Friday, October 06, 2006

Changing Values and Chuseok

I thought this article on changing Korea and Chuseok was fascinating. It reaffirms my observations that many younger Koreans see the Holiday as a chance to vacation and travel vs. spend time with family. To some, it's a sign of new individualism over old values of Family.

Korea Herald notes:

With a growing number of working women and nuclear families, more people - especially the younger generation in their 20s and 30s - are beginning to regard Chuseok season as a "vacation from work" rather than a family fiesta. Office worker Chung Yoon-jung, 31, plans to visit Singapore during Chuseok.

I booked a flight to Singapore in April, after realizing that this year's Chuseok was going to be a long holiday season. I am usually totally worn out by this time of the year and need the overseas vacation more than anything, she said.

In order to rest for as many days as possible, Chung saved up all her absence leave and came up with a total of 11 days to spend in Singapore. She doesn't think her family would mind the fact that she'd be away during the supposedly family gathering period.

After all my grandmothers and grandfathers passed away three years ago, my family members don't gather during Chuseok or other holidays. We just call each other up and that's it," she said. "I think all my married brothers have different plans anyway.

As many people like Chung are scheduled up to take trips over Chuseok, tour packages for the season have all been sold out before July, according to Hana Tour, one of the nation's largest tourist companies.

According to a recent survey taken by Joongang Ilbo Research Team on 658 men and women nationwide, 42 percent answered that they planned to stay home for rest during the Chuseok, and 3 percent said that they were planning to take a trip.

Despite the growing number of people avoiding family gatherings for Chuseok, more than half had answered that they were going to visit their hometowns or visit ancestral graves. But the percentage still showed a sharp decrease compared to a 1995 research by Korea Gallup, when near 80 percent had plans of visiting their parents and grandparents for Chuseok.

I just don't have the time and energy to go all the way down to Busan, said 24-year-old Chang Joo-hwa, whose grandparents live in Busan. Just imagining the crazy traffic gives me a headache. If I'm going to visit my grandparents, it's definitely not going to be during Chuseok.

Last Chuseok, when Chang was busy applying for jobs, she put her foot down for the first time in her life and refused to accompany her parents to Busan. Her father was angry and accused of her being selfish, but Chang was happy with the outcome.

After the hellish argument last year, I don't think my parents will force me to follow them to Busan again. I plan to take a good rest away from work and meet friends who I haven't been able to see after starting work earlier this year.

For the nation's youthful baeksu, going to family gatherings over Chuseok is even more out of question. Literally meaning empty hands, baeksu is a derogatory term for the unemployed, carrying connotations of laziness.

According to recent research by the National Statistical Office, over 823,000 people in Korea are out of jobs, with almost four out of every 10 college graduates stuck with the unpleasant nickname. Mortified with the accusation of laziness, these hardworking youngsters are choosing to stay far away from family members over Chuseok.

It's not like I have time for all the fun anyway, said 28-year-old Shin So-hyun, who has been preparing for the bar exam for the last four years. I already know what I'll hear. My aunts and uncles will be on my case saying it's time to give it up and find a job instead. Why would I want to go through torture like that?

Just like last year, Shin will hit the library during the long holidays. From years of experience, she already knows which library is open over Chuseok and which has the least crowd.

Some people are planning to shape up their bodies during the holiday season, undergoing various medical treatments that they've been delaying due to busy life.

Shim Tae-hee, a 36-year-old lawyer, has wanted to get a LASIK operation to improve his eyesight which has gotten worse during the last few months due to stress and a viral disease. But with his busy schedule, it had been literally impossible to squeeze in extra time for the operation.

I'm taking the operation during Chuseok. Since the doctor tells me that it only takes about four days for full recovery, it should give be enough time, said Shim.

Due to such people like Shim who are planning to take surgeries during Chuseok, many plastic surgeons, dermatologists and ophthalmic hospitals have given up on the holiday and are scheduled to run as usual.

But for the older generation which has always regarded family as the core of holiday seasons such as Chuseok, such individualism is a source of concern and disappointment.

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