A game letting the person who is “it” walk around a group of people sitting in a circle and singing, before placing a towel behind one of them to tag the next person.
Sugeondolligi (towel passing), sometimes called sugeonchatgi (towel finding) depending on the region, is a simple game that can be enjoyed anywhere there is a vacant lot or a grassy field big enough for many people to sit around. It can be easily witnessed as one of the various group activities included during picnics, since the method of play is relatively easy and a number of people can play it together while singing.
There is a theory, however, that this game is not indigenous to Korea, but rather has been introduced from the U.K. There is a song in the U.K. that goes, “I sent a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it. One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.” It is told that the song reflects the marriageby- capture archetype of old. Nonetheless, Sugeondolligi settled into being a traditional Korean game, and is very well known across the country.
There are three ways to play. The first variation involves players doing a round of Gawi Bawi Bo to determine who will be “it.” Everyone else then sits around in a circle. When there are many players present, as many as two or three people can be chosen as “it” to increase the thrill of game play. The player who is “it” goes around outside the circle of people with a towel in-hand, dropping the towel carefully behind a player whom the player who is “it” is able to tag, before continuing to circle. During the drop, movement must be done as discretely as possible so that the chosen players do not know the towel has been dropped behind them. During the course of each round, the players sitting around in a circle should sing together while periodically checking behind with their hands to see whether there is a dropped towel or not. If there happens to be a towel, that player should then grab the towel and chase the player who is “it.” Upon making a full round prior to successfully occupying the vacant seat, the player is considered successfully tagged; or if the player does not notice the towel until the player who is “it” circles back to tag the back of the player, that player then receives a penalty. A penalty may be chosen by other players, including something that can be done easily and quickly, such as writing their name with their buttocks in the air, singing, or dancing.
The second variation involves determining the player who is “it” in the same way. The remaining players then sit around in a circle with their knees drawn up and inward while the player who is “it” sits in the center. Afterward, people sitting in the circle pass a towel under their knees secretly so as to hide its location. Once it has been relayed around in some fashion, the player sitting in the center should discover the location of towel to award a penalty to the person hiding it. If the location of the towel cannot be discovered, the player who is “it” receives a penalty.
Lastly, the third variation involves no “it” whatsoever. All players sit in a circle and sing a simple song while passing towels hand-to-hand. During or after passing along the towel to the rhythm of the song, the person who drops the towel, or has the towel at the end of the song, needs to sing a song or show off a unique talent that is demanded by the other players.
There are a few limits to this game in terms of place, time, method, and tools, allowing everyone, regardless of age, to easily partake in the game. The way of hiding and seeking a towel to avoid a penalty arouses significant tension, stimulating a sense of pleasure and excitement to everyone playing. It is mostly played outdoors and helps participants increase their stamina by chases that ensue between each other so as to avoid being tagged. Also, given that a number of people play this game together, players can enhance their sense of unity, while also encouraging players to learn new songs to partake in the game.