What is Hwatu?
Hwatu (Hanja: 花鬪, Hangul: 화투, lit. “flower battle”) is the Korean version of the Japanese card deck Hanafuda.
Hwatu translates to "battle of flowers." A deck has 48 cards total comprising twelve sets of 4 cards, each set representing one of the twelve months of the year. Each card has images of flowers or plants associated with the corresponding month on its face.
Hwatu cards are distinctly Korean in that the back of the cards are a bright red color, the material is thick plastic (what helps make the slamming sound), alongside the addition of bonus cards and motifs using Korean characters. Some of the cards have the word "光" (‘bright’) used to identify high scoring cards, a feature absent in the Japanese version.
What is Go-Stop?
Go-Stop is a Hwatu game created in Korea and primarily played amongst Korean households, especially during holidays such as Chuseok (Autumn Eve) or Lunar New Year. Though the game can be played without money being involved, the game is considered more entertaining with the gambling aspect included, with households commonly playing at ₩100 per point. However, any amount can be assigned to the point.
Most men in Korea played various Hwatu games such as Go-Stop, Min Hwatu, and Godori during their mandatory military enlistment. My dad recently told me that every province in South Korea has slightly different rules, and that during his navy enlistment, he learned 12 different versions of Go-Stop!
What is Hwatu Club?
Hwatu Club is an ongoing series of game nights where everyone can come together and practice playing Hwatu together. Time to time, hwatu night will be a tournament using a bracket style system to get to the final winner of that night, who takes home the hwatu trophy!
The goal of HWATU CLUB game nights is to create a continuous experience where the community can gather and play in the physical space. Having the opportunity for everyone to learn and make memories together is what makes the gathering so special. Spreading knowledge and appreciation honors the traditions of our rich history and should be shared with those who are unfamiliar and curious.
In many editions, the moon card features a small logo of the manufacturer. ILGI's moon card has a small old English "I" character, inspired by the "Royal Gold" deck.
Tazza: High Rollers (2006)
If you are unfamiliar with Go-Stop, you can start by watching "Tazza: The High Rollers" (타짜), released in 2006. Based on Huh Young-Man's comic book "Tazza" about Korea's gambling subculture, "Tazza" is the Korean slang for gamblers at the height of their powers, who coolly bet the bank (and their lives) on the turn of a card...
Coincidentally, the digitally remastered version will be available in theaters in Korea on December 1st to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its release.
In "No. 3" (넘버3), another cult classic, is a 1997 South Korean gangster comedy film starring Han Suk-Kyu as the titular no. 3 man of a gang who's aspiring to rise up the ranks and become the leader of his own gang. There is a lot of Hwatu action in this movie as well.
No. 3 (1997)
In Minari, Soon-Ja, played by award winning Yuh-jung Youn, shows the side of Korean grandparents a lot of us may remember. Growing up Korean-American, I did not truly understand why my grandpa would swear and throw a fit but later realized its part of the fun and quite customary to the game. Also, fun fact -- many believe that playing Hwatu improves memory!
With an extremely complex point system and dramatic turn of events at every turn of each card, this is a lot to digest. Some say Go-Stop rules are 20x more complicated than poker. Here are a few links to browse various sources!
How to Play: