How To Play Rock Paper Scissors In Korea – Why Is There A Gun and More!

When it comes to Korean children’s games, you better take a moment and watch “Squid Game,” the #1 series on Netflix across the globe! Trending in over 90 countries, it is continuing to intrigue international fans more and more.

While a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors wasn’t included in the show, many fans got to enjoy a round played by the cast of “Squid Game” on the Jimmy Fallon Show!

As fans watched Jimmy Fallon chat up the amazing cast of Korean actors (both familar and new), a few challenges were thrown their way as Jimmy Introduced the “School Yard Games” segment of the talk show. During the challenge, Lee Jung-Jae, Jung HoYeon, Park Hae Soo and Wi Ha-Joon were given three hysterical games, which were American classics we could all relate to, and the winner received… well, bragging rights – no money this time! 

But while viewers watched, many noticed during the “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” portion, that the Korean cast kept throwing up finger guns (Pew-pew, hands up and gimme that money!) instead of scissors. But why?! This action left Americans absolutely baffled. To add to the confusion, when someone threw out the same hand, they began throwing out more finger guns back to back saying “Bo, Bo, BO!” and even Jimmy Fallon seemed confused. Well, if you found it odd yet intriguing and want to know exactly how Korean’s play this classic game, let me explain how to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in Korea!

First, in Korean, 가위 Kawi (Scissors) 바위 Bawi (Rock) 보  Bo (Paper) translates to and uses the same words as English, just in a different order, so usually Koreans will often refer to it as “Rock, Scissors, Paper” leaving you thinking twice upon first hearing it.

The process and results are the same but only three things are slightly different!

First, Koreans use a gun-shaped gesture to represent scissors. You may be completely puzzled by this believing your opponent must be trying to cheat and shoot down all your throws claiming “Guns beat everything” hysterically. But that is not the case! When using scissors, our thumb and index fingers enter the designated holes on the handle in order for us to cut with the blades properly. This is where this gesture is believed to come from and Koreans will constantly use it as you play – so be ready!


Second, why are Koreans screaming “Bo, Bo, BO!” when someone throws out the same hand? As you learned before, “Bo” means “Paper” and is the last word said before the battle begins and you start throwing out hands. In order to keep up the intensity of the game, you do not get another chance to draw back your hand and rethink your stategy. As a game of pure chance, nerves and adreneline, you must shout “BO!” and continue throwing out another hand until you either taste sweet victory or wallow in defeat. 

Lastly, you can play with two hands! This may sound even more perplexing but Koreans love enhancing things to be more of a challenge. This version is called “Rock, Paper, Scissors – one minus one” where players will throw out two hand gestures then shout “One Minus One” and make the quick decision to decide which hand is the best to beat their oppnenent with! Popular YouTuber “Korean Unnie” explains it quite well and you can watch her play it with her brother down below! 

Another bonus is that there is another oddly unique twist to this classic game it is not so widely played. 묵찌빠 Mokjibba is a game originating from Japan. After winning a round, you will shout either “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and the person must make a different gesture. The point is to get your opponent to make the same hand as you and then you win. If no one has a match, the opponent then calls out their next hand and the process starts over and keeps rotating until someone wins. Quite the time consuming process, huh?

Whether it is Korean “Kawi, Bawi, Bo” or good ol’ American “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” it is a game of endless fun that solves the most simpliest of decisions and I hope you go easy on me if we get the chance to play a round!



5 thoughts on “How To Play Rock Paper Scissors In Korea – Why Is There A Gun and More!

  1. Grateful to learn more about Korean culture in an area I was clueless about!
    Being able to see the fun games, the similarities, and differences are so fun and encouraging to learn!

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