Korean Holidays and Daily Life

From the bustling metropolis of Seoul to the serene countryside, South Korea is a diverse and dynamic country that offers plenty of interesting experiences, even in daily life.

And when the much-awaited Korean holidays roll around, you’re sure to enjoy South Korea even more!

Check out all about daily life in South Korea and the holidays you can enjoy on your days off.

Daily Life in Korea

Home

One of the most noticeable aspects of Korean culture is its family-orientedness.
Families gather regularly, especially when celebrating fun Korean holidays. It’s also common for extended families to live close to each other!
Much like other collectivist cultures, Korea’s traditional family structure tends to be very close-knit.
It’s common to see multi-generational households, but with Korea’s rapid modernization, more families are adopting a more nuclear family structure like their Western counterparts.
With family being a vital social unit in Korea, the country has a family register in place for all households—hojeok.
Currently, the Korean government is looking into ways to revise traditional family registration systems that emphasize male-focused hierarchy and unequal inheritance.

 

Korean family life
Traditional Korean families are multi-generational, but more Koreans are already adopting the Westernized nuclear family. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

School

South Korea is known for its razor-sharp focus on schooling. In fact, the country holds the record for the highest percentage of people who have reached tertiary education.

The school year in South Korea starts in March. The first semester lasts through mid-July, while the second semester starts in late August or September through mid-February. 

Aside from uniforms, students in Korea are required to wear slippers inside the school. 

They are also taught to respect their teachers and maintain the cleanliness of their classrooms.

After school, students can attend yaja (야간자율학습), which are evening sessions for self-study, or hagwon (학원) classes, which run until 11 PM.

These study sessions are meant to help students prepare for the Suneung (수능), or the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), which takes place on the third Thursday of November.

Students will be allowed to enter certain universities based on their CSAT scores.

Outside of the traditional Korean school system, parents also have the choice to enroll their kids at alternative schools, or daehan hakgyo (대한 학교)

These schools offer more time for rest and extracurricular activities.

South Korean schools are stringent on academics, but they also have out-of-town trips for students. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Work

Koreans are hard workers, but they make it a point to play hard, too!

Korea’s work culture revolves around office hierarchy. Usually, employers prefer having a “family” environment in the workplace, which leads to group activities like dinners and karaoke sessions.

So if you’re the office newbie, you may want to maximize these occasions to vibe well with the team!

Of course, with changing perspectives on work life, employers have their own rules.

Whether or not they adhere to traditional Korean work attitudes and practices ultimately depends on them.

 

Don’t Forget: Business Etiquette

  • Remember office hierarchies and greet the most senior colleagues first.
  • Use two hands or your right hand when going for a handshake. Use both hands when presenting and receiving business cards.
  •  Make small talk before going into business. Be sure to respect silence, too.
Korean work culture
It's important to remember hierarchies and group harmony in Korean workplaces. Image source: Pexels

Korean Holidays

Holidays in South Korea mostly follow the Gregorian calendar, which is the universal calendar that we use to mark our holidays and important events.

However, some public holidays in Korea still follow the lunar calendar—for example, the Lunar New Year.

Here are the important public holidays you need to remember.

 

New Year’s Day

Like other cultures, Koreans also celebrate the new year on January 1. Christmas Day is also celebrated on December 25 in the country.

Koreans celebrate the new year by watching the sunrise, partying, and other fun activities!

 

Seollal or Lunar New Year

Seollal, which is celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar’s new year, is arguably a more prominent holiday in Korea compared to the universal New Year.

Celebrated any time between February 9 and 12, Seollal is a time when most offices are closed so people can take the time off with their families. 

During this time, families prepare feasts with delicious food, such as tteokguk (떡국), a rice cake soup, and mandu guk (만두국), or dumpling soup.

Other bonding activities include flying kites and playing board games like yunnori (윷놀이).

 

Children’s Day

Observed every May 5, Children’s Day commemorates children across the country.

During this day, families take their children to parks, zoos, and other leisure places to express their love and hope for their future.

 

Buddha’s Birthday

As the name suggests, this holiday is a major occasion in Buddhism, as it celebrates the birth of Buddha.

Celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, usually May 15, Buddha’s Birthday involves a lot of celebrations at Buddhist temples.

Devotees can take part in solemn rituals, and lanterns can be seen along streets near temples.

 

Memorial Day

June 6 marks a day for honoring Korean civilians and soldiers for serving their country.

During this time, people can take part in memorial services throughout the country. The largest service, however, takes place in Seoul’s National Cemetery.

 

Liberation Day

An important day in Korean history, Liberation Day marks Korea’s liberation from the Japanese regime in 1945.

Celebrated every August 15, this day also marks the founding of the Republic of Korea.

 

Chuseok

Another one of Korea’s biggest holidays, Chuseok also serves as the country’s own Thanksgiving Day. Chuseok is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, or September 16–18. 

Also known as Hangawi, this seasonal festival is meant to show gratitude for a bountiful harvest.

Families visit their ancestors for memorial rituals and make wishes on a full moon.

 

National Foundation Day 

Another memorable event in Korean history is the Korean nation’s founding. 

Celebrated every October 3, this day commemorates Korea’s establishment by the god-king Dangun.

Visitors can witness several ceremonies at shrines such as Seoul’s Dangunseongjeon Shrine or the Chamseongdan Altar at the top of Ganghwado Island’s Manisan Mountain.

Other holidays of note include Independence Movement Day (March 1), National Assembly Election Day (April 10, as of 2024), and Hangeul Day (October 9).

Certified Korean Translator

Whether as a tourist or a new resident, it’s important to get to know daily life and culture in Korea before making your journey.

That said, part of the preparation is making sure your documents are adequately prepared—translations included.

Elite Translations is a certified translation service with years of experience helping people get their travel requirements in order.

Aside from our broad, expert-level Korean translator network, we also take pride in our strict data privacy and security adherence.

So in addition to experts in Korean culture and language, you also get the assurance that your documents are safe with us. 

Contact us for a FREE quote today!

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Reddit