen in K-dramas, Korean movies, Korean art and elsewhere. For example, neolttwigi is a game resembling see-saw, but instead of sitting on the see-saw and pushing upwards with your legs, the players take turns jumping on each end of the see-saw, thereby propelling their partner into the air. It’s a game mostly played by girls, which explains why you see young women in hanbok playing this game in art sometimes.

We also learned about tuho, a challenging yet simple game originally played by the aristocracy. Players take turns trying to throw arrows into a narrow receptacle from a fixed distance. You can see the royal family playing tuho in the first few minutes of the film Yeonsan-gun (1961), which I still haven’t managed to review here! Gah! In that scene, they’re playing with branches of flowers, not arrows. We got a chance to play tuho later, although without much success…

Another key game we learned about was jegichagi, a game where you repeatedly kick a small pom-pom made from a coin and traditional paper, trying to keep it in the air for as long as possible. I was terrible at this, but several of my fellow students (mostly the boys) were really good at it! Here’s Super Junior’s Eunhyuk being about as good as I am at jegichagi:

The most important game we learned about is one I’ve already mentioned: yutnori. It’s a board game which originally grew out of fortune-telling rituals (I was thinking about how, in Europe, we’ve had games go from being games to being slightly occult, but rarely the other way, as far as I know. For example, tarot cards are actually used to play an excellent game called Scopa in Italy, and the Ouija board was originally just a fun board game made by the same people who produced Monopoly. Fact of the day!) but has become a fun pastime. Players throw four sticks (called yut) into the air and move their pieces along the board depending on how the sticks land. Each stick has a flat side and a round side, and each combination has a different name.

Handy guide from Korea.net (click through for a guide to the game and a handy video)

We were divided into three teams (I was on team Shinee) and took turns throwing the yut to decide how me moved around the board. Certain stops had special signs that meant we had to do a quiz on Korean games, or play tuho or jegichagi, or swap our piece with another team, or go back a space. If we failed at a challenge we had to go backwards one space. It was quite challenging and competitive, especially since if you landed on another player’s piece, you sent them back to the beginning! It was definitely a combination of luck and skill.

Tuho: harder than it looks.

Tensions were high after some teams were bumped back to the beginning and other teams swapped with teams much farther ahead of them, but all in all it was a really fun game to play and taught us a lot about Korean games. Also, we managed to hit Song PD in the face with one of our yut. Sorry, Song PD!

We were glad that the KCC team were on hand to interpret the yut for us, as it was quite difficult to keep the proper names for the arrangement straight! The giant yut were also helpful in preventing cheating by any one team, which was certainly a good idea given how keen everyone was to win the last game of the Academy.

As you can tell from Brigitte’s eyes in the above picture, we won! Our prize was a bag each of a tasty Korean snack called solbyeong, which is essentially a crispy rice cake with a bit of sugar on top. They were delicious!

Sadly, it was Hyerim’s last day with us, as she has to go back to Korea to renew her visa, so she’ll miss our graduation. We got her a thank you card showing all of us at various stages in the course and a little present. Hyerim, we’ll miss you!

It’s so odd to think that next week we’ll graduate and go our separate ways. One of us will win a return flight to Korea! No matter what happens, I’m so honoured and proud to have been a part of the K-Pop Academy, and I know I’ll use what I’ve learned often.

We didn’t get any homework this week, but I’ll probably wind up doing something for fun, so watch this space.

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