Snapshots of Christmas
In Seoul, young Koreans embrace the Western cultural custom of giving Christmas gifts to family members and friends. In the busy shopping district of Myeong-dong, central Seoul, a large crowd in their 20s and 30s are busy buying something for their loved ones.
I'm going to give my boyfriend a watch, said a 22-year-old university student at Mini Gold, an accessory store. The shop owner Jeong Sun-mi said accessories that target couples are quite popular compared to other products.
Elsewhere in Seoul, the Salvation Army's red buckets signal the coming of holiday season.
"Neighbors need your help. Let's share our love," shouts a Salvation Army officer into a microphone
To some, it may be too cold this year for people to pull their hands out of the pockets and open their wallets. This winter has been the coldest in years with the temperature going below minus 10 to 15 degrees Celsius for several consecutive days around the country.
The weather is so cold that a woman selling hot chestnuts puts her feet in a cardboard box while standing behind her cart.
In contrast, not all Korean are happy with the Christmas holiday.
For example, one woman notes she is not buying any gifts this Christmas. Once you start giving a present to one person, you have to give them to everyone. I can't afford to do that now that I'm married.
The women points out she is saving her money for bigger holidays like Lunar New Year's Day.
Korean elders do not usually celebrate Christmas but they consider the Lunar New Year's Day big. So, it is better to buy presents at that time, the lady notes.
A 67-year-old vendor said he hopes this year will end as soon as possible. Selling ppobgi, or puffed sugar candy with baking soda, did not make much money this year.
I'm sick of this year. There was too much bad news around the country. Politicians are only fighting each other and people like me are so frustrated by the bad economy.
Christmas decorations in Namdaemun stores also are not selling as much as last year.
A month ago, there were many people buying this stuff but people aren't coming anymore. In 2006, the economy should get better, said the owner of a Christmas decoration shop, sitting on a stool right next to an electronic heater.
For religious people, it is the right time to pray for a better future and better life.
In downtown Seoul, Christmas Eve midnight mass will be held at Myeongdong Cathedral.