Korea has a long woodblock printing tradition since the 8th century, or even earlier. Goryeo is even credited with inventing movable metal type, with fonts cast in metal, in the first half of the 13th century. Whilst it is known that playing cards and money were printed from woodblocks in China from an early date, it is thought that the history of Korean cards may have followed suit. But we have no certain evidence that this was true in Korea. Some records indicate that Chinese and Korean culture influenced Japan as early as the 7th century CE and the origins of certain Japanese games can be traced to these influences. Under Mongol rule Korea and China grew close, envoys and traders moved freely between the two countries, and there was also a sea trade linking Korea to China and beyond. The conditions existed for the transmission of technological know-how from Korea to Europe...
It had been suggested that Korean playing-cards derive from the ceremonial use of the arrow in divination, which afterward became an amusement using sticks, owing to an arrow feather motif on the backs of some cards. But the theory hasn't been substantiated.
The Korean word for playing cards means fighting strips and cards traditionally used in Japan and Korea are small in size compared to Western ones. Korean cards on the whole are narrow (about half an inch) and much longer than Chinese (up to six or seven inches) and made of oiled paper or leather, based on a similar system to Chinese cards. Often the cards have stylised or stereotyped motifs making it difficult to trace their original forms. Kapo cards have 60 or 80 cards: six or eight sets of nine cards each plus a General in each suit. The suit symbols are: man, fish, crow, pheasant, antelope, rabbit, horse and star. The game played is similar to Japanese Kabu.
The game of Hanafunda was introduced into Korea by the Japanese during the time of Japanese annexation of Korea (1905-1945) and modified somewhat by the Koreans into Hwatu or Hwa-tu. The game uses Hwatu (flower cards) to score as many points as possible in order to win. Both the deck and the game have now become part of Korean tradition, with new branded or themed variants being devised such as Seoul Tower Hwatu, Dragon Hwatu, Waddamda, Royal Gold Hwatu, Diamond Brand, Rainbow Brand, Wonder Girls Hwatu, etc., with new colours, superimposed images and English inscriptions, all taking the place of the original Japanese-style Hanafuda cards.
Korea is quite a conservative country and has only had its own government since 1948, so everything is relatively new and developing (although they are developing very quickly, like Singapore). South Korea's leading playing card manufacturer is Hanyang Special Printing Co Ltd, Seoul, producing standard, promotional, educational, K-Pop and novelty packs. Indeed, foreign influence is now on the ascendant in Korea, and Korean Pop Group and merchandising playing cards have arrived... See also: T-Ara • B1A4 • Girls' Generation →
A K-Pop (Korean Pop, 가요, kayo) idol is an influential Korean celebrity, usually a K-Pop singer, who has a large fan base and is so well-liked by some fans to the point of addiction, obsession and compulsive behaviour. K-Pop idols are now becoming very popular outside Asia and some have even received worldwide media attention. In addition to music, K-pop has grown into a popular subculture among teenagers and young adults around the world driving reality TV shows, fashion and merchandise...