October 02, 2009 08:57
Holidays are a traditional time for gift-giving in Korea, and such gifts tend to reflect social trends and public tastes. Looking at this year's most popular gifts for Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving can show how those tastes and trends are changing.
The most remarkable change this year is the falling popularity of wine. Just three or four years ago wine was one of the most welcome presents, widely loved for its refined packaging and convenient shelf-life. But things are different this year. While wine took up 50 to 60 percent of alcohol sales for the Chuseok holidays last year at Lotte Department Store, this year the figure is down to 40 percent, and sales of wine at E-Mart are down 7.1 percent from last year. Instead of wine, this year people are buying low-alcohol sake and traditional Korean liquors. Sales of sake at Lotte Department Store jumped 200 percent compared to Chuseok last year, reflecting the increasing popularity of the Japanese liquor among the younger generation.
Fruit is another popular Chuseok gift for 2009. A staffer from Shinsegae Department Store explained that because Chuseok fell in September last year, smaller shipments and a poor harvest pushed up the price of fruit during the holiday season. But Chuseok falls in October this year and the harvest was good, so the average price of fruit has dropped 7 to 10 percent.
The H1N1 flu virus is responsible for some new trends in presents this year. Hand sanitizers, which were never a common Chuseok gift before, are now so popular that demand has outstripped supply. Gmarket said it took more than 2,500 orders for hand sanitizers between Sept. 23 and 29.
Red ginseng, which is known to bolster the immune system, is also on many shoppers'lists. Sales of the root at Shinsegae Department Store climbed 54.7 percent compared to the holidays last year. At Lotte Department Store health supplements outsold packaged meats, which are the most common Chuseok presents, by W500 million (US1$=W1,178) as red ginseng flew off the shelves. Last year, meat and ribs outsold health supplements by W1.3 billion.
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