Cheongdo, Korea: This is Not Hemingway’s Bullfight

In the same manner as the previous fight, TAE POONG (“typhoon” in English) and YONG BANG are led into the ring. From the first moment, when the referee in a hanbok calls for them to begin, it is clear this will be a different fight. Like boxers touching gloves, they touch noses. Then they pause for a moment to turn away from each other, lift their heads, and roll their nostrils back, sniffing, playing to an applauding crowd.

Their owners call them back to the fight. They snort and paw like cartoon characters, and then smash together. They dig into the dirt, driving, pawing, straining. Maybe these two are younger, hungrier — maybe they simply just have more pride.

At the 3:24 mark Tae Poong digs down, thrusts, turns Yong Bang’s head and starts to drive him to the side. Yong Bang scrambles for traction, to get any kind of hold, to stop Tae Poong from driving him back, but the other bull is too strong, has too much momentum, and there is nothing he can do. When Yong Bang is driven to the panels along the side of the ring the fight is over.

As with Chul Yong, they put Yong Bang in the loser’s pen on the side of the ring. Then he does an unusual thing. He begins to groan. His jaw hangs open, his fat, pink tongue hangs loose and he cries out. As the winner leaves the ring he moans over and over. He bellows either for his damaged pride or for another chance. He leaves the ring groaning.

As the crowd files out, dancers and musicians appear for a ceremonial mask dance to celebrate the end of the ritual. We walk out of the arena to the beating of drums and the shrill pitch of horns. TC mark


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