On Chuseok, Korea's representative holiday, there has been a saying since ancient times, "Always be like Hangawi, no more or less." On Chuseok, families and neighbors sit around and have fun, preparing a lot of food, and I hope it's always the same day. However, this is also said to have become an old saying. Along with the COVID-19 pandemic that has lasted for nearly three years, the lifestyle has changed for various reasons, and the appearance of spending the holiday is also changing from before. I hope you will have a time to understand the changed Chuseok culture and remember the last Chuseok holiday.
Why does Chuseok culture change?
I think Chuseok is a day when you can see your precious family's face, but ironically, it is a day when your son-in-law and daughter-in-law avoid or fear it. This is because large and small conflicts frequently occur due to the preparation of memorial service tables during the Chuseok holiday when the whole family should gather and enjoy. While our son's husband is lying on the sofa watching TV, the tilted landscape in which his daughter-in-law's wife has to take charge of kitchen work is a familiar landscape for us. In addition, the Chuseok table that everyone enjoys together is clearly distinguished between those who set the table and those who receive it. In January 2022, Incruit, a company specializing in HR Tech, conducted a survey of 847 adult men and women to find out their thoughts and experiences in preparing for the holiday. As a result, 6 out of 10 (60.0%) cited "setting a memorial service table, such as sending all" as the most stressful and burdensome among holiday events. In addition, 94.3% of the respondents said they need to simplify the food on the memorial service table. Regarding the level of food preparation, 68.4% of the respondents preferred "Ritual Table for Family or the deceased" (68.4%), followed by "Ritual Table for 1 to 2 single-product foods" (16.1%) and "Ritual Table for various numbers but reduced the amount" (11.2%). Extreme events may occur due to the ritual table culture. Report of domestic violence due to preparation of memorial service table also increases during the year after year. On September 5, 2022, in Busan, a woman who wielded a weapon was caught by the police while arguing with her husband over preparation for the memorial service table ahead of Chuseok. The two had an argument while saying, "Let's not make food in the future," and the angry wife wielded a kitchen weapon against her husband and hurt him. According to the National Police Agency, an average of more than 4,000 domestic violence reports were received nationwide during the holiday season from 2017 to 2021. This is 1.4 times more than the daily average domestic violence report received in a year ▲ 1.4 times in 2017 (1,076 cases) ▲ 1.51 times (1,032 cases) in 2018 ▲ 1.44 times (954 cases) in 2019 ▲ 1.42 times (865 cases) in 2020. The Sungkyunkwan Ritual Establishment Committee, which has preserved the traditional Confucian culture, also recognized the seriousness of the problem and announced a simple standard plan for memorial service before Chuseok. The Sungkyunkwan Ritual Establishment Committee is a Confucian organization that practices the ideology and purpose of Sungkyunkwan and is currently making various efforts to help local residents educate their personalities. Sungkyunkwan held a press conference and said, "Confucianism has played an important role in our people for many years." "I couldn't play my role in the process of modernization, and I couldn't play a role as a pioneer because I only thought about old movies." As a result, the public's perception of Confucianism has become a very negative image," he said.
In addition, the reason why Chuseok table setting has become simpler is because of murderous prices. According to the Korea Agro-Fishery Food Distribution Corporation, the average cost of setting a memorial service table for Chuseok this year is 317,142 won for a family of four, up 6.5% (KRW 19,338) from 2021. Spinach jumped 56.1% and radish prices jumped 54.2% based on the traditional market, while cabbage and bracken prices also jumped 34.5% and 12.2% year-on-year. Kim, a housewife living in Seocho-dong, Seoul, said, "I gave up spinach and made japchae with chives instead." As soaring Chuseok prices weigh on shopping baskets, more and more households are using meal kits or convenience foods to prepare their own food. It is said that companies that provide specialized meals are also booming. It is said that it is more convenient to use a professional company than to shop separately and set up a memorial service table because it costs less and there is no leftover food. It doesn't matter if you're young or single, but in some cases, the stress you get from meeting relatives is not normal. This is because families do not share the joy of reunion and share words of blessing, but they are strangely obsessed with nosiness and backbiting that have nothing to do with the holidays. At the heart of all problems, the purpose of family events, which is sandwiched between traditional rituals, is itself a family event, and values clash as people of different generations are forced to gather within the framework of family. However, as the times change and this culture is revealed to the surface through SNS, there are many opinions that the culture and Confucian culture should be changed. Therefore, the MZ generation (M millennials born in the early 1980s and Z generations born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s) are trying to avoid "old culture" such as asking questions that are difficult to answer because of their age or forcing their own experiences to think. Park, in his 30s living in Seoul, said, "My grandfather-in-law left a will to 'get rid of the memorial service' before his death, so I no longer hold a memorial service," adding, "On holidays, I have a simple lunch with my parents and eat out in the evening." As the times have changed, the holiday culture is also preparing a new Chuseok culture, thinking that children and parents need to respect each other.
Changed table culture
As mentioned above, the Sungkyunkwan Ritual Establishment Committee, which has preserved the traditional Confucian culture, recently announced a simplified standard for memorial service tables that can be set up with only nine foods. For traditional memorial service, drink cups, rice, and soup in the first row. Fish, meat, and jeon are placed in the second row, and tang types with meat, fish, and tofu are placed in the third row, vegetables, sikhye, water kimchi, po, and jujube, chestnuts, and apple fruits are placed in the fourth row. However, the simplified memorial service table announced this time said that only six foods, including songpyeon, vegetables, grilled, kimchi, fruit, and alcohol, can be used for ancestral rites, and meat, fish, and rice cakes can be added, so up to nine dishes are enough. However, since Sungkyunkwan said that families can decide by agreeing with each other to set up a table like this, it can be interpreted that the memorial service table can be organized freely regardless of tradition and food type. There is a saying in the instrument of Yegi of Confucian scriptures, "Big manners should be simple (Daerye Pilgan, 大禮必簡)." To explain the meaning, "The heart in honor of your ancestors is not in the number of foods, so you don't have to try to prepare a lot." There are also reviews saying that thanks to the announcement of the simplified standard plan for memorial service tables, they will save work in table setting. A mom cafe where housewives gathered in Hanam, Gyeonggi-do, said that thanks to the recent simplification of the memorial service table announced by Sungkyunkwan, they will save work in table setting. The writer said, "I shouted 'Yes' when I saw the news of the memorial service table announced by Sungkyunkwan," adding, "I didn't put beef bandits and kimchi on this year's memorial service table, including jeon." As a result, the number of foods on the memorial service table continues to decrease. "Instead of me, we only put on rice cakes and fruits that we like," he wrote. He then said, "As the memorial service has become lighter, there will be no holiday stress in the future." A member of the Daegu Mom Cafe said, "It's strange that the generous table setting suddenly feels empty, but the disappearance of pancakes and meat has made it easier for daughters-in-law to spend the holiday." Turn is a ceremony filled with the sincerity of descendants who adore their ancestors, which would not be desirable if they suffered or caused family discord.
According to Hyundai Department Store, the sales growth rate of grilled Korean beef (51.7%) at Hyundai Department Store was nearly three times higher than that of Korean beef steamed ribs (17.3%), which were popular as traditional Korean beef gifts. If this trend is maintained, the proportion of grilled Korean beef sales during the Chuseok gift set sales period exceeded 40% for the first time in history. A Hyundai Department Store official said, "Recently, the culture of camping or traveling instead of large-scale gatherings is popular, and sales of grilled Korean beef or steak, which are easy to eat at travel destinations, are increasing rapidly." This change in food culture is also seen in other product groups. In the case of marine products, the growth rate of shrimp and lobster (45.1%) exceeded that of dried yellow corvina (37.8%) which is a representative holiday gift. In the case of fruit, the growth rate (76.3%) of Shine Muscat and Apple Mango more than doubled (29.1%) of apples and pears. In particular, Hyundai Department Store's sales of dessert fruits such as Apple Mango and Shine Muscat have more than doubled every year, exceeding half of all fruits and vegetables for the first time this year. Hyundai Department Store's sales of wine gift sets during last year's Chuseok and this year's Lunar New Year holidays increased 83.4% and 86.7%, respectively, proving this. This phenomenon also had an effect on leading the family's holiday atmosphere as young people with westernized tastes are now in their 30s and 40s. They actively accept easy-to-cook foods instead of traditional foods, forming a new holiday food culture trend. On top of that, the demand for home cooking instead of eating out was also increased due to high prices.
This place people chose instead of hometown!
Many people chose to travel instead of going to their hometown due to various reasons such as compensation psychology caused by holiday syndrome, lifting of COVID-19 distancing restrictions, and recognizing Chuseok as another vacation after summer vacation. KB Kookmin Card analyzed credit card and check card sales data before Chuseok (2019-2021) in the past three years and found that the rate of movement from the Chuseok (social distancing) metropolitan area to Jeju Island increased to 43% compared to 2019. In addition, in the first year of COVID-19, local movement decreased during Chuseok (strengthening distance during Chuseok special quarantine period), while Jeju increased by 14%. This is because more and more people chose to travel to Jeju Island instead of overseas travel due to the influence of COVID-19. In Chuseok in 2022, as the COVID-19 distancing was lifted, the blocked sky path was opened, and more people chose to go abroad despite the high exchange rates. According to the Incheon International Airport Corporation, more than 294,100 people used Incheon International Airport during the Chuseok holiday (August 8-12). It is said to be an average of 58,800 people per day, a six-fold increase compared to last year's Chuseok (8,742 people). There are many people who go home for Chuseok, but I think it's a familiar landscape to take advantage of the long holiday to go on a family trip.
The symbol of Chuseok comes to mind first, but recently, the number of "Honchu people" who spend time alone even during the Chuseok holiday is increasing. Honchu people are taking a break from holiday stress, preparing for employment, and working. There are various reasons for spending the holiday alone, but most people choose to stay alone and take a rest, except for inevitable situations such as holiday work. Targeting these recent social trends and high prices, quick-witted companies have released 'Honchujok' products. Coupang, a social commerce company, has put 2,591 products under the name of "Chuseok Enjoying Alone," and among them, "Steak Set" is the No. 1 in sales. Most holiday foods such as jeon, braised short ribs, and vegetables require a lot of work, so the most burdensome thing for the Honchu people is holiday food. In consideration of this, the convenience store industry has released a series of lunch boxes containing holiday food so that "Honchujok" can also create a holiday atmosphere. Sales of convenience store lunch boxes during the holidays are increasing every year. According to CU, the sales growth rate of lunch boxes compared to the previous year during the holiday season for the past three years has steadily increased to 9.6% in 2019, 12.6% in 2020, and 15.0% in 2021. This sales trend was more pronounced in single residential areas such as studio villages and officetels where single-person households are concentrated. The average sales of lunch boxes per store during the holiday season were more than 30% higher in single residential areas than in general locations. Not only the holiday food is changing, but also the holiday leisure culture is changing. For example, there are many places that participate for an hour or two to experience a "new world," and leisure activity platform "Frip" and talent sharing platform "Taling" are representative. You can have a unique experience for the Honchu people, such as a party where you can hear about the world of works directly from modern artists and talk with them over wine, learn Spanish traditional dance "Flamenco" and learn to play traditional musical instruments. Even local governments are pouring out customized policies aimed at single-person households, reflecting this trend. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has prepared a special leisure program for the Honchu people who spend the Chuseok holiday alone. Representatively, there are "Separately Together (1) Scissors" in Seodaemun-gu and "LAN Line Holiday Festival" in Seongbuk-gu.
In addition, as the holiday shows that life does not change particularly, the number of users of study cafes during the Chuseok holiday also increases by 20% compared to New Year's Day this year, and information avoiding crowded time becomes a hot topic on SNS. During the four-day holiday, the number of study cafe users nationwide was approximately 2.5 million. The company “Oh-rae” that operates the study cafe kiosk has analyzed big data of study cafe users during holidays such as Lunar New Year's Day and Chuseok over the past three years and announced the "identity expectation" of this year's Chuseok study cafe. As a result of analyzing 3 million access details of 51,449 people used during the holidays from 2020 to 2022, the study cafe usage rate across the country was more than 65% full. Although it is interpreted as a phenomenon caused by mid-term exams at most universities after Chuseok, the same usage pattern appeared during the Lunar New Year holiday, which is the vacation period, which is interpreted as a trend of MZ generation to find their own space during the holiday. Another characteristic is that the study cafe usage rate during the Chuseok holiday is increasing compared to the Lunar New Year holiday. The number of users of study cafes is evenly distributed from teens to 20s, but especially during the holiday season, when the number of users in their 20s tends to be relatively high, it is believed that job seekers' "going to a study cafe" is affected.
Other Changes in Chuseok Culture
Thanks to the advent of the mobile gift giving service, the holiday gift trend has also changed. According to the e-commerce industry, this year's Chuseok is the first holiday since the lifting of social distancing, but the demand for Chuseok gifts has increased through a "mobile gift service" that is easy to buy and can save time by delivering non-face-to-face. According to Samsung Card, when analyzing the number of "mobile gift" services paid in September, the average daily use from September 12 to 21, which was the Chuseok holiday, was 38% higher than the average daily use in September except for this period. In a recent survey conducted by Timon, 52% of respondents, more than half of the respondents, responded positively to the trend of sending Chuseok gifts via mobile. 21% of respondents said they should use it more actively and 29% said they don't care much because the times have changed, with a little more than half (52%) of positive responses. Mobile Chuseok gifts are said to prefer gifts of less than 50,000 won to those who are less burdened with formalities. In addition, Hongsam, a representative Chuseok gift set, is also said to exchange gifts on mobile. According to KGC Ginseng Corporation, sales of Kakao Talk gift gifts by Jeonggwanjang increased 65% year-on-year in August 2022, ahead of the Chuseok holiday. It is interpreted that the advantage of mobile gift giving, which can be easily delivered without knowing the other party's address, has been highlighted. In addition, fresh products such as red ginseng can be guaranteed uniform quality even in external environments where heat waves and heavy rains are repeated, and consumers are choosing it because it is easy to store and deliver. Mobile gift giving function has the advantage of saving time and reasonable gift due to non-face-to-face contact, so it is expected to be established in the future.
In recent years, items that appear ahead of the holidays in the used market led by 2030 are called "resale of Chuseok gift sets." The Chuseok gift set received from the company or acquaintance is re-traded at a lower price than the original price. More than dozens of Chuseok gifts are posted on the used market every day, and there are also various kinds such as nuts, confectionery, dried persimmons, peanuts, body wash, body cream, and red ginseng. Meanwhile, various opinions are conflicting online while the Chuseok gift set transaction is booming in the used market. Kim (28), a MZ generation office worker, expressed a positive perception, saying, "It seems like a reasonable choice without waste to sell it to people who need it at a low price rather than leaving it at home because they don't need it." On the other hand, some criticized the "Chuseok gift investment technology," saying, "It ignores the sincerity of the person who gave it." There are many different opinions, but the Chuseok gift set trading is becoming more active in the used market. How did the MZ generation's Chuseok gift investment technology become so popular? The MZ generation focuses on cost-effectiveness and practicality in consumption due to its clear self-assertion and tendency to emphasize rationality compared to the older generation. In other words, the Chuseok gift set may not match the characteristics of the MZ generation because the giver decides the item no matter how much the recipient considers the position. Unlike the past generation, which tried to use it as much as possible because it was a gift even if it was not necessary, if the MZ generation received an unnecessary gift, it was divided into "heart, object, object." And he boldly decided to resell Chuseok gift sets that are not necessary because he has a strong tendency to think practically. However, the people who gave the gift set must have their own sincerity and sincerity. He must have thought about choosing more items for recipients, which is different from last year and different from New Year's Day, and he must have struggled to thank more people with a limited budget. It's because it's not a short tradition to deliver our hearts as gifts even if it's not expensive for the holidays.
The holiday when three generations sit around, make pancakes, and play yut has become a scene that can only be seen in books. For the MZ generation, the holiday is recognized as nothing more than a 'holiday'. In fact, Yogiyo, a delivery app, analyzed the order data for the Chuseok holiday season over the past three years and found that the number of orders for "cafes/desserts" has increased significantly. This survey is a summary of the average daily orders by category of Yogiyo during the Chuseok holiday from 2020 to 2022, and the total average daily orders in the "Café/Dessert" category this year increased by 73% compared to Chuseok in 2020. The most popular menu was Americano, and it was analyzed that many customers visited "café/dessert" while enjoying a short break while preparing holiday food. In addition, I think the spells of the "Honchu people" who spend Chuseok alone played a part. Compared to other categories, there were more orders of less than 10,000 won, and instead of visiting their hometowns during the short holiday period, people who spent the holidays at home easily ordered them. Yogiyo explained that the order area seems to have expanded to various menus as well as representative delivery foods as the number of menus that can be ordered through the delivery app increases. In addition to the cafe menu, there were also many orders in the "Snacks" category that would control the greasiness of holiday foods.
Isn't the reason why the Chuseok landscape, which seemed to be unlikely to change, changed is because everyone realized that they didn't have to do "things they did because they thought they had to do well"? A new world opened when I removed the things, I had been doing one by one, saying, "It's a holiday, it's a family, so I have to do this much." When I took less energy to set up the memorial service table, I had time to sit around with my family and talk about my ancestors. Instead of paying attention to what to answer to relatives' questions such as "Are you studying well," "Did you get a job?" and "When are you getting married?" I spent time alone, which I didn't feel comfortable about. We send gifts online to relatives who we couldn't meet on Chuseok. It's different from the past, but isn't it closer to the essence of Chuseok, where you think about your family, relatives, and ancestors and share your hearts? I hope that a desirable Chuseok culture that all generations can relate to will be established.