The college associated with our university had its sports days two weeks ago and the university had its last week, so for several weeks I’ve seen students practicing various sports around the campus (and seen the college sports days in passing). One of them, I’d never seen before. It’s obviously a hybrid of soccer and baseball, with a soccer ball being kicked from the home plate but otherwise following the rules of baseball.
On Monday, one of my students asked if I’d come and watch her team play – long pause – ‘kick baseball’ on Friday. I asked her where and when, but she couldn’t tell me. I’m not surprised that she didn’t know the name of this sport, because *I* didn’t know the name of this sport. But ‘kick baseball’ is a very, very good attempt.
Using the miracles of modern technology, I quickly found the Wikipedia article for kickball. It mentions that ‘Kickball is popular among youth in South Korea. Known as balyagu [발야구 (foot-baseball)] …’. So the student was literally translating 발야구. Literal translations are often useful but occasionally misleading. The Korean word for soccer (축구, chuk-gu) is literally ‘kick-ball’, not ‘foot-ball’, while the Korean word for baseball (야구) is literally ‘field-ball’ , not ‘base-ball’ (the bases themselves are 루 (ru)).
Foreign teachers are not officially involved in sports days, are not expected or encouraged to attend as spectators and, indeed, are not even officially informed that they are happening. The sports were in progress when I wandered through the campus on Thursday, and I had a quick look in passing but otherwise had too much else to do. On Friday I had no classes anyway, so I went to have a look. I took a few photos and videos, bumped into one colleague and found a game in which my students were playing. They lost by a large margin. I then watched all of their second game, which they also lost by a large margin.
The other sports included half-court 3-on-3 basketball, team skipping (jump rope), foot-tennis (4-a-side, three touches with head or foot, played on the asphalt car park), and circular dodgeball. The most formal sport was 씨름 (ssi-reum) or traditional Korean wrestling. I didn’t see any competition, but the ring (about 7 m across, filled with sand) was set up on the asphalt car park.