A game competing the number of memorized traditional three-verse Korean poems, written in cards spread out on the floor.
The literal meaning of Hwagatu is to compete with flower-like songs (or sijo, traditional three-verse poem)., indicating its aim of competing the number of memorized sijo. As some elders in their seventies remember playing Hwagatu in the past, the game was still clearly played widely following the liberation from the Japanese Occupation in 1945. Every remaining Hwagatu card is factory-made, printed on good quality paper, and easily found in museums.
The game requires 200 pieces of thick paper cards, 5 to 6 cm in width and 7 to 8 cm in length. Among them, 100 cards (reading cards) have all three verses of sijo written on them, while the remaining 100 cards (spreading cards, floor cards) have only the last verses written on them. The backs of reading cards and floor cards are printed differently to more readily distinguish them. First, the 100 floor cards with the last verses are placed in front of players. Then, a moderator of the game picks one card among the rest of the 100 reading cards with the whole sijo, and reads a sijo from the beginning. The moderator occasionally looks at different places on the floor card with written sijo that is being read in order to confuse the players. The players then seek a card on the floor with the last verse of the sijo the moderator is reading. The player who finds it slaps on the card as a signal of finding it first and picks it up to read the last verse. Upon having selected the correct card, the player keeps it. If the card is incorrect, the player places the card on the floor again and the game continues. Certain rules require that the player picked a wrong card and is not allowed to keep playing the game. Such rules, however, must be determined prior to starting a game. The player to collect the most cards wins, becoming the moderator of the next round.