More and more Koreans refuse to cook for Chuseok

Kim kyung-hee, a housewife in her 60s, who hated the idea of ​​laying out store-bought meals on a “jesa” table, which is usually placed with homemade food to honor ancestors, plans to buy a packaged meal or two this year for the Chuseok holiday.

“With rising inflation, it is simply too expensive to buy all the food ingredients from the markets. Most importantly, I don’t want to burden my son and daughter-in-law by asking them to help in the kitchen,” Kim said.

“Rather than the ritual itself, I think what’s more important is that we reunite with our families and loved ones and spend quality time together.”

Kim is one of a growing number of South Koreans opting for a less restrictive Chuseok vacation, cooking less expensive ready meals or even going on vacation to avoid the family reunion altogether.

During one of the country’s biggest national holidays, Koreans often pay homage to ancestors with the first crops harvested in the fall. Family members – mostly women – gathered around the kitchen to flip the jeon and roast the tteokgalbi are typical scenes of the autumn harvest festival. But that may not be the case anymore.

For those who prefer a hassle-free Chuseok holiday, which begins Friday and ends September 12 this year, retailers are offering a wide range of less expensive prepared meals.

E-mart, the supermarket chain of retail giant Shinsegae, promotes its pre-cooked Chuseok dishes with the slogan “You can make the whole meal for less than 100,000 won ($72.8)”.

The price of rice cake, jeon, japchae, croaker and namul, a variety of seasoned vegetables, and tteokgalbi each ranges from 7,980 won to 13,980 won.

The Market Kurly e-commerce platform is offering a 30% discount on 110 kinds of pre-cooked holiday dishes. According to the company, the jeon collection was the top-selling item from August 22 through September 4.

A 45-year-old worker named Ha, who lives alone, informed his family last year that he would no longer participate in the Chuseok holiday.

“I was tired of listening to the fussy people about why I’m still single from my family and loved ones over the holidays. This year, I decided to go on a trip to Europe.

Experts say the coronavirus pandemic has been instrumental in changing the way Koreans choose to spend National Day in their own way.

“Even before COVID-19, there were loud voices to get rid of outdated practices — women doing most of the household chores on vacations, disgruntled younger generation forced to attend family gatherings,” said Lee Eun. -hee, professor of consumer science at Inha University.

“But due to social distancing measures during the pandemic, many skipped holiday gatherings. The somewhat liberating experience made them realize that there can be more than one way to spend the holidays,” added Lee.

Citing the need to weed out outdated practices, Seonggyungwan Academy, one of the most historic educational institutions here, announced updated guidelines for ritual procedures on Monday.

The guideline says the staples for a jesa table are rice cake, namul, kimchi, fruit, sanjeok – skewers of beef and rice cake – and alcohol. Meat, fish, rice and soup and fried foods like jeon are only optional.

“We knew the inappropriate cultural rite caused stress and drove up divorce rates, but we failed to change it. However, we hope the new guideline can help people reduce the financial burden (in preparing meals) and settle generational conflicts,” said Choi Young-gap, head of the Academy’s ritual arrangement committee. Seonggyungwan, in a statement.

By Byun Hye-jin ([email protected])