Chuseok Offers Up Wide Variety of Activities for Expats

Paul Lee, Sept. 9, 2016, 9:22 a.m.

Chuseok, or the Korean Thanksgiving, is one of the country’s biggest holidays, and traditionally spent at home with family and loved ones. The occasion is widely considered to be about good food and company, but expats without family in Korea are often left with the question of how to spend the break. 

With Seoul virtually desolate as masses travel to their hometowns, some expats may choose to jet off overseas, too. However, those stuck in the city during this upcoming holiday need not despair, as there are a slew of events and activities that will be held. 

“For most Koreans, Chuseok means going home to spend time with relatives and eating a lot of good food together,” says Seoul Global Center volunteer Jung Joo-yeon. “For foreigners, there are many places in Seoul that hold traditional events. So even though you’re not Korean, you can still experience the culture of Chuseok.”

Every year, popular cultural spots across Seoul present opportunities for both locals and foreign visitors to participate in the traditional activities of Chuseok. 

Most of the city’s national museums including the National Folk Museum and The National Museum of Korea, all four of Seoul’s royal palaces plus the Jongmyo Shrine are open during the holiday, with the palaces offering free Chuseok-themed programs.

For those hoping to spend time in a more historical setting, strolling through the city’s major palaces is not a bad option. 

As part of the holiday tradition, the palaces are organizing a variety of activities and performances such as tightrope-walking, arrow tossing, traditional board games and top spinning. 

Those willing to immerse deeply in Korean culture can even bypass certain admission fees. 

“Visitors, both Korean and international, wearing traditional Korean ‘hanbok’ can enter all of the palaces for free,” said Jung. “Most foreigners and tourists visit the palaces during Chuseok, but another very popular place to visit is Namsangol Korean Village.”

Located near Chungmuro Station, the Namsangol Korean Village will hold typical Chuseok holiday events as part of its “Five Nobleman’s Harvest Feast” event on Sept. 15 and 16. Visitors will have a chance to learn how to make Korean traditional masks, decorative fans and take part in a traditional ancestralite. 

There will also be cultural performances including dances, drumming, singing and demonstrations of “ssireum,” or Korean wrestling. In addition, visitors also have the opportunity to try making “songpyeon,” or half-moon-shaped rice cakes, and play folk games such as jump rope and arrow tossing.

For expats who have lived in the country for years and are looking to experience a nontraditional side of the holiday, skip those palaces and grab your pillows.

On Sept. 18, Seoul will host a pillow fight festival in the popular college town of Sinchon, which is a common location for street festivals including the annual water gun fight fest. It will be filled with armed pillow fighters starting from 5 p.m. 

The Seoul Grand Park will hold a free “Movie Night at Riverside” from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 and 18. 
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