Tug-of-War in Asia
Cooperative projects for safeguarding common living heritage

Living Heritage Series

Tugging Rituals and Games

A Common Element, Diverse Approaches

Chapter 1

Traditional Tug-of-War as Shared
Intangible Cultural Heritage in East Asia

Yon-hak Jung
Senior Curator, the National Folk Museum of Korea

The tug-of-war is one of the most well-known intangible cultural heritage elements that represent the Republic of Korea. Tug-of-war games were widely enjoyed by people across the country before the 1930s and 1940s. During the 1960s, the tug-of-war came under the protection of the Cultural Heritage Conservation Policy and has been appointed and is being managed by local and national governments. Locally, eight tug-of-war traditions have been inscribed on the national inventory list. Moreover, compared to other ICH element studies, of the element has been significantly researched.
Tug-of-war is a cultural heritage element of many East Asian nations, and these nations are preparing to nominate the element to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In this context, the goal of this paper is to discover universal traits in tug-of-war traditions in East Asia. However, besides the Republic of Korea and Japan, there is insufficient research on tug-of-war traditions in the region, which limits the scope of this presentation. In case of China, despite the existence of various records on tug-of-war in literature, the tradition as it exists in China today seems to be more of a sports match than a ritual event. I would also like to mention that this paper is a draft based on document records, the Internet, and the academic symposium hosted by Gijisi Tug-of-War Conservation Institute.