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Losing Chuseok Traditions

  Chuseok is Korea's great national holiday.  The first thing that comes to our mind about Chuseok is heavy traffic, homecoming and ancestral-memorial services. 
However, these days that's not all.  There are many people who travel with their family or friends.  And plenty of people use an agency service for cutting the weeds around their grave and setting the altar for memorial service.  Also, some people use the Internet for a memorial service to their ancestors.  As time goes by, many customs of Chuseok's will change a lot.  Let's consider the changes in detail.

Changing Customs
Increasing travel abroad
According to Korean Air, people who travel abroad during Chuseok are increasing more and more in every year.  This year 83,873 people used the Incheon airport each day on average.  The number of the people increased by 8 percent over last year.  And it is greater than the high-demand season in summer.  So it's difficult to book an airplane ticket for a trip abroad.  The most popular destinations are Southeast Asia, which takes nearly one half, China and Japan.
A netizen nicknamed Gotang2, who traveled abroad during Chuseok, said, "Because I'm an office worker, I can take vacations only during summer holidays and national holidays.  So I would like to rest during Chuseok.  Before the holidays began, I cut the weeds around the family grave and have an honor service for my ancestors."

Using agency services for Chuseok
Lots of people want to use agency service for convenience. Agency services include setting the table for ancestors and cutting the weeds around a grave.  In busy modern society, people cannot find time to take care of ancestors' tombs.  So more and more people want to use agency services.
According to webmaster, who runs a service agency based on website said that they pull out the weeds around the grave.  People who want to use their services increase every year.  So they are very busy around Chuseok.  The other webmaster stressed that they set the altar for ancestors with satisfaction guaranteed.  For the last several years his business increased about 20 percent.  "We will have plenty of customers for next several years," he added.
Advent of Internet ancestor honor
Lately, honoring ancestors through the Internet is occurring.  Many people do not honor their ancestors in person because they do not have time to visit ancestors' tombs.  It sounds strange, but it's true.  Although this is a new trend, these sites are getting popular.  And people can burn incense and offer food to ancestors by simply clicking as if they actually do it.

What's the reason for the present situation?
  Kyoong Sun-young, an instructor in Dongguk's Dept. of Sociology, said, "Raymond Williams, an eminent scholar who studied Marxism, spoke of 'the selective tradition', which means reconstructing selected traditions.  It reconstructs a new culture through social structure, social thought and so on.  So past culture isn't continual.  And the present state (using agency services and travelling abroad) follows as a natural consequence and reflects the changes of the society (for example,  deep individualism).  And the social scholar Max Weber spoke of that society has changed by following rationality.  So in this modern society, changing attitudes about Chuseok are a natural result of that rationality."

Different Opinions By Generation Gap
Supporting opinions about the present situation
A netizen in her twenties (ID: Uisun910): In case of Christian family, they don't have to hold a memorial service for their ancestors.  And a divorced family also doesn't have to do it.  So we can't deny this new trend.  And we can't rebuke those who want to travel abroad and use agency services rather than showing filial piety.
A netizen in his forties (ID: Rosa030303): I sometimes converse with my friends about Chuseok.  Most of us don't like observing this Confucian custom because it's very hard for Korean woman who have to prepare for Chuseok.  We prefer to travel with family rather than visit ancestors' tombs.
Opposite opinions about the present situation
A netizen in his thirties (ID: Ninemonster): I think this present state isn't right.  And national holiday is for giving thanks to ancestors and keeping close relationships with relatives.  So if the present state continues, maybe it will cause the collapse of family relationships.  Therefore, we shouldn't consider Chuseok as just an ordinary holiday.
A netizen in his fifties (ID: Jaiho4336): We are in duty bound to go and see our parents once or twice a year.  And it is courteous to honor our ancestor though form of the family is now nuclear.  So I think established social morals and customs will endure for a long time.

Conclusion
Nowadays, a lot of people value time with their family more than honoring ancestors.  There are concerns about the present situation because it erodes tradition. But times are changing.  The Chuseok traditions based on Confucianism are changing.  Now, Chuseok is becoming the time to take a vacation instead of honoring and giving thanks to ancestors.

Lee Soo-jin  leesj117@dongguk.edu

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