Ssirum had long been played in Korea, since the period of Ancient Joson (early 30th century BC-108 BC), and was perfected and enriched in contents and methods in the period of Koguryo (277 BC-668).
Mural paintings in the Ssirum Tomb in Jian, Jilin Province, China, from the late fourth century and Tomb No.1 in Changchuan, China, from the mid-5th century show two players holding each other’s thigh band and grappling with each other.
Ssirum thrived in the periods of Koryo (918-1392) and feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1910), as seen in the painting of ssirum playing by Kim Hong Do, a famous painter in the 18th century.
Ssirum is permeated with the life, feelings and emotions of the Korean nation.
It was widely played during the farming work like rice-transplanting, weeding and harvesting. In particular, on chusok, a folk holiday, people gathered at the wrestling sites laid out at picturesque places to enjoy ssirum matches. The winner was given a bull as a prize.
Such a tradition is still evident in the country.
Nowadays the Grand Bull Prize National Ssirum Contest is held every year at the ssirum playing ground on the picturesque Rungna Island.
Traditional customs are sustained in organizing and conducting contests and new elements are also added in keeping with the development of the times.
Ssirum has become a major event in all sorts of sports games, which boosts public interest in it, and the number of ssirum players and amateurs increases.
The Korean ssirum was registered as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity of UNESCO in 2018.