What Korean Chuseok Means For For­eigner

The Global Digest (English) - - Contents - By Staff Cor­re­spon­dent

“Bor­der­less Vil­lage” in Ansan’s Won­gok-dong area was filled with more for­eign­ers than usual dur­ing the Chuseok hol­i­day yearly. For for­eign­ers, this was a time to re­lax away from their work dur­ing Chuseok the Full Moon Day hol­i­day from Septem­ber 26-29 this year. Chuseok is the Korean ver­sion of Amer­i­can Thanks­giv­ing, also called “Han­gawi” which means har­vest fes­ti­val.

Dur­ing this hol­i­day the na­tion’s ma­jor high­ways are ex­tremely clogged due to the heavy traf­fic of peo­ple head­ing back to their home­towns. Most Kore­ans ex­change gifts with fam­ily mem­bers and rel­a­tives. The tra­di­tional Korean hol­i­day of Chuseok is be­com­ing mean­ing­ful for for­eign­ers as well.

This year a va­ri­ety of Chuseok fes­ti­vals were held in Won­gok-dong in Ansan city, south of Seoul, a town of nu­mer­ous mi­grant work­ers. Won­gok-dong’s town of for­eign­ers is called the “bor­der­less vil­lage” be­cause many mi­grant and refugees are liv­ing there.

Among the Chuseok events held in Won­gok-dong’s Meet­ing Plaza was the Chuseok Multi-Cul­tural Fes­ti­val. A song con­test was es­pe­cially pop­u­lar among the for­eign par­tic­i­pants who sang their songs in their own lan­guage. Other events in­cluded pic­nics, as well as such sports like vol­ley­ball, tra­di­tional Korean wrestling known as ssireum, ta­ble ten­nis, soc­cer. Also par­tic­i­pants cooked and ate their own tra­di­tional food. To for­eign­ers so far away from their own coun­try, Chuseok hol­i­day is the per­fect oc­ca­sion to re­lax and en­joy them­selves in South Korea. “The Chuseok hol­i­day is a good time to reen­er­gize and to re­fresh my body,” said As­ghar Khan, a Pak­istani man in his fi­nal se­mes­ter for his Ph.D. in chem­istry. “I can play bas­ket­ball, lis­ten to mu­sic, and I meet fel­low coun­try friends in Won­gok-dong.”

A fe­male stu­dent from the Philip­pines is equally en­thu­si­as­tic about the Chuseok Fes­ti­val. The 30-year-old Philip­pina, who only gave her first name Remi, stud­ies re­li­gion at Sah­my­ook Univer­sity in Seoul. “I join with my friends from my own coun­try and we ate Philip­pino food, chicken steak and mixed veg­eta­bles,” Remi said. “Also we had a singing con­test and played bas­ket­ball, vol­ley­ball, and ping-pong games.” She went on to ex­plain that Chuseok hol­i­days are sim­i­lar to “a har­vest thanks­giv­ing fi­esta (fes­ti­val)” in the Philip­pines.

Chuseok hol­i­day is a happy mo­ment for a reli­gious leader from Myan­mar. Rev. Lian Kham, 54, in the process of seek­ing po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in Seoul, used to work as a Protes­tant pas­tor in Myan­mar’s Chin State. He had to come to Korea due to the op­pres­sion from the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment back in his coun­try. “Af­ter a whole year of hard work hav­ing Chuseok is a fab­u­lous time for me and my fel­low coun­try­men here in Korea,” Rev. Kham said.

A South African man in his mid-40s vis­ited the fes­ti­val site with his broth­ers and other fam­ily mem­bers. Prof. Lu­cian Char­lic, who teaches English at Se­jong Univer­sity in Seoul, praised the mer­its of Chuseok.

“The Chuseok hol­i­day is very mean­ing­ful,” Prof. Char­lic said. “It is a time to re­unite with fam­ily mem­bers and a time to show love and kind­ness among each other. But nowa­days many young Korean peo­ple spend their time shop­ping and vis­it­ing beauty par­lors,” he lamented. “Korea’s young peo­ple should hold their old tra­di­tions,” he went on. “But they are try­ing too hard to copy Western tra­di­tions.” He said that the Kore­ans should try to at­tract for­eign­ers to th­ese events to show their tra­di­tional cul­ture.

In­deed, to Prof. Char­lic and for his fam­ily the Chuseok hol­i­day must have been a joy­ful event. “It is a great time for me to be here,” he added. “I spend Chuseok with my fam­ily mem­bers and my girl­friend.”

For­eign­ers, par­tic­u­larly mi­grant work­ers started gath­er­ing in Ansan’s Won­gok-dong in the early 1980s. Now, about 60,000 mostly for­eign work­ers from 56 coun­tries are liv­ing in and around Won­gok-dong area. Var­i­ous for­eign res­tau­rants and alien mar­kets there are at­tract­ing not only for­eign work­ers but also lo­cal Kore­ans.

For­eign­ers en­joy at the Ever­land on Korean

Chuseok hol­i­days

For­eign­ers gath­er­ing in Ansan City on hol­i­days

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