History
  • We can verify the fact that Ssireum was practiced along with Tae-Kwon-Do(Korean-style Karate) during the Three Kingdoms Period in ancient Korea. The origin of Ssireum is not yet known. but the oldest evidence pertaining to Ssireum in Korean history is a mural painting on a wall of a royal tomb located in the old capital city of Koguryo Dynasty, in Southern Manchuria, Which was discovered in 1905. This tomb is believed to have been built around turn of 4th century and in view of the fact that the ancient Ssireum style was similar to that of contemporary Ssireum. we can imagine how the people of Koguryo liked the sports. It is likely that such a popular sport was practiced well before that time.
     
  • The first official records on Ssireum can be found in Koryosa(the history of Koryo Dynasty). According to the literature in March, 1330, King Chunghe entrusted major affairs of state to his aides each day so that he could practice Ssireum with an errand boy. The king was criticized for disregarding royal customs to practice Ssireum within the palace grounds. Nonetheless, the King ignored criticism and continued his participation in the sports. Chronicles of Chosun Dynasty recorded that King Sejong went out to Joja Island for pleasure cruise and had a banquet on a boat while amusingly watching his soldiers compete in Ssireum.
     
  • It is documented that in December, 1430 during King Sejong's reign, a man lost his life in a Ssireum bout but nonetheless, the opponent was not prosecuted. Instead, the incident was settled by holding his opponent liable for funeral expenses only. The resolution of this episode strongly suggests that Ssireum was widely accepted and made a sensational impact on the general public.
     
  • According to King Myungjong's Chronicles in 1560, the 15th year of King Mungjong's rule his Majesty prohibited servants from participating in Ssireum on the palace grounds. Such activity by servants was condemned but the pastime was allowed for children.
     
  • Also King Hyungjong's Chronicles recorded that in 1664. 5th year of King Hyunjong, a servant at Juja Island near Gwangju stabbed his opponent out of vexation after he lost a Ssireum match.
     
  • The famous genre painting by the great artist, Hong Do Kim in 18th century under the rule of King Jungjo vividly depicts the scene of a Ssireum match. In that picture spectators cheer and scream as they watch two contestants to be fitted in strength and technique. While the match progresses a taffy vendor stands aside in the left, selling his concessions to the spectators.
     
  • According to other literature like Dongguksesigi. Songgyungji, Kyungdo Magazine, the Ssireum game took deep roots among the populace and became a folk recreation to relieve fatigue during slow periods of farming. In time Ssireum was established as part of the traditional community festival.
     
  • The first Ssireum contest held under the sponsorship of an organization occurred at the Dansongsa theater in Seoul. October, 1912 under the auspices of Yugakkwon Club. The club name, Yugakkwon stems from head letters of three different martial arts: Yudo(Judo) Gakgi(Ssireum) and Kwontu(Boxing).
     
  • In 1915, a Ssireum contest was sponsored by the Kwangmudae theater in Seoul and lasted for four weeks. However, the contest was different from the previous contests in that victor was awarded oxen rather than money.
     
  • The first Ssireum contest that was held with the objective of spurring an interest in physical culture by the people and elevating Ssireum from the old folk recreation sport to a modern sport was the one sponsored by Pan Chosun (Korea) Ssireum Federation. The Federation was founded in 1927 by such enthusiastic athletes as Nak Won Kang. Sang Chun Suh, Jin Hee Han, Jin Kyu Kang and maintained aforementioned goals.
     
  • In commemoration of the inauguration of the Federation. the first Pan Chosun Ssireum Contest was held at the playground of Whimoon High school in Seoul in September. 1927, There was a division for high school team competition besides the senior division and in the individual division. Do Nam Lee from Hamheung was the Champion. In 1936 the first Pan Ssireum Championship Contest, which is the predecessor of today's National Ssireum Championship Contest was held at the auditorium of the Chosun Daily News under the sponsorship of the same Federation. Myung Gil Hyun was the champion among some 100 entrants in that Ssireum competition.
     
  • In the next national competitions, Byung Gyu Song of Hwangju reigned as champion for three consecutive years from 1937 to 1939. Seung Wha Huh from Pyungyang became champion of the 5th contest which was held in 1940 and Jang Ho Choe from Hamheung was the champion o the 6th contest.
     
  • The contest was discontinued after the 6th meeting and then reactivated in 1947 under the sponsorship of the same organization, although the organization had been renewed the Daehan (Korea) Ssireum Federation. Since 1947 the contest has been called the National Ssireum Championship Contest and marked it 46th meeting in 1994.
     
  • In the early years of the contest there were no weight divisions, thus a Ssireum competitor had to defeat challengers of all sizes to be named champion. It usually took until the last day of a three-day tournament to determine the champion. this kind of tournament competition was called Panmakum.
     
  • Beginning with the 12th National Ssireum Championship Contest, competition was based on a weight division system which consisted of a heavy weight division over 71.3kg and a light weight division below 71.3kg. Many problems, however, arose in carrying out the contest under the new weight division system, especially with the heavy weight division in which more often than not contestants with unmatched weight were paired together. In an effort to rectify such weight disparities five different weight divisions were introduced in 1967. The divisions were the Junior division(below 60kg). Youth division(below 65.5kg), Warrior division (below 75kg), Giant division(below 82.5kg), and Hercules division(over 82.5kg). In 1975 the weight class system was simplified to three weight divisions: the light weight division (below 70kg), middle weight division(below 80kg) and the heavy weight division (over 80kg).
     
  • The National Grand Championship which was held under the co-sponsorship of the Korea Times and Daehan Ssireum Federation in June, 1959, and continued annually until it was unfortunately terminated in 1963. The champions of this tournament received a certificate of merit and an ox as the first place award.
     
  • In 1972, the first KBS-CUP National Grand Championship was held for three days at Jangchoong Indoor Stadium under the auspices of KBS and Daehan Ssireum Federation. The grand sports event, an unprecedented success attracting thousands of spectators was the turning point for Ssireum.
     
  • In particular, this contest was conducted on a mattress instead of the conventional sand box, and the prize, a sum of 1,000,000,000 WON and silver trophy were giver instead of the traditional ox. It was the first time throughout the Ssireum history that a cash prize was awarded. Unlike any previous contests, most of the participants were student athletes, thereby transforming the game into a student's contest. The contest, which was televised throughout the nation by KBS networks, remarkably boosted the popularity of Ssireum by attracting a capacity crowd of some 10,000 spectators. The champion of the first contest was Sungyul Kim from Masan and the contest continues, marking its 23rd year in 1994. In addition, a number of other contests developed a similar prestige, including the president's Flag National Grand Championship, in its 31st year as of 1994 and Chairman's Flag National Grand Championship which marks its 24th anniversary in 1994