Tagada rides of Korea

Woobang Land tagadaTerror of The Young - a Korean girl gets more than she bargained for on the tagada at Woobang Land, Daegu.
blue dot
Aug 12 2012

The appeal of amusement rides comes from the illusion of danger. But of course you know it is an illusion; no matter how fast or high a rollercoaster is, nor how many loops you go through, you know that you are securely harnessed to your seat.

The appeal of a tagada ride is different. With a tagada, there is no illusion of danger; they are genuinely dangerous. They may not be as fast as a rollercoaster; they don’t invert you, or drop you from great heights. Instead, they spin you and bounce you on a steeply angled disc, which doesn’t seem like much, compared to other rides. Except for this: you are not restrained, except by your own grip on a couple of bars behind your head. And in a tagada ride, there is a carnie manually operating the controls. And he is trying to bounce you out of your seat. And he is mocking you while he does it.

If he succeeds, you may go flying across the ride into other passengers. Or, if you are even more unlucky, you will go flying out the ride’s gate, or be literally bounced off the ride completely.

Korea loves the tagada ride, where they are also known as taga discos or tambourine rides. No amusement park or carnival is complete without one.

The dangerous tagada

Coming from Australia, I had never seen or experienced a tagada ride. Of course not; in Australia such a ride would never be allowed. It seems the same is true for the United States, although Britain still seems to have tagada rides, although heavily tamed these days. This letter to tagada ride operators in Britain lays out the regulations that now wimpify tagada rides there. It includes some memorable quotes:

There are two main causes of injury to those riding on Tagada type machines:

• The person is thrown from their seat into the bed of the machine. They are then unable to control their movements on a fast moving, spinning base and evidence exists that they can then impact parts of the ride or other riders causing injuries to one or both parties…
• Riders are subjected to forces that can cause them to be completely ejected from the ride. This type of accident often results in serious injuries to the rider…

And an acknowledgement of the truth about making tagada rides more safe:

It is fully understood by HSE that the Tagada is a lively and popular ride and that fitting such restraints would, even if physically and/or financially possible, take away much
of the ride’s attraction.

The letter then goes on to detail how tagadas can be made more safe by reducing their speed and ensuring riders cannot leave their seat.

I don’t know what regulations apply to tagada rides in Korea, but from what I’ve seen – not much. Korea is no nanny state. You definitely come out of your seat on Korean tagada rides.

The investigation into the safety of British tagada rides (pdf link) also throws up this memorable graph of the G-forces experienced on a tagada ride:

The green line is vertical acceleration; the blue line is horizontal acceleration. Notice what happens to this poor accelerometer-wearing schmoe between 64 and 68 seconds. They go from weighing twice what they normally would to being flung in the air at the same acceleration that an object falls to earth, while being thrown to the left and right at a force of 1g, while trying simultaneously to hold onto the bars behind their head and not smash their accelerometer – then it all reverses. That’s when you fall back onto the hard seat and break your tailbone.

Make no mistake, tagadas are nasty beasts.

I love tagadas.

My first experience with a Korean tagada

I wrote about my first experience with a Korean tagada in this essay. It was the tagada at Geumo Land, in Gumi:

So we handed over our tickets and got on the ride, laughing to ourselves, thinking we were in for a fun, not-too-exciting time. We sat equidistant from each other, so that if you’d drawn a line from each of us to the centre of the ride, you would have a Mercedes symbol. The ride started up. We spun around, laughed, looked at each other and sarcastically said things like “yay” and “woohoo”. Then the piston action started.

It was gentle at first, if surprising. Then the ride gained in speed, and we each suddenly found ourselves being bounced a foot into the air and landing on our tailbones on the hard plastic. It was impossible not to scream a little when this happened. Then you were past the bouncy point, and looking at your friends being flung into the air and landing on their asses, trying to hold on, trying to find some way to avoid the pain. So we would go around, and it would go like this: “Ow! Christ! Ahahahaha. Ahahaha. Argh! Ahahaha.” We were all screaming and laughing at the same time. And, of course, because the park was nearly empty, it went on for a really, really long time. Then the ride slowed down, and stopped. We were relieved. Then it started again, going in the opposite direction. “Oh my god, let me off! Ahahaha. Jesus Christ! Ahahahaha.”

A crowd of Koreans had gathered to watch us. They were laughing and pointing. They knew about this ride. Eventually it ended and we left the ride, bent over, in pain. “What the hell was that?” we asked each other. “That ride should not be allowed.” It wasn’t fun, merely painful – yet I hadn’t laughed so hard in so long.

The Korean spectators were giving us the thumbs up and smiling broadly. We hobbled away.

Since then, I’ve experienced tagadas in various Korean amusement parks and carnivals. The experience varies with the ride and the viciousness of the operator; I was once mocked mercilessly in Korean, on and off, for about ten minutes by the ride operator on the tagada ride at the carnival on Gwangalli Beach.

Realize that if you ride a tagada as a foreigner in Korea, you will stand out. Expect to come in for some special attention. Watching foreigners get thrown out of their seats while they fail to comprehend jokes in Korean is funny, to Koreans. I guess I can understand that.

Why are tagadas so popular in Korea?

Who knows? But two likely reasons come to mind:

1. The are allowed to exist. Korea generally doesn’t go in for over-regulation of safety issues the way Western countries do – children’s playgrounds here, for instance, will feature jungle gyms of a height that you never see in Australia. Tagadas are fun rides – fun to go on, and fun to watch. In more litigious and regulated countries, the anarchy of a tagada would not be allowed, or would be regulated into anemic form.

2. More interestingly, I think a part of it is Korea’s couple culture. Has there ever been a country that had so many institutions and places for couples? From DVD bangs to love-seats in shopping malls, Korea is designed for couples.

From what I’ve seen of tagada rides in Korea, they’re designed to bring couples together, and the Korean carnie will always do his best to conspire to make this happen. It goes like this:

Before the ride. Girl: “Oppa, I’m scared!”

Korean boyfriend or potential boyfriend: “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”

On the ride, the girl, with the co-operation of the Korean carnie, is bounced from her seat and into her man. Legs, arms, and torsos are everywhere; there is no helping it. The boy then does his duty and helps her stay in her seat. At such times, there is no room for body modesty. All hands are on deck.

Gallery

Scrounged from Naver and Daum blogs, here is a far-from-complete image gallery of the tagada rides of South Korea. Click to embiggen.

Added – Crayon Pop and the tagada ride

Korean tagada rides have now become somewhat more famous due to being featured in the always-lovely Crayon Pop’s Bar Bar Bar video:

Even better, here is them actually riding and dancing on the Wolmi-do tagada.

The tagada in the Crayon Pop video, by the way, is at the abandoned amusement park Yongma Land in Jungnang-gu.

Waegukin wrote these words on August 12th, 2012 | Posted in Best-of, Essays |

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