What Korean Chuseok Means For Foreigner
“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
Foreigners gathering in Ansan City on holidays