Consumption Trends of Traditional Cultural Contents

Ssireum, Korea's folk wrestling Ⓒ ShutterStock

Recently, the word yu san seul, which commonly refers to a Chinese dish, has become more common in Korea after popular comedian Jae-seok Yu debuted as a trot singer under the stage name Yoo San-seul. Trot music, which was the exclusive property of older generations, is now appealing to the audience of all ages. The recent trot craze has been heated through Hangout with Yoo (a reality TV show produced by Yoo San-seul) and various trot audition programs. Traditional cultural contents, once viewed as boring and old-fashioned, are now not just bringing memories to the elderly but also catching on among younger people who are interested in newness through diverse media outlets.

Likewise, ssireum, Korea’s folk wrestling and traditional culture, is gaining huge popularity among young generations. Ssireum was an extremely popular sport in the 1980s and 1990s, but it slowly lost much of its former glory and became a mere folk game that barely kept itself in existence as a holiday sport. In 2018, in recognition of its value, ssireum was jointly inscribed by North and South Korea on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. However, it still failed to draw public attention, as there were old stereotypes about traditional sports and modern audiences already turned their backs on the traditional wrestling. Then, the variety program Joy of Ssireum has rekindled people’s interest in the sport. The ssireum arena is filled with spectators of all ages who are carrying placards of their favorite contestants. It seems like the ssireum fandom is no less than idols. In other words, ssireum is seeing its resurgence as an enjoyable and entertaining form of traditional sport. It is also expected to contribute to the inheritance and development of various other traditional sports.

Thanks to easily accessible media channels, our traditions are effectively transformed into original cultural contents that attract almost as much attention as in the past. Public attention is essential for the transmission and development of traditional culture. Now that ‘retro’ pop culture is in, this could be a good turning point for traditional cultural contents.