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Love in the Time of Korea

BUSAN, South Korea – Love in the Time of Korea…or ‘hoof and mouth”. I’m not sure which title is better, or more accurate. But in any case, most of those reading this will have chosen to spend this season in Korea. After living here for some time, I have come to the conclusion that either Busan is a very romantic city (I think I heard it referred to as the Paris of Northeast Asia, although not by a Parisian), or that the nation’s greeting card, candy and jjajang-myun industries have brilliantly conspired together to make it appear so. For, you see, Korea has three distinct holidays for lovers. So get used to it boys, you’re gonna be shellin’ out this spring.

For those who are new to the country, the three holidays are Valentine’s Day, White Day and Black Day. Here is how you say those days in Korean: ‘Val-en-tine’s-Day’, ‘White-Day’ and ‘Black-Day.’ Simple enough

Valentine’s Day

In case you are involved with a Korean man or woman and boffed it your first go round, this will help you out next time. In Korea on Valentine’s Day, women give men gifts of chocolate and candy. That’s right, I said ‘chocolate AND candy’, because here, chocolate (??? choh-koh-let) and candy (?? sah-tahng) are not the same thing. In Korean, candy means all candy… except for chocolate. If your girlfriend or wife is an expat, don’t surprise them at dinner with expectations of getting candy (I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.) If your significant other is Korean however, you may hear the following:

Sweetheart, happy Valentine’s Day!
Jah-gee-yah, Valentine-day choo-kah hay! ???, ?????? ???.

You’re a great boyfriend!
Naw-nun choh-uhn nam-jah cheen-gu yah! ?? ?? ?? ???.

I love you.
Sah-rahng hay ???.

Where is this relationship going?
Oo-ri ahp-uh-roh yawn-een gwahn-gay-gah dell-kah? ?? ??? ????? ???

White Day – March 14th

White Day in Korea (and before you ask, the color has no relationship whatsoever to the holiday), is what we think of as Valentine’s Day in the West (minus the construction paper mailboxes and 5 cent cards). Men give the ladies gifts of candy AND chocolate, and possibly more expensive fare depending on your level of commitment. I suggest you check with a Korean woman before deciding on an appropriate gift.

Men with expat girlfriends, you’re probably in the clear. But while talking to her coworkers, she may hear:

My boyfriend gave me these silver earrings for White Day. What did you get?
White-day day nay nahm-jah cheen-gu-nun uhn-gwee-goh-ree chaw-saw-yo. Moo-uh-sull bah-dah-saw-yo?
????? ? ? ?? ??? ????? ??? ???. ??? ?????

To which she would reply: “Nothing. We don’t celebrate White Day.”
Moht bah-dah-saw-yo. Way gook-ay-nun White-day-gah awp-saw-yo.? ????. ???? ?????? ???.

And then the inevitable: “Oh, I see. That’s too bad.”
Ahl-gay-saw-yo. Ahn-det-goon-yo. ????. ????.

However, she could retort: “So, I don’t see a ring on your finger!”
Guh-ray-saw, Nah-nun naw-uh-ee sohn gah-rahk-ay yahk-hohn bahn-jee ahn boh-yaw-yo. ??? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?? ? ???.

To which she would hear: “We don’t give engagement rings in Korea.”
Han-gook-ay-nun yahk-hohn bahn-jee ahn choom-nee-dah. ???? ???? ? ???.

Followed by her inevitable: “Oh I see. That’s too bad.”
Ahl-gay-saw-yo. Ahn-det-goon-yo. ????. ????.

Stay tuned for Gus’ guide to “Black Day,” the day for singles, which is celebrated on April 14th. We’re not joking.

For more of Gus' Survival Korean go here.




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