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Ssireum designated intangible cultural asset in Korea Updated: 2017-01-13 19:59:24 KST

Cheonhajangsa, the strongest person under the heavens, is the title given to the winner of tournaments for ssireum, or traditional Korean wrestling.

"Here at Yong In University, you can find young athletes honing their skills, competing against one another and trying to keep the spirit of ssireum alive."

Passionate to become the next cheonhajangsa, athletes use their torso, legs, arms and weight to push their opponent off balance as they hold on to one another's satba, a belt that's wrapped around the waist.
It's a test of an athlete's strength and technique, and whoever brings their opponent's upper body, above the knee, to the ground first wins.

Ssireum became a popular sport in Korea in modern times.
Televised for the first time in 1972, ssireum had its heyday in the 1980s, with the champions becoming national celebrities.
But the sport's popularity has waned since the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s, after it began losing its sponsorship.
But that could change.
On January 4th, ssireum was designated as an intangible national asset.

"It's very encouraging news. Ssireum is an expression of Korea's philosophy of unity and harmony. It's about competition, but it doesn't inflict serious harm on the opponent. The sport focuses on strength and balance and anyone can do it."

Ssireum has been around for thousands of years, as evidenced by paintings and documents dating back to the Three Kingdoms period from 57 B.C. to the year 668.
It became a form of entertainment during the Goryeo period, and competition and ceremony during the Joseon Dynasty, when people gathered together in their communities and wished for a rich harvest.
Ssireum is also representative of traditional Korean culture, with the ring representing the twelve animal gods of the zodiac to protect the land, and the red and blue color of the satba , which are also used in Korea's national flag, the Taegeukgi, representing yin and yang, or harmony.

"We've designated ssireum as National Asset number 131 this year, thanks to its historical and cultural value and uniqueness. Through government support and research, we will work hard to preserve the sport and pass it down in Korea."

To broaden the audience for the sport, the Korea Ssireum Association plans to add a lighter weight class to expand the number of athletes and new techniques to make it more dynamic and fun.
Korea is also seeking to promote ssireum in the global arena, with the government having put the sport forward for designation as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will be decided in 2018.
Kim Hyesung, Arirang News.
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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