Korean Language Blog

2021 Chuseok Amid Pandemic Posted by on Sep 13, 2021 in Culture, History, Holidays, Korean Language, News, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

추석 (Chuseok) is one of the big holidays in Korea. Chuseok will be on the 21st of September this year since Koreans use the lunar calendar system. This is the second year that Koreans face unusual 민족대명절 (min-jok-dae-myeong-jeol: national holidays) amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Traditionally, 민족 대이동 (min-jok-dae-ee-dong: national migration) occurs during this holiday season and traffic is horrendous. In 2020, a large number of people cancelled the trip due to restrictions. This year might look the same, but more people seem to plan to make a trip home despite 지자체 (ji-jah-che: local government) recommendations for people to stay home.


Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay


What are the restrictions in Korea now?

The Korean government has already extended 사회적 거리두기 (sah-hwe-jeok-guh-ri-doo-gi: social distancing) until the 3rd of October to prevent spreading the virus during the holiday season.

Since more people are getting vaccinated in Korea, the restrictions seem slightly looser than last year. 수도권 (soo-doh-kwon: metropolitan area) is under the level 4 방역지침 (bang-yeok-ji-chim: the guidelines of preventive measures). 비수도권(bi-soo-doh-kwon: non-metropolitan area) is under the level 3 guidelines. 

For instance, up to six people, who are fully vaccinated, can gather in restaurants and cafes. Family gatherings at homes are allowed up to eight people, who have been fully vaccinated under the level 4 areas during 추석 holiday season. 

In 2020, there were many couples who couldn’t proceed with their wedding plans. Couples who plan to get married this year have slightly more generous guidelines than last year. At a wedding site, up to 49 people are allowed. 

종교활동 (jong-gyo-hwal-dong: religious activity) is allowed with a limited number of people. However, 스포츠관람(sports-gwal-ram: watching sports) is completely forbidden at level 4 districts. 



What are the new changes in 2021 Chuseok?

성묘하기 (sung-myo-hah-gi: a visit to one’s family member’s grave) is one of the traditional activities in Chuseok. 미리성묘하기 (mi-ri-sung-myo-hah-gi: visiting one’s family member’s grave in advance to avoid crowds) is strongly recommended by the government. 

In 2021, some Koreans would perform 성묘하기 in unconventional ways. 온라인 (online) 성묘하기 is one of them. It would be an alternative solution for those who wish to commemorate deceased family members. Some agencies provide virtual gravesite simulation services, including 온라인 제사 (je-sah: ancestor rites, setting up a table for deceased ancestors) simulation. 벌초 (bul-cho: tidying up a grave, weeding) services are available for those who can’t visit 묘지 (myo-ji: cemetery) physically. 



New Trend of Chuseok Gift Basket

Sharing 추석 선물세트 (Chuseok-sun-mool-set: a gift basket for Chuseok) is a common custom in Korea. 추석 선물세트 is a gift to express gratitude. Traditionally, 배 (bae: pears), 굴비 (gool-bi: dried yellow Corvina), 사과 (sah-gwa: apples), 한우 (han-woo: the best quality Korean beef), 견과 (gyun-gwa: nuts) have been the most universal options for 추석 shoppers. 


Image by joon2079 on Pixabay


However, companies have different marketing strategies this year. 혼명족 (hon-myung-jok: a person who spends holiday by himself) and 혼추족 (hon-chu-jok: a person who spends Chuseok by himself) are a new, but significantly rising group of customers.

Good quality beef has always been one of the best 추석 gifts. When I think of 한우 for 추석 gifts, a big portion of red meat packed in a big fancy basket come to mind. However, 혼추족 prefer a small portion of meat for themselves. Thus, big corporations sell a small portion of beef targeting these new customers. 

Red wine such as Pinot Noir is a popular item since it goes well with red meat. 제철 과일 (je-chul-gwa-il: seasonal fruits) such as Apple mango, Shine Muscat (green grapes), or melons are selected as the most popular items for this holiday.  

유명 맛집 (you-myung-mat-jib: well-known restaurants) also target these newly growing customers. They have launched gift sets for 혼추족, who would inevitably miss 명절 음식 (myung-jeol-eum-sik: holiday food).

Image by Ipegasu on Pixabay

We have already been facing many changes since the pandemic broke out. A mask became one of the most important personal belongings. Parents have started working from home and kids are learning from home. We didn’t know how much the pandemic would change our lives, but the changes are certainly already here.

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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.