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Although there is no written record on the origin of bullfighting, it is believed that bullfighting started as an impromptu game played by herdsmen to kill time when agriculture was first settled in Korea. As the township grew, bullfighting was used as a way to show off a household or a village’s power.
The game, which was played during the Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), was banned during the Japanese colonial rule because Japan wanted to stop Koreans from engaging in cooperative games. The game was reinstated after Korea won its independence in 1945, and it became a major event since the mid-1970s. The bullfighting festival, which was staged to celebrate the March 1 Independence Movement Day since the 1990s at the Seowon riverside has now grown into the biggest bullfighting event in Korea.
In Cheongdo bullfighting, the bulls graze together in the field before they lock horns while onlookers cheer on. In the beginning, bulls fought regardless of their size however in recent years, the bulls are divided into three divisions according to weight and once the fight begins, they use various techniques such as head bumping, pushing, neck butting and flank attacking.
By the 9th festival in 1998, the event became Korea’s largest bullfight event. In 1999, the Culture and tourism ministry selected the event as one of the top 10 local cultural festivals, recognizing it as the nation’s best bullfighting event. Spurred on by this recognition, Cheongdo Gun and the Cheongdo Bullfighting Association have worked together to offer various events, such as inviting Japanese fighting bulls, good will bullfighting between Korea and Japan, a rodeo show by US troops stationed in Korea. Some 210-thousand tourists took part in the 5-day festival, with many foreign tourists from Japan and Korea.