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South Korea’s Made-up Holidays

February 7, 2012

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  Which means, if you are in Korea, you should probably know how Koreans celebrate Valentine’s Day.

In the US, Valentine’s Day is a big deal for couples.  I don’t mean to be too heteronormative, but it’s usually construed as a day when a guy is supposed to do something impressive for a girl (take her to dinner, buy her chocolates, buy her flowers, etc.)  If he fails or forgets, it’s a big mistake.

In Korea, the holiday is much more low-key, but the expectation is the opposite: girls are supposed to buy chocolate for guys, and guys aren’t really expected to do anything.

Seem unfair?  Well, Korea has lots of recently made-up but still widely practiced holiday solutions just for you:

White Day, March 14th:  One month after Valentine’s Day, guys are supposed to buy some candy or chocolate for their girlfriends.

Black Day, April 14th:  One month after White Day, Koreans celebrate “Black Day” in which single people go out and eat jjajangmyeon, black bean noodles.  (Jjajangmyeon is served at Chinese restaurants in Korea, but the food actually originated here.  Just like the US has “Chinese food” that is not really like the food actually eaten in China, Korea has different “Chinese food” that is not really Chinese food.)  I think that “Chinese takeout” has the same sort of singleness connotations here as back in the States.  Some people dress in all black on this occasion.  I think that people are much more likely to go do this with their other single friends than go do it mopey and alone, though.  I wonder if people wearing all black eating jjajangmyeon get hit on by other people wearing all black eating jjajangmyeon?

짜장면 맜있다


Pepero Day, November 11th:  On Pepero Day, people give each other Pepero.  Back in November, my students gave me Pepero, and I gave them Pepero.  A good holiday.  I wonder who made it up?

Pepero Day



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Smiley permalink
    February 7, 2012 10:59 pm

    Pepero day: The Lotte-Korean snack company made it up. And there are a lot more of fake holidays in Korea-almost once in every 14th.

  2. Seongmin permalink
    February 9, 2012 5:57 pm

    Lotte didn’t make up Pepero day, The day was born by high school girls. In mid 1990s Busan including suburbs, high school girls gave and took peperos and said “wish you thinner.” each other on that day. Peperos look like 11.11 and K-girls admire to be thinner. Well, I’d like to say they want to be chopsticky. The admire of girls is universal in the earth, but the admire of K-girls seems more serious. A marketing manager in Lotte found the local celebration and he promoted it into the whole country. Pepero day became one of the most successful commercialized “day” in terms of marketing strategy. Since the day was made up and hit, lots of companies try to make “number marketing” like 3rd March is samgyeopsal day(삽겹살 데이) because number 3 sounds saam (삼) in Korean. Now, there are too many non famous “days” in Korea, so Koreans aren’t interested in “days” anymore. People think it’s sick. Anyway, it is so ironic that the high calorie but, light looking and easy bite-able so keeping eating snack became the icon of thinness. People don’t know well about the origination of Pepero day even they don’t know about the ingredients and the calories inside, but just look at the shape of the snack. Pepero day is a good symbol of materialism and capitalism. In terms of those, Pepero day is interesting but ugly.

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