Fun Traditional Korean Games

In every culture, there is a variety of traditional games played throughout childhood, and even as adults. I have countless memories of playing traditional Korean games as a kid with my family and friends. While the games themselves are simple, it is the experience of playing them with your loved ones that makes them so memorable. I remember I always loved big family gatherings when we would play these traditional Korean games. It’s been a while since the last time I gathered with my family members to partake in these games. Since I moved with my parents to Canada, we are not able to see our entire family as often or participate in traditional Korean activities. Because of this, I was ecstatic to hear that the Korean Cultural Centre in Ottawa was hosting a series of events called “Korea Week”. Korea Week is basically a week full of different Korean activities for everyone to enjoy and partake in. Some of the activities include a traditional Korean Hanbok fashion show, a “Dano” fan-making workshop, and a day dedicated to playing traditional Korean games. Sadly, I do not live in Ottawa, so I am not able to partake in any of these events, but I was still really pleased to see that other Koreans, as well as non-Koreans, will be able to experience and learn about some aspects of Korean culture. In honour of the traditional Korean games day hosted by the KCC, I decided to write a blog about some of the different kinds of traditional Korean games. 

Yut Nori

This is one of the most famous traditional Korean games. It is commonly played on Lunar New Year and is an activity that can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors. The gist of the game is that there are four different wooden sticks with different markings, which act like dice. You throw these sticks and depending on the combination of markings that are displayed, progress along a game board. There are two different teams, and the team that gets all their wooden sticks back to the starting point first is declared the winner. Oftentimes, there will be lots of fun prizes involved, which are contributed by the participants, sort of like a potluck. Growing up, this was one of my favourite games to play.


Gonggi is more popular among children and can be played individually or as a team. The game involves five pieces of colored plastic pebbles, which are thrown in the air and then caught. While this sounds very easy, gonggi is a game that actually requires a bit of skill. You must catch a certain number of pebbles each time, and follow a distinct pattern. The pebbles must also be caught before they hit the floor. As well, there are different rounds you progress through, with each round having a specific pattern and number of pebbles you must catch. Gonggi is a game that hooks you in and can be played for hours on end. I remember being fascinated as I watched my cousins play when I was little. I also loved how the pebbles come in a variety of different colours and designs.


This game traces all the way back to when Korea had a monarchy. Tuho was a game commonly played by the royals for entertainment. The game itself is actually very simple. There is a special jar, and you must aim to throw arrows into the jar. It is sort of like darts, except that the arrows are much longer, and it is much harder as you must aim to get the arrow into the narrow opening of the jar. Tuho is more commonly played at fairs or events, rather than at family gatherings or with friends, as not many people possess the arrows and jar required. Because of this, playing Tuho always felt like a special treat for me.


Jegichagi is another game popular among children, although adults can play it as well. It is similar to dribbling a soccer ball, except that you use a Jegi instead. A Jegi has a small, coin-shaped base, which has tassels attached to it. You must throw the Jegi up into the air, and keep it up in the air as long as possible by tapping it with your foot. I personally think that Jegichagi is one of the hardest traditional Korean games, although that might be due to my lack of body coordination. The tassels are also brightly coloured, and they create bright pops of colour as they get tossed around the air. Younger me always loved seeing the colours whiz by.

Although there are still many more games, these were the primary ones I played growing up. For those of you living in Ottawa or visiting Ottawa this coming week, I highly encourage you to attend the traditional Korean games day hosted by the KCC. Also, feel free to check out some of the other events they are hosting during Korea Week! You can access their website here to see their full event offerings. 

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