Traditional Game for Wishing Good Luck in the New Year
Many people from many cultures have always enjoyed the flying of kites, and the tradition of flying them in Korea is more then just for fun. Kite flying has been very popular particularly among boys.
Many different kinds of kites are flown high up the air during the winter. Most flying is done between January 1st and January 15th. On the 15th(during the full moon), people cut the string connected to the kite and let it fly away.
The custom of cutting the string is related to the idea that the kite is carrying bad luck, and this will fly the bad luck away for the New Year. After the cutting of the kite string, they stop flying kites. If someone does fly a kite, other kids would laugh at him. Flying kites in Korea do not only have meaning as a fun activity, it is also a prayer for good luck.
The Origin of the Yeon
The origin of kites in Korea can be found in a very old history book, and were used not for fun but for serious work. The book records that a general during the reign of Queen Jindeok in 647 A.C. The general was attempting to suppress a riot by flying a burning kite to calm down the people who were panicking.
Another story of flying burning kites was when they were flown into an enemy's castle on Jeju-do during the descending days of the Goryeo period (1374). Flying kites for military purposes continued until the 21st King of Korea, King Yeongjo of the Joseon Period (1392-1910) recommended that people begin flying kites for amusement. Today, there are kite flying competitions in Seoul, Busan and Chungmu on January 15th each year.
Kites for Play
When Koreans fly kites to send away bad luck, they will write 'flying away the bad luck' on the kite before they cut the string and let it go. There is also a game called a 'kite fight' that has been enjoyed by adults. Two people fly a kite and try to cut the opponent's kite string with his own kite string. In order to cut the string, the men flying the kite will put something sharp on the string like ground stone or glass.
Kinds of Kite
Korean kites are classified by both shape and decoration. There are about 100 different kinds of kites in Korea. There are the 'bangpae yeon', 'gaori yeon' as well as many other creative yeon (kites). Most Korean kites are bangpae yeon.
Bangpae yeon have a rectangular shape and a hole in the middle. People call it bangpae yeon because its rectangular shape is similar to that of a shield. The hole in the middle helps the kite fly well in windy air. Bangpae yeon are further divided into several kinds according to the decorations on the body.
A gaori yeon is a kite that has the shape of a diamond. This type of kite is missing the hole, but has tales instead. The tales help carry the kite high into the sky. The gaori yeon is easy to make and fly so kids usually use this kite.
If you get the chance to see a kite fight take it, if not, try flying a kite of your own there is nothing quite as relaxing.