Q: I swear I’ve seen Korean kids playing Rock-Paper-Scissors. Either that or they were throwing gang signs. Do Koreans play that game? What’s up with that?
A: We can’t be 100 percent certain you didn’t witness a Bloods vs. Crips throwdown, but yes, the kids probably were playing the Korean version of RPS.
Hard to believe, but in ancient times — before Judge Judy — people were forced to resolve minor disputes without the help of C-list celebrities. So they took the law into their own hands.
While it’s not clear exactly where RPS originated (both China and Japan can make strong cases), there’s evidence that the Chinese played a similar game as early as 25 AD, according to hwatcha.net. But that game involved guessing numbers of fingers, rather than symbols. By the 19th century, the Japanese were playing the version most of the world uses today.
Whether you’re in South Korea, Japan or America, the rules are the same: rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, paper beats rock. All three cultures use the same fist-pumping gesture to get the players in synch, and all require the players to “throw” their symbols at the same time to avoid cheating.
In South Korea, the game is called Kai-Bai-Bo (kai means scissors, bai is rock and bo is cloth). In Japan it’s called janken-pon, but that’s a description of the game, not a translation of the gestures. (Guu is rock, choki is scissors, and paa is paper.)
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