The Korean Memorial Day (현충일, 顯忠日, Hyeonchung-il) is a national non-working holiday held every June 6 to honor the soldiers and civilians who sacrificed their lives for Korea. It was declared a public holiday by the Korean Government on April 19, 1956.
On this day, memorial ceremonies are held to commemorate the men and women who died while in military service during the Korean War and other significant wars or battles. The largest ceremony is held at the National Cemetery in Seoul with the President and some government officials in attendance. Officials and citizens place flowers and offerings at the graves of those who died in battle. War veterans also salute in front of the gravestone of their fellow soldiers.
At 10 in the morning, a siren rings all over the country, and people offer silent prayers for one minute. The Korean flag (태국기, Taegukgi) is flown at half-staff and the Memorial Day Song (현충일 노래, Hyeonchung-il Norae) is also played. Some houses and business establishments display the Korean flag on their front doors. All of these are done to pay respect to the people who heed the call to stand up and fight for the freedom of their countrymen.
Filipinos in the Korean War
Writer’s Note: Since this article aims to honor the people who gave their lives to protect and defend their country, I would like to take this opportunity to also acknowledge the astonishing act of humanity and selflessness our fellow Filipino soldiers did during the Korean War.
Filipino-Korean Soldier Monument. This monument of two Filipino soldiers aiding a Korean soldier is dedicated to the Filipino combat soldiers who fought with the Korean troops during the Korean War.
The Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat troops to the Korean War. Comprised of five Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs), composed of 7,150 officers and men, President Elpidio Quirino sent the Philippine Expeditionary Forces To Korea (PEFTOK) to fight in the Korean War in September 1950.
The PEFTOK creed at the Museum of the PEFTOK Korean War Memorial Hall at Fort Bonifacio.
Overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War, the Korean War is referred to as the “Forgotten War.” Many young Filipinos today are unaware of the sacrifices our brave soldiers to help South Korea gain the freedom and democracy has today.
Most, if not all, of our history classes do not discuss this important event in our country’s past. I hope that their sacrifices will not be forgotten and that the next generation of Filipinos would continue to commemorate the heroism and gallantry of our Korean War veterans.
“Children are the future of our nation. Let’s show respect for children. Children who grow up with ridicule and contempt from others will become people who disrespect others, while children who grow up with respect from others will become people who respect others in turn.”
– Bang Jeong-hwan (방정환)
Children’s Day, or Eorininal (어린이날), is celebrated in Korea on the 5th of May every year. It is a public holiday observed since 1922. Korea sets this date to celebrate children’s happiness and to remind each citizen that the day should be commemorated to promote children’s general welfare and protection. It is also a way to instill in them a sense of patriotism and national pride.
It is viewed by Korean children in a similar manner as Christmas is viewed by many children in the rest of the world — as a time for gifts and fun. During this day, parents shower their kids with gifts ranging from toys to money. Together with the presents, they also spend time with them by visiting amusements parks, zoos, museums and other places which are children-oriented. In some areas, various cultural programs are also held for both the parents’ and children’s enjoyment.
Children’s Day actually started through the hard work of Bang Jeong-hwan (방정환), a pioneer of Korean juvenile literature and a children’s rights activist. His purpose for the holiday was to promote love, care and respect for the youth because they are the future of the country.
In 1922, Bang Jeong-hwan with a group of Korean students and social leaders came up with the idea of celebrating a holiday that would focus on promoting and improving the social status of Korean children. The first Children’s Day was celebrated on May 1, 1923. Until 1939, Japanese authorities based in Seoul tried to ban the celebrations. After independence in 1945, the holiday was revived. In 1961, it was pushed to May 5 and was officially registered as a holiday in 1970.
Children’s Day not only focuses on celebrating the dignity of children and highlighting their need for care, love, and respect, but also honors adults who contribute to improving the children’s lives.
It would be great if we also have this kind of holiday in the Philippines, don’t you think so?
In Korea, Children’s Day, Parent’s Day, Teacher’s Day, and Buddha’s birthday all fall in May – making it known as the month of holidays. However, out of these, only Children’s Day and Buddha’s birthday are national holidays, or ‘red days’ as they are known. On May 3,millions of people across Korea will come together to celebrate the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
Buddhism , or 불교 bulgyo, along with Christianity, is one of the two main religions of South Korea. Buddha’s Birthday is not only an important and auspicious day for the nation’s practicing Buddhists, but also a public holiday when Korean culture and tradition is widely celebrated across the country.
석가탄신일 Seokga tansinil, meaning ‘Buddha’s Birthday’ or 부처님 오신 날 Bucheonim osin nal (‘the day when the Buddha came’) has been widely observed in many Asian nations for centuries. In Korea, it falls on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar. The actual date of the holiday changes every year.
Most of the festivities surrounding the holiday start about a week prior to the day itself, Vibrantly colored, lotus-shaped paper lanterns are hung throughout the country as early as a month ahead of time.
Buddhist temples are transformed into kaleidoscopes of color. Take a visit to one of the temples in the country and one will see lotus lanterns around the temple and surrounding yards and streets. On the day of Buddha’s birth, many temples provide complimentary vegetarian meal such as 산채 비빔밥 sanchae bibimbap and tea to all visitors who make the trek. The temples also host traditional Korean games and performances, such as mask dances and acrobatic shows with tightrope walkers.
Many participants make a small donation to hang their own paper lantern in the temple complex. These colored paper lanterns are mostly red, pink, or gold and have candles inside. A small paper tag is hung from the bottom of the lantern where they write their name and a wish that they carry in their heart.
The highlight of the celebrations is the 연등회Yeon Deung Hoe, also known as the Lotus Lantern Festival. Originating in the Silla period more than 1,200 years ago, the tradition has been passed down through the Goryeo era, the Joseon era, and is still an annual tradition today. This traditional festival is designated as Korea’s National Intangible Cultural Property No. 122.
In major cities like Seoul and Busan, the festival features an annual lantern parade which usually takes place on the weekend before the holiday. The largest lantern festival happens in downtown Seoul where the participants in the parade first head to Dongguk University, one of Korea’s main Buddhist universities. They watch dance performances and ceremonies in the afternoon and the parade usually starts at seven in the evening. The parade’s participants range from solemn looking Buddhist monks to excitable university students with magnificent lantern displays including animated dragons and replicas of the Buddha himself. By lighting lanterns at the festival, participants light up their own hearts as well as the world. In this way, the celebration also offers an opportunity in which participants can reflect on Buddhist virtues, teachings, principles and life in general.
After the lantern parade, there are a few other activities such as street festivals, lantern making, temple food tasting and lively cultural performances that express the aspiration for peace and happiness all over the world while bring all participants together as one, transcending nationality, gender, ethnicity and religion.
Korea’s Buddha’s Birthday celebration is truly both a spectacle for the eyes and a wonderful way to remember the man who established one of the world’s most influential religions.
March 1, 1919 is one of the most important dates in modern Korean history and its spirit continues to live on every March 1st when the streets of Korea are filled with national flags and people enjoy a national holiday.
Samiljeol (삼일절) or Independence Movement Day is apublic holiday in Koreadedicated to the March 1st Movement. This protest happened on March 1, 1919, and is one of the earliest public demonstrations of Korean resistance during the Japanese occupation. The day of Korean Independence Movement has been commemorated as a public holiday in Korea since 1949.
The name 삼일절 (Sam-il-jeol) can be broken into three parts:
삼 = 3
일 = day
절 = festival day (word suffix)
The direct translation is ‘3-1 Festival Day’, which is to commemorate what happened during the public resistance on March 1st. The demonstrations are also sometimes called “만세운동” (Manse Undong), which means ‘Manse Demonstrations’.
On March 1, 1919, (33) thirty-three Korean Movement core activistsmet at the Taehwa-gwan Restaurant inSeoul and announced the Korean Declaration of Independence. Following that, Koreans took it to the streets, marching and shouting “Manse!”, which means “long live Korea” or “may Korea live 10,000 years.” The Japanese police took 12 months to suppress the peaceful movement, which resulted to thousands of deaths. Before it was put down, approximately 2 million Koreans had participated in more than 1,500 demonstrations.
During this time a courageous 18-year old girl, Yoo Gwan-Sun, handed out hundreds of Korean flags to the people and organized independence demonstrations. She was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured to death. To this day, she is regarded as “Big Sister Yoo Gwan-Sun” and a national hero of Korea.
However, the fight was not without cost. During the movement, about 7,000 people were killed by the Japanese police and soldiers, and 16,000 were wounded. Many people lost properties, with more than 700 private houses, 40 churches, and a couple of school buildings destroyed by fire.
More than 45,000 people were also arrested, 10,000 of which were tried and convicted. Many fighters who were arrested were kept in Seodaemun Prison in Seoul without trial. The prisoners were tortured and some were even executed.
The March 1st Movement proved though to be the catalyst for the establishment of the 1919 Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai. The government did not gain formal recognition from world powers but continued to resist the Japanese occupation during the 1920s and 1930s. This resulted to the formation of Korean Liberation Army in 1940 which led the war against Japan. On August 15, 1945, Korea was finally liberated from Imperial Japanese colonial rule.
The Independence Movement Day was declared as a national holiday in Korea on May 24, 1949. This holiday is celebrated by a reading of the Korean Declaration of Independence from 1919 which takes place in Seoul’s Pagoda Park.
태극기 (Tae-geuk-ki), the Korean flag, is raised in homes, businesses, and institutions all throughout the country. There are numerous parades, concerts, and exhibitions to commemorate the day. Those who died fighting are honored at a ceremonial ringing of the bell in Bosingak, Seoul. The Mayor of Seoul, other dignitaries and invited guests in three groups of four persons toll the bell 11 times to remember the 33 heroic Koreans who in 1919, signed the Declaration of Independence.
Korean Cultural Center (KCC) in the Philippines opened its first Korean media art exhibition for 2017 ‘Eternal Light’ last February 9 at KCC Exhibit Hall, Taguig City.
The exhibition features the works of Han Ho, a Korean contemporary artist and performer who integrates light in his artworks. According to him, “[Light] is the messenger that delivers hope to human beings.” Many have called him the successor to Nam June Paik, a Korean-American contemporary artist and considered to be the founder of video art.
Before the opening ceremony, an Artist’s Talk was held where Han Ho shared some of his experiences and inspirations as an artist. After which he also had a live performance art where he produced a series of light reflections from different people. According to him, the performance symbolizes the humanity’s connection to the universe.
In ‘Eternal Light’, Han Ho explores the nature of human emotions and desires, inner conflict, and hope. Using a Korean traditional paper or hanji, Han Ho combines light in his traditional paintings to create a new form of art. He also employs projected light in his art installations and uses different materials to choreograph patterns of reflected light.
The works of Han Ho are unfolded in two directions that do not conflict one another because he continues to pursue a return to the source. This source is the ‘Moon’, which is expressed in Oriental poetry as an extremely important being and the center of universe. Han Ho regards it as the source of inspiration, not as a blind source. Therefore, the Moon exists in his works in order to provide people with the path to the sky.
An emerging artist from Korea, Han Ho has been using light as his medium for years. In 2015, Han Ho was invited to be Korea’s representative in the 56th Venice Biennale’s special exhibition, “Personal Structures.” He also participated in the exhibition of Palais de Tokyo in Paris, International Paper Art Biennale in Bulgaria, International Art Photo Festival Pingyao in China, and Empty area of Alien Aquazoo-Löbbecke Museum Ballhaus, Duesseldorf in Germany.
The ‘Eternal Light’ exhibition will run until April 28, 2017 at the Korean Cultural Center Exhibition Hall. Admission is free. For more information, please contact (02) 555-1711 or email email@example.com
If you are a fan of Korean food (or anything Korean), then you surely have heard about Kimchi – Korea’s representative food. Koreans consume an average of 40 pounds of it per person each year (yep, that’s how much they looove it). Kimchi is literally a part of their everyday lives that they feel “something is missing” if they don’t have it on the table. Natives even say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when getting their pictures taken.
Kimchi or gimchi (김치), is a traditional fermented Korean side dish (반찬) often made of cabbage with a variety of seasonings characterized by its spicy and distinct taste. In traditional preparations, kimchi was stored underground in jars to keep cool during the summer months and unfrozen during the winter months. Nowadays, there’s no need to make your own as packed kimchi are available everywhere in convenient stores.
Kimchi is considered as one of the world’s healthiest food. It contains a high concentration of dietary fiber, while being low in calories. One serving also provides over 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. The vegetables used in kimchi also contribute to its overall nutritional value. Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron, and contains lactic acid bacteria, among those the typical species Lactobacillus kimchii. These good bacteria help with digestion, plus it seems to help stop and even prevent yeast infections, according to a recent study. And more good news: Some studies show fermented cabbage has compounds that may prevent the growth of cancer.
There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi and the most common variations are baechu kimchi (배추김치, napa cabbage kimchi), baechu geotjeori (배추겉절이, unfermented napa cabbage kimchi), bossam kimchi (보쌈김치), baek kimchi (백김치, white kimchi), dongchimi (동치미, water-based kimchi), chonggak kimchi (총각김치, young radish kimchi), kkakdugi (깍두기, daikon kimchi), oisobagi (오이소박이, cucumber kimchi), and pa kimchi (파김치, green onion kimchi). Kimchi also is used in everything from soups to pancakes, and as a topping on pizza and burgers.
Now, how is kimchi made?
Kimjang is the Korean tradition of making and sharing a lot of kimchi to last through the winter months. The Kimjang custom plays an important role in encouraging greater ties between Koreans and perfectly demonstrates the Korean art of living. It reaffirms Korean identity, emphasizes the importance of sharing and strengthening family ties, and is a reminder of the need to live in harmony with nature. On December 2013, UNESCO added Kimjang to the world’s intangible heritage list. This honor demonstrates the important role played by Kimjang in Korean cultural traditions.
Preparation of kimjang kimchi follows a yearly cycle. In spring, households procure shrimp, anchovy and other seafood for salting and fermenting. In summer, they buy sea salt for the brine. In late summer, red chili peppers are dried and ground into powder. Late autumn is Kimjang season, when communities collectively make and share large quantities of kimchi to ensure that every household has enough to sustain it through the long, harsh winter. This season is known as Ipdong (입동), the 19th division of the 24 solar divisions of the lunar calendar year. It represents the start of winter and this 2016, Ipdong will be on November 07.
In the past, Korean families do their own Kimjang as most of them lived with a large number of family members, often with more than three generations under one roof. They would gather together, bring their own rubber gloves, and work all day long outside in the cold while sharing good food and good times with each other, making this activity worth looking forward to. However, the unique tradition has been slowly fading out, as the Korean culture becomes more globalized and the sizes of families have been reduced considerably. Many people opt to buy kimchi at markets rather than make it themselves during Kimjang. Such trends can be clearly seen in Seoul and other metropolitan areas.
Though it is really worrisome, there is still a silver lining as efforts are still being made today to preserve Kimjang. In an attempt to combat the increasing popularity of mass-produced kimchi, which is convenient for modern life, Seoul has created the world’s only kimchi museum, where tourists and local people can sample different types of it, and learn about the traditional Kimjang process. The city of Seoul also organizes an annual event to celebrate the addition of Kimjang to the UNESCO’s cultural heritage list in 2013. Thousands of people, including foreigners, gather at the Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall to make kimchi together, most of which is donated to charitable causes. It also features other cultural exhibitions for people to enjoy. This event in Seoul is just one of the countless Kimjang festivals that take place across the country every year. Many regional governments, social organizations, and businesses also sponsor Kimjang festivals in an effort to preserve the tradition.
I personally love the idea of this Korean custom and I would want to try doing Kimjang with my family. Doesn’t this tradition touch your heart? I really do hope that Koreans keep this tradition well for their next generations to take pride in and for the world to marvel at.
These days, I have been busy decluttering my things as we just moved a week ago. While digging into the boxes that were heavier (or lighter) than me, I stumbled upon my mom’s CD collection of drama and horror films from the early 2000s. Out of all the CDs piled up, an original copy of the 2003 Korean historical drama, Dae Jang Geum got my attention. Seeing Jang Geum, portrayed by actress Lee Young-Ae, on the CD cover made me feel like being taken back in time when I was just a 3rd grader, lying on her stomach with her eyes glued to the TV every night, admiring Jang Geum‘s intelligence and prowess both in the royal cuisine and in the medical field.
Dae Jang Geum, known as Jewel in the Palace in the Philippines, was televised by GMA Network from November 2005 to March 2006. The drama was in fact very successful that it was shown almost worldwide just after it was originally aired in Korea. It also sparked people’s interests to dive into the Korean culture, especially the Korean Cuisine. Jang Geum inspired the younger me to dream of myself wearing Hanbok while doing wonders in the Royal Cuisine. It’s kind of funny and embarrassing whenever it comes to mind now, but it turns out that my childish dream never disappeared and grew stronger instead.
I grew up helping mom in the kitchen (ifbeing the foodtester is considered helping.) However, it was only a few years ago when I tried being the cook. My mom taught me her own recipes but I thought they were too plain so I experimented a lot… which yielded unfavorable results. The only decent food I could serve, without the fear of people lining up in the comfort room, is carbonara. I thank the heavens for giving me some mysterious power to cook it minus any threat to the eaters’ well-being. ㅎㅎ I studied Korean Language in the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines (KCC) located near my workplace in Bonifacio Global City. I loved learning the language but I also itched to try Hansik or Korean Cooking to be able to prepare myself jjajangmyeon and to learn other Korean recipes as well. I was keen to join the class but I wasn’t able to pursue it as my work schedule suddenly changed. Sad, right? But I did not give up on my dream **cue Hercules OST** and resorted to browse for some Korean recipes online. I finally got the steps to a great jjajangmyeon, thanks to Maangchi and other sources. Next came the ingredient shopping. I didn’t think it would be different to what I usually do whenever I shop for any other ingredients so I was taken aback after realizing that I will be cooking Korean food. You know, Korean food = Korean ingredients + Korean way of cooking. So there… I bet you already have a clue about what happened next. ㅠㅠ
After the painful case of jjajangmyeon, I vowed to be contented in eating Korean food. Whenever I hang out with my Elementary Korean 1 classmates (and our teacher if she’s available), we would always eat out and you don’t even have to guess what we munch on! We even call our class “Bibimbap”. ㅎㅎ Going back, we went to a certain Korean restaurant after class once and among all the dishes I’ve tried there, I instantly fell in love with their gimbap. Gimbap or kimbap is a seaweed rice roll made of gim – a sheet of dried and roasted seaweed like those used in some variants of Japanese sushi, and bap or rice in Korean. Gimbap can be made with all kinds of fillings and has also many variants to choose from.
Don’t be confused!
Thinking that I’ve already healed my broken heart from the incident months ago, I mustered up my courage to be in action in the kitchen again. I looked up for the recipe online and got Maangchi as my instructor for the second time. The ingredients for gimbap are actually easy to find in the local supermarkets here (except for the danmuji or pickled radish).
Next, of course, is the preparation. I started by mixing rice with some seasonings and then I set it aside to cool. For the filling, I used carrots, avocado, cucumber, spinach, eggs, and beef. After all the chopping, mixing, and frying comes the most challenging part is the gimbap rolling!
It was actually fun rolling the gimbap. Imagine grasping firmly on the sushi mat to shape the roll wrapped inside and unfolding the mat to be greeted by a perfect gimbap made by your own hands – how cool is that? Be careful though, as too much grip may cause the gimbap’s fillings to burst out of the mat. I also feel obliged to warn you about putting too much rice over the gim.
The last thing to do is to slice the gimbap roll. Remember to wet the knife before and after every slicing 1. to make it easier, and 2. to avoid rice sticking on the knife which could ruin the next slice and you will cry because your pretty gimbap got destroyed. **sniffs**
Now, I am proud to present you the very first gimbap I’ve made since I walked the earth~!
I really had a great time preparing my first gimbap. Doesn’t it show? Fortunately, it passed my mom’s taste test with flying colors. Her reaction made me think that with some more practice, I could be the modern Jang Geum of the Philippines. ㅋㅋㅋ Kidding aside, I will strive to be better at cooking and make my country proud – be it Filipino or Korean cuisine. ㅎㅎ