I am very happy to report that some of the reports that I had read had to be written by individuals who had only heard these 'foreign folk tales' and failed to see the beauty of this contest. They obviously never went and only reported hearsay accounts, overlaid their own prejudices to discredit this event.
When I told a friend of mine that I was going to watch bull fighting in Korea, I got the "No thanks! I puked my guts out when I went to a bull fight in Spain." What is controversial about bullfighting in Latin Cultures is totally absent from the bull fighting contests in South Korea. I had made an earlier posting about attending this cultural event that is an annual event in Cheongdo, South Korea. I had heard stories that were akin to dog fights, complete with gratuitous violence. There was even some outcry about boycotting this event from some of our expatriate community members. I took all of this into consideration. I weighed it out. If what was said was true, I had to go because it would totally oppose my view of Korean culture as peaceful and incredible respectful of life. It didn't matter what anyone thought, I am here in Korean to take in as much as I can while I am a guest in this country.
I saw the handlers treat the animals with a respect that was returned by the animal. These matches are matches of the beast's strength. There is a reason these contests have endured for over one thousand years...they are indeed entertaining and have the spirit of sportsmanship. The oxen are valued creatures in the rural communities, and for their livestock to be mistreated for brutality sake would be viewed by Koreans as incredible waste.
I continue to be amazed at what I find here in Korea...and glad to debunk all of the nay-sayers. Never believe anything that is by word of mouth or through established rumour mills. When in doubt, always check it out for yourself. There will always be someone who says you shouldn't do something or go somewhere. Follow your own path.