Little Festive Cheer in Korean Streets

      December 16, 2017 08:14

      Koreans are unusually devoid of Christmas cheer this icy and economically depressed winter.

      Singers Psy, Lee Seung-chul and Park Jung-hyun are holding Christmas concerts, but according to online ticket vendor Interpark, none of the top 10 performances in terms of sales are Christmas themed.

      Only 20 stores in the bustling Myeong-dong shopping district in downtown Seoul were decked with Christmas ornaments on Thursday afternoon, and K-pop has replaced Christmas carols on the streets as well. It seems Christmas has become less popular among young Koreans.

      A Christmas tree in front of the City Hall in Seoul /Yonhap

      Christmas lights have also disappeared from the streets of major cities. Seoul used to decorate the main thoroughfare with multi-colored lights at the end of every year until 2010 but stopped because of the cost.

      The reason saccharine Christmas carols have become rarer in public places is a court ruling from December 2015 that made it mandatory for department stores and other places of business to pay license fees for them.

      Small stores are not subject to this law but stopped playing carols to avoid legal problems.

      At 17 high-end hotels in downtown Seoul, only four are fully booked on Dec. 24 and 25 but the rest have many rooms left. One staffer at a five-star hotel said, "In previous years, we were fully booked 20 days before Christmas. But that's not happening this year. Even our cheapest room is still available."

      Many people have grown weary of the intense Christmas marketing campaigns and price gouging by businesses. Some restaurants in busy commercial districts were serving only full-course meals for W100,000 a head on Christmas eve, while hotels charged double.

      Kim Se-eun, a 32-year-old office worker, said, "I feel like I'm getting ripped off and Christmas itself is starting to feel so old-fashioned."

      Instead, young Koreans spend traditional Korean holidays with family and friends.

      Kim Mun-jo, a sociology professor at Korea University, said, "In the past, there was an atmosphere of observing the sacred meaning of Christmas and reflect on the passing year, but people can't seem to work up the spirit in this prolonged recession."

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