Chuseok In North and South Korea

chuseok in north and south korea

North Korea has one of the most secretive societies to date. The festivities that place in North Korea including North Korea national holidays are limited. But even though they might be limited North Korea festivals or are celebrated with passion and joy. Unlike North Korea, South Korea has had 700 festivals or more festivals in a year. Every festival is celebrated with family and lasts for a long time.

Festivals in North Korea

There are only two major festivals or North Korean national holidays, the Mass games that take place during May and extend till October and the Spring Dragon Boat festival. Visitors are not allowed to attend these North Korean national holidays. Other than these, the other festivals mark the birth anniversaries of the great leader Kim il-Sung and the dear leader Kim Jung-il.

Just like all over the world, international worker’s day is celebrated in North Korea by arranging sports events and parades. Along with those parades are a part of any major festivals in North Korea. North Korean national holidays always have a military parade, mass dances and mass games. Festivals in North Korea are all celebrated in a similar way of one another.

Festivals in South Korea

South Korea has a lot of tourists coming in every year, especially during the festivals. The number of festivals has increased and so have the celebrations. From the Sakura season in South Korea, Jeju Fire festival, Gochang green barley field festival Boryeong mud festival to many more, it is a never-ending list. Celebrating even the tiniest happiness and treasure, South Korea houses the most enthusiastic and celebrated people in the world.

north and south flag chuseok

Chuseok in North Korea and South Korea

Chuseok celebration is quite similar on both the north and south sides of the border. People get together with their families and visit their ancestors’ graves to pay their respects. There was a time in North Korea when due to a massive famine, they couldn’t afford the luxury of food. Now that the conditions have improved their celebrations now include some dishes from the feasts of the Korean Thanksgiving food.

North Korea festivals like Chuseok are a time for the defectors to reminisce about the life they have left behind. Many people who have escaped North Korea and are now settled somewhere always have the regret of not being able to visit their loved one’s graves. But they also are thankful for the food they are now able to eat without any fear of starvation.

Chuseok in South Korea is celebrated by visiting the graves of their ancestors and worshipping the full moon on the day of the festival. When people visit the graves of their ancestors, they clean the gravesites and pull out any excess weed from on and around them. This ritual is followed so that people always remember their roots and stay grounded. Once the festivities begin, many Korean traditional games are played among the family members and a Charye table is set. Dishes including banchan, soups, meat and fruits are prepared in many varieties and set properly. Some rituals are done by people on the night of the festival. Stories are told about the moon rabbit and the moon goddess who is believed to reside on the moon.  

Charye table north and south korea chuseok

South and North Korea may also use different ingredients for the same Chuseok dishes. South Koreans prepare radish soup with beef, while in the North since beef is rare, pork is used instead. Up North, beef and pork, which are received as rations from spring to fall, are boiled and preserved in salt. On Chuseok, it is cut and used to make soup. Grilled meat is also made with beef in the South, but pork in the North. Popular dishes on the Charye table in the South are meatballs and pan-fried fish fillets but are very rarely found in the North. North Koreans clean rare fish like Plaice (Flatfish) and Atka Mackerel and serve them whole on the ritual table.

Songpyeon North and Souch

No Charye table is complete without the famous rice cake – Songpyeon. Dating back to the Goryeo period, it is a must-have delicacy during Chuseok. There is even a belief that the person who makes the prettiest or most beautiful Songpyeon will meet a good spouse or have a beautiful baby. Songpyeon, too, is prepared differently in these two regions. In the North, the cake is much bigger, and beans and radish are used as fillings in the rice cake. In the South, fillings vary from pumpkin to potato, acorn, or sweetened peas. Nowadays, there are a variety of recipes available to prepare the dish in assorted ways.

Both Koreas also make Jeon or vegetable pancakes, which are eaten as a side dish during meals. However, this dish is much tougher to prepare in the North. North Koreans use onions, instead of expensive cooking oil, to fry the same. Other pancakes served at the North Korean table are also prepared with sorghum and red beans, instead of fish fillet. Sometimes, six or seven boiled eggs are laid on the table in the North.

In terms of beliefs and practices, in the South, people thank their ancestors by bowing while kneeling on the floor, but in the North, simple prayers are said as a part of the ritual. 

Despite all the differences, the Koreans in both regions still share several similarities and resemblances like participating in traditional games and other festivities during this holiday. While the size of the gathering may be different, families in both regions look forward to spending time together and sharing old stories over a meal. Chuseok is a reminder that families are connected, no matter which part of Korea you hail from.

People Also Ask

What is Chuseok holiday in South Korea?

Chuseok is a harvest festival that is celebrated by the Korean people. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.

Why do South Koreans celebrate Chuseok?

Chuseok is a harvest festival that celebrates the end of the summer harvest. It is also a time for families to gather and give thanks for the year’s bounty.

How do Koreans spend Chuseok?

On Chuseok, Koreans usually spend time with their family, eat special holiday foods, and play traditional games.

What is the biggest holiday in Korea?

The Lunar New Year, or Seollal, is the biggest holiday in Korea. Families gather to celebrate the new year and exchange gifts. Seollal is also a time to pay respect to one’s ancestors.

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