History of Kites in Korea


February 22, marks the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. Koreans celebrate the occasion with a variety of rituals and events. One of the age-old activities on this day is kite-flying.

traditional Korean Kites
Traditional Korean Kites

While people in other countries usually enjoy this activity in spring and fall, Koreans often fly kites during winter, especially on Lunar New Year’s Day and on the lunar year’s first full moon. Some people cut the strings to let their kites fly away to drive away bad luck and bring good luck instead.

In Korean history, kite flying is traced back to 637 A.D., during the first year of the reign of Queen Chindok of Silla, when General Kim Yu-Sin used a kite to calm the agitated populace. He launced a kite in the night sky over Kyongju. The kite had a large cotton ball attached that was burning, causing the supertitious people to think it was a falling star soaring up in the sky, and that their misfortunes would soon come to a close.

Another general in Korean history, General Ch’oe Yong, of the 14th-century Koryo period utilized kites for shooting fire arms. Admiral Yi Sun-sin used kites in the 16th century as a fast way to inform the naval troops of his strategic instructions, flying kites having different pictures signaling tactics to use, while fighting the Japanese invaders.

Traditional Korean Kites
Ttraditional Korean Kites

The most popular Korean kite, a “shield” kite, called pangp’aeyon, looks simple, but is the toughest of all kites in Korea. This rectangular kite is made from five bamboo sticks and covered with traditional Korean mulberry paper. It is always in the strict proportion of 2 by 3. It has a circular hole in the center, with a diameter half the width of the kite, and functions as an efficient air control device.

traditional Korean Kites

Four of the five bamboo sticks are placed: one top to bottom (centered), one side to side (centered), and two from corner to corner; all crossing each other at the center of the kite to form a rectangular frame. The ffith stick is placed along the top of the kite and connects to the ends of the three sticks there. These sticks are tied with string at four points: the two at the top corners, the center, and midway between the center and the bottom of the vertical stick. From these four points the strings are gathered to make a bridle. This kite can move freely up and down, to the left and to the right within a scope of 45 degrees in both directions. The ideal wind velocity is 5 meters per second. The kite is large and fast, and is flown tailless when used in combat flying. a coloured silk line on a traditional Korean multi-spoked reel, is reinforced with a mixture of sticky rice glue, gelatin, glass powder, or even varnish and adhesive.


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