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Don't Say Chuseok Is Korean Thanksgiving

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By Ines Min
Contributing Writer

There are 314 pages on, the nation's official multilingual Web site, that contain both the words "Chuseok" and "Thanksgiving" in the results from a quick search of the site.

Chuseok, a harvest holiday with origins dating to the Three Kingdoms Period of Korea, is compared to the North American tradition in English-language media throughout the country, as well as between friends and families.

The use of the term "Korean Thanksgiving" has been impressed on most foreigners and natives, but there are still many who do now know the full meaning or origins behind the holiday.

Nancy Medina, a Chilean who moved to Seoul two months ago, didn't recognize the holiday at first.

"Friends explained to me that it was like Thanksgiving," said the non native-English speaker. "I'm not from the United States, but I know what Thanksgiving is."

The Western influences in South Korea could be part of the reason for the widely-used analogy, said an employee at the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOIS), the government branch that manages

"Bear in mind that most of the English that Koreans choose to use is heavily American-influenced," he said, wishing to remain anonymous.

"Obviously, it's a simplification, every comparison is some sort of a simplification, but the term 'Thanksgiving' is neither accurate nor inaccurate.

"The (KOIS) also refers to (Chuseok) as a harvest festival, or a full moon festival. Generally, any article we write about it will contain all of those concepts at some point."

Michael Toole, an English teacher who has lived here for two years, said he felt the comparison between the two holidays wasn't necessarily bad.

"I think it's fine. It helps people understand," he said. "Any time you have two cultures, they try to find a metaphor or a comparison so they can see what (the other) is."

Toole said it makes sense, considering the timing and harvest similarities. He knew the basic traditions of Chuseok, such as visiting ancestors' homes, but did not know the holiday's origins.

Some use the term "Korean Thanksgiving" as an informational gateway point. But most foreigners, including Canadian expatriate Jamie Webster, don't research the holiday in-depth.

"I think it's similar to Western Thanksgiving, as far as I know," said the three-year resident of Seoul. "I didn't really investigate too much."

According to legend, Chuseok began as a result of a weaving competition held between two princesses in the Silla dynasty. The goal was to see which team could weave the most. The fierce competition lasted for about a month, ending on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar during the full moon. As punishment, the losing team had to prepare a bountiful feast for the victors.

In contrast, the U.S. and Canada's Thanksgiving is fixed on the Gregorian calendar. Origins are from the first founding days of colonization, when settlers were saved from a harsh winter by the harvest of Native Americans.


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