Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chuseok at Emart

The Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving or Harvest) holidays this year are from September 29 to October 3, Saturday to Wednesday, a five-day treat! Usually we just get a three-day holiday, two days for travel and then the holiday itself, but this year with Chuseok, based on the lunar calendar, falling near a solar calendar holiday on October 3, National Foundation Day, the day that the nation founder Dangun was supposed to have established the Gojoseon Dynasty in 2333 BC, we get a bonus two days. Wouldn't be nice to have a three-day weekend, rush back to the offices and schools for a day and then have another public holiday.
So, with the holiday comes a little extra time for shopping, namely that the stores are congested with shoppers and congested with ladies everywhere dressed in hanboks and selling shelves congested with gift boxes of food for the holidays. I just have to document this gift-box-culture for people not living in Korea. It's such a unique culture. And my photos suggest it's limited to fruit and dried foods. Well, it's definitely not! Gift boxes could contain several boxes of toothpaste, several bottles of olive and/or grapeseed oil, liquor fancifully packaged, or teas, or pots of stylized ceramic honey pots packaged in beautiful Asian designed wooden boxes. (I've bought a few of those over the years, and yes, they make great gifts!) Anyway, there are boxes and boxes everywhere. And crowds of people too. It was hard getting these pictures because I had to wait for people to pass for almost every one.
Actually, several years ago there was a lot of discussion at the government level about making some green laws concerning the huge number of gift boxes produced, given and then quickly tossed, filling dumpsters and trash sites on the holidays. I should take some pictures of THAT! Unfortunately, the green laws must have just been rumor as the shelves are still loaded with gift boxes and the trash sites still get hugely piled up on the big holidays. But here are a few of the items, and some of the women selling them. Each short aisle had at least one woman selling. I don't know if they are paid wages or on commission, but they were quite aggressive about making sales.
dried ginseng - if it's red ginseng, it's worth more as it is believed that the steaming and thus the coloration
of the ginseng has a healthier value
health products, which recently became a big and very EXPENSIVE market
canned tuna, spam and other
dried mushrooms
various nuts (I have yet to see Brazil nuts in Korea)
more dried mushrooms

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