The burden of a South Korean calendar laden with love holidays
By Jon Herskovitz and Lee Jin-joo SEOUL, Reuters
Love comes at a hefty price in South Korea.
There are up to 21 anniversaries, special days and celebrations a year for couples to shower each other with affection and gifts, and as a result some relationships are crushed under the weight of festivities.
South Korean companies looked at the wild success of Valentine's Day celebrations in their country and found ways to sell their goods and services through a tie-up with love, marketing officials say.
Thanks to shrewd marketing in a society focused on commerce as well as love and matrimony, there is a special day on the 14th of each month for lovers to celebrate as well as a few other goodies along the way.
For example, Jan. 14 is Diary Day in South Korea when sweethearts are encouraged to buy gifts such as planners and mark all their red-letter days of love.
Next on the calendar is Feb. 14 and Valentine's Day, where South Korean women buy chocolates for their boyfriends.
Army trucks are regularly deployed to deliver chocolates from women whose boyfriends are in uniform as part of South Korea's mandatory military service.
March 14 is White Day. This celebration was born in Japan, imported to South Korea and is marked by South Korean men returning the favor of their Valentine's chocolates with candies for their girlfriends.
April 14 is Black Day and is purely Korean. This is a day where those who have not found love mark their status as lonely hearts by eating black food.
The dish for the day is Chinese noodles topped with a thick black sauce. Single students at universities order scores of bowls and eat them together in the hope of finding a soul mate over noodles.
May 15 is Yellow Day-Rose Day. Lonely hearts gather for curry and companionship. Those who find love by this day exchange roses. Dressing in yellow is also recommended.
The rest of the celebrations that come each month on the 14th have yet to gain a strong following.
Some of the little-known days for lovers include Aug. 14 Green Day when couples are supposed to dress in green, walk in the woods and drink cheap liquor that comes in green bottles.
On Silver Day, couples can freely ask their friends to give them money to pay for a date while couples are supposed to exchange gifts made of silver.
A new day that has taken off in South Korea is a festivity that combines feelings of affection with chocolate on a stick.
Nov 11. is Pepero Day and is named after a pencil-shaped cookie stick covered in chocolate that is purchased in abundance on the day and exchanged mostly by young South Koreans as an expression of their affection.
Oh Mi-kyeong, an adviser at Duo, a matchmaking company, said all the attention on love and special days makes singles focus on their status and can strain relationships.
"Singles feel lonely on those days and the atmosphere drives them to make a new girlfriend or boyfriend," Oh said. "Many couples fight on those days because they feel hurt if their lover doesn't do enough to celebrate the special days together."
Many couples celebrate the milestone of 100, 200, 300 and 1,000 days since the first time they met or went on their first date. Since calculating the milestones is quite difficult, many couples in the world's most wired country turn to the Internet for help.
There are sites that calculate the special days for a person and send notice of an upcoming milestone with an e-mail or a text message over a mobile phone.
"It must be so difficult for young people to keep their relationships going with so many special days," said Yoko Tagami, a Japanese essayist living in Seoul who has written on the subject. "It could even scare single men away from marrying."
Newspapers and lifestyle magazines often get into the act, especially for "First Snow Da.y. Lovers are supposed to mark the first snow of the winter season with a romantic date.
Several media sources are awash with recommended spots and activities that will make young lovers' hearts flutter as they enjoy the sprinkling of snow.
Christmas Eve is one of the biggest date nights of the year. It also marks the season of high prices as many businesses try to make a few extra won off lovers.
Restaurants offer pricey Christmas menus, high-end jewelry stores are packed with young lovers purchasing non-discounted goods and even some love hotels raise prices for couples who want to stretch their Christmas Eve date into the morning.
And of course, birthdays and actual one-year anniversaries are also major events on the calendar for couples.
Couples, however, can feel the pinch of too many festivities.
"I gave my boyfriend a gift soon after we went out and that just made his expectations bigger for more expensive gifts. I had to ask my parents for money for gifts, and in the end, we broke up because of the cost," said Kim Mi-yeon, a student.
A Full List of the Holidays (pulled from somewhat.org)
January 14th- Diary Day: Exchange stationery with your loved one! Start off the new year with a sturdy fountain pen that can always remind you of that special someone. Go off and write entries in your journals while sitting in public places. Then exchange the entries and read what your lover had to say about that weird guy who kept talking to his creamer.
February 14th-Valentine’s Day: Be very cautious here, or you will ruin two perfectly good holidays. Fellas, don’t buy anything for your girls on this day. It’s the ladies’ treat.
March 14th-White Day: Now guys give candy to girls. See how easily you can split up the reciprocity into two viable occasions? Anyway, more chocolate, wine, and flowers all around. A note to gay couples: nothing has been officially worked out regarding the gender specification here, but I suggest that Valentine’s Day and White Day be replaced with the terms “That Special Someone in my Life” Parts I and II. Giving and Receiving roles will be determined by coin toss on the first celebration and then alternated yearly.
April 14th-Black Day: Singles, this is your day! You may commiserate together or alone (which you are probably more accustomed to, anyway) and eat noodles in black bean sauce. Couples, yet another day to celebrate your victory over the wretched and lonely! I bet you still have some chocolate left over from those past few months. All together now, Codependency, hoorah!
May 14th-Yellow/Rose Day: Who knows why it’s called Yellow Day, but who cares? Have a rose!
June 14th-Kiss Day: People might have misconceptions of this holiday. This is actually the day in the year when couples sit down and talk about everybody they’ve ever been with, kissed, or felt up. Traditionally, it is always supposed to rain on this day, to combine, as legend tells, with the tears of joy couples share upon receiving painfully detailed accounts of each other’s sexual exploits.
July 14th-Silver Day: Obviously I might be a little biased about this, but let’s face it: Gold’s just tacky.
August 14th-Green Day: Feel free to express your love for vegetation today, or take your loved one out for a picnic and some nooky.
September 14th-Music/Photo Day: Make like the White Stripes and pose for your future album covers.
October 14th-Wine Day: Not to be confused with Wine Cooler Day, which is the day of any home game at Shea Stadium, to be celebrated in the parking lot.
November 14th-Orange Day/Movie Day: This is the day you should make all your arrangements for drinking orange juice over the next twenty four hours. Don’t thank me. I know I just saved your relationship. Also, see a movie today!
December 14th-Hug Day: I don’t really know what this one’s about. Sounds like some stupid shit to me.