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Korean Kite Flying
A Way to Bring Luck for the New Year

lying kites for enjoyment is common to cultures around the globe, and the tradition of flying them in Korea has historically been more than just for fun. Kite flying has always been very popular among Koreans, particularly among boys. Winter has always been a favorite time to fly kites, particularly in the New Year period between Jan. 1st and Jan. 15th. On the 15th (during the full moon), it is a custom among boys to cut the string connected to a kite and let it fly away. The custom derives from the idea that the kite is carrying bad luck, and when it flies away, it will take away all the bad luck away for the New Year. After a kite string is cut, custom dictates that one does not fly a kite again on pain of being laughed at by other children. Flying kites in Korea is not only considered a fun activity, but also as a way of praying for good luck.

Kites for War

The flying of kites in Korea was originaly a very serious business. History records that a general during the reign of Queen Jindeok in 647 A.D. flew a burning kite over the heads of rioters in a state of panic in an attempt to calm them. Burning kites were also used to attack an enemy castle on Jeju Island during the declining days of the Goryeo dynasty (1374). Flying kites for military purposes continued until the 21st King of Korea, King Yeongjo of the Choseon period (1392-1910) recommended that people begin flying kites for amusement, instead. Today, there are kite flying competitions in Seoul, Busan and Chungmu on Jan. 15th each year.

And 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 is enjoyed by adults. Two opponents will fly a kite and try to cut the other's kite string with their own kite string, which usually has something sharp attached to it like ground stone or glass.

Kites of All KInds

Korean kites are classified by both shape and decoration. There are about 100 different kinds of kites in Korea, where they are known as 'yeon.' There are the 'bangpae yeon', 'gaori yeon' as well as many other creative kites. Most Korean kites are of the bangpae yeon type, which means it is shaped like a shield on account of its rectangular shape. It has a hole in the middle helps the kite fly well in a strong wind. Bangpae yeon are further divided into several kinds according to the decorations on the body. A gaori yeon is a kite in the shape of a diamond or a stingray. This type of kite does not have a hole, but has tails instead that lift it higher in the air. The gaori yeon is easy to make and so it is a favorite with children. It is well worth trying this ancient pastime if the opportunity arises since there is nothing quite so relaxing!

(Sourced from WHAT'S ON SEOUL)

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