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Two Koreas to hold talks on traditional wrestling exchanges

/ 12:51 PM February 07, 2019
Ssireum

Ssireum. Yonhap via The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

SEOUL — South and North Korea plan to hold talks on ways to boost exchanges in “ssireum,” traditional Korean wrestling, at the North’s Mount Kumgang next week, a sporting body here said Wednesday.

Park Pal-yong, the chief of Seoul’s Korea Ssireum Association plans to embark on a two-day cross-border trip next Tuesday to meet with North Korean officials in charge of the sport, according to the KSA.

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“One of the items to be on the table is the co-hosting of the ssireum festival slated for June,” association official Jeong In-gil said.

The event, named the Dano Festival, is set to take place in South Korea’s Gangwon Province, but that could change if the two sides agree to co-host it, he said, adding that several rounds of working-level meetings will follow to arrange details.

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The two Koreas also plan to work for the unification of the different terminology and rules of ssireum and push for personnel exchanges, according to the association.

Such efforts have gathered steam since November after South and North Korea successfully pushed for the joint inscription of ssireum as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

Seoul suggested the joint application after a historic inter-Korean summit in April 2018, and Pyongyang responded positively to the idea. It was the first case of a joint inscription on the list.

Dating back to the Three Kingdoms period (A.D. 220-280), ssireum is a folk tradition in which, standing in a sand pit, two wrestlers wearing long fabric belts around their waists and thighs grip each other’s belt and fight to topple their adversary.

It was widely played on various holidays and festivals, though it has slowly lost its popularity and given way to modern sports and entertainment in South Korea. But in the North, it is still a popular sport, with a large competition held in Pyongyang at the Chuseok holiday every fall. Yonhap

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TAGS: Asia, North Korea, South Korea, Sports, Traditional wrestling
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