On the whole, I must admit that Koreans are some of the most active people I have ever come across. They are obsessed with being outdoors, as the vast number of hiking stores attests to. Beyond hiking they enjoy certain other things that I am not used to. In America, there is not a whole lot of serious consideration given to badminton. I think I remember playing it once or twice in gym class maybe, and I distinctly remember getting a badminton set for the backyard when I was in middle school. But that was short lived. My sister and I used it a bunch that first summer, but then like so many other little outdoor games it got lost into the bottomless pit of the shed, filled with previous outdoor activities that my sister and I no longer fancied.
Badminton here is rather serious though. It’s still mostly a children’s game for the most part, but I do see quite a few adults and older people taking part on nights and weekends. There are entire shops here devoted to the sport of badminton. Personally, I can see the fascination. It’s just the right amount of exercise for the lazy person that likes being outside. It’s just like tennis, just with less movement and skill. Plus there is something very stress relieving about smacking the living daylights out of something only to watch it putter away from you at about 2 miles per hour. Thus, a few friends and I took up the hobby over the summer, enjoying several weekend outings to the local park for a game or five of badminton.
The one odd sport that surpasses badminton in popularity is something I call soccer tennis. This sport is mostly played by ajushis (older gentlemen) and the occasional group of foreigners or small children. It’s played on small dirt courts a wee bit smaller than an actual tennis court, and involves anywhere from two people, to whole teams on each side of the net. The rules are fairly simple from what I can tell. The ball can bounce only once in between touches of teammates, and depending on the size of the group, each teammate can only touch the ball once. Most ajushis that take part turn it into quite the event. There is much drinking of makkoli (Korean rice wine) and eating in between games, and most times they are more than happy to share with the crazy foreigners playing badminton on the court next to them! I’m always amazed at how flexible and competitive these older men are!
Now that the weather has gotten colder, and I’ve gotten busier with traveling or being lazy when I’m not out of town, my badminton playing has been cut to nil. During the summer though, it was just the trick for a lazy sod like me. A bit of exercise without having to ever overexert myself in the ungodly heat of a Korean summer!