Traditional Origami Paper Folding in Korea

Paper folding and paper crafting remain an important part of Korean culture.

Ddakji
Ddakji is a traditional Korean game that involves paper folding. © Dana Hinders

Jong-i jeobgi is the Korean word for origami. Jong-i jeobgi is commonly taught to schoolchildren as part of lessons on art, science, math, and history. Paper folding and paper crafting remain an important part of Korean culture.

Hanji

Hanji is a special type of paper that is essential to many types of traditional Korean paper crafts. In fact, the word literally means "the paper of Korea." Hanji is made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree, which is native to Korea and can often be found growing on rocky mountainsides.

The process used to make hanji is similar to the technique used to make Japanese washi paper, but the sheet formation process is slightly different. Traditional hanji paper is made using the we bal method to allow for multi-directional grain and finished sheets are pounded to compact the fibers and lessen ink bleed.

You can buy hanji paper in many different types of colors and patterns. Some papers even have dried leaves or flowers mixed into the pulp to add texture. Hanji paper is extremely durable and considered to be of very high quality.

There is an old Korean saying that hanji paper will outlast silk by 500 years, creating works of art that can be displayed for 1,000 years or more.

Noted origami artist Robert J. Lang reports that he uses a great deal of hanji paper when making models using the wet folding techniques popularized by Akira Yoshizawa. Wet folding involves using water to dampen the paper so you can create softer curves and more realistic looking models.

High quality paper is a necessity in wet folding because the water makes many poor quality papers tear when they are folded.  

Aside from its use in origami, hanji paper can also be used in calligraphy or as a covering for the doors and windows of your home. Traditional types of hanji crafts include jido, jiho, and jiseung.

Jido involves using pasted layers of hanji on a frame to make sewing baskets or trunks, jiho involves turning the paper into a clay like substance that is molded into lidded bowls, and jiseung uses woven strips of hanji paper to make trays, mats, baskets, and other household goods.

Ddakji

Ddakji is a traditional Korean game that is played using folded paper disks. It's normally considered a children's game, but growing numbers of adults have found that it's fun to play as well. Ddakji is featured on the popular South Korean variety show Running Man.

Review the instructions in our How to Play the Korean Ddakji Game to learn how to fold your own ddakji disks. Each disk requires two sheets of square paper and you'll need at least two disks to play a round of ddakji. 

Korea Jongie Jupgi Association

The Korea Jongie Jupgi Association is Korea's leading origami organization. They host workshops and events throughout the year for people interested in learning more about the art of paper folding.

Jong Ie Nara Paper Art Museum

The Jong Ie Nara Paper Art Museum in Seoul is home to over 5,000 works of art showcasing the diversity of paper folding and paper crafting in Korea. Admission is free, although there may be a small fee charged for select special exhibitions.

The museum's first exhibit hall contains items relating to the development of paper, paper making, and paper crafting throughout Korean history.

The second exhibit hall is designed to teach children and teens about paper art in a fun and age appropriate way. This portion of the museum includes an area where young visitors can create their own works of paper art.

The Jong Ie Nara Paper Art Museum holds an annual paper art contest where artists from all over the country showcase their creations.