Ceremony held at Jangchung Arena to celebrate Ssireum listing on UNESCO

  • 5 years ago
In late November, a traditional Korean form of wrestling, called Ssireum, was added to UNESCO's list of intangible cultural assets.
Today, the Cultural and Heritage Administration and the Korean Ssireum Association held a ceremony to celebrate its listing.
Choi Si-young sheds light on the significance of earning this recognition.

It starts with a mesmerizing traditional Korean drum dance.
South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration and the Korea Ssireum Association brought people together to celebrate the first UNESCO cultural heritage shared by two countries -- South and North Korea.

As a sport, Ssireum has been around in Korea since the fourth century.
Each wrestler holds onto a belt called "Satba" that wraps around the waist and thighs... and relies on strength and technique to push their opponent off balance.
The winner is the wrestler who brings any part of their opponent's body, above the knee, to the ground.

As a national competition, Ssireum was first televised across the country in 1972.
That was also when the large cash prize was introduced.
The national sport had its heyday in the 1980s, but its popularity later waned for several reasons, including the disintegration of professional teams, a lack of awareness of the sport in secondary schools, and the sport's complicated rules.

The Korea Ssireum Association has been one of many trying to revive the tradition.
The association has been hosting the Korea Ssireum Festival since 2008, and at the most recent edition in November, wrestlers also came from other countries, including Spain and Russia.
In return, the Korean wrestlers went to Spain to take part in the traditional wrestling of the Canary Islands, known as Lucha Canaria.
There, Korea and Spain agreed to make the cultural exchange an annual event.

To make Ssireum more widely known, the first step is to unify the rules and traditions in both South and North Korea.

"UNESCO listing Ssireum for both South and North Korea is a chance to settle on rules and styles for the sport, which could allow the tradition to spread."

So with the UNESCO listing, Ssireum might be one step closer to its former glory.

Choi Si-young, Arirang News.