Korean Culture: Gift Giving

Sam Lee, Assistant Editor of Photography/Tech

Gift giving is a form of appreciation for someone you respect, love, or admire, and throughout the globe, people give gifts on holidays, events, and/or celebrations. Different countries and cultures have different forms of gift-giving, and Korea is one of those countries that differ from your average American version.


When and what gifts do Koreans give?

January or February: Seollal

Seollal is Korean Lunar New Year. It’s one of the biggest holidays in Korea. During this time, Koreans will visit family and exchange small gifts like clothing. 

As a kid, this is the time where pocket money is the most common from a relative in an envelope. When you get to the age where you have a job, you usually give gifts to elders and money to the younger relatives. 

February 14: Valentine’s Day

Korean Valentine’s Day is a little bit different compared to other countries. It’s a day when usually women give chocolates to the men. And if you’re really good-looking, you’ll have a lot of boxes that day.

March 14: White Day

The white day began in Japan originally but is very common in Korea. This day is pretty much where the men give the women candy. And just like Valentine’s day, a lot of the good-looking women will get a lot of candies.

May: Children’s Day on May 5, Parents’ Day on May 8

May is also known as Family Month in Korea. It’s the most money-heavy month of the year for gifts. As you could assume, on children’s day, it’s all about the children receiving toys or money. They also get to spend time with their parents and family going to an amusement park or the zoo. Instead of Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, Koreans celebrate it at the same time on May 8. They usually get a carnation and cash from the kids or a letter as well. 

September or October: Chuseok

Chuseok is like Korean Thanksgiving, except it’s celebrated during the harvest moon. After Seollal, it’s the second biggest holiday in Korea. Gifts during Chuseok are nearly identical to the ones given on Seollal

December 25: Christmas

Unlike westerners, Koreans celebrate Christmas with their significant other rather than their families. This is a holiday where people drop a little more money, such as men getting things such as wallets or watches. Women get a lot of accessories just like watches or cosmetics.

Miscellaneous: Birthdays, Anniversary, Business Gifts

Koreans love getting gifts on occasions like these. Usually, cosmetics, accessories, and money are all great presents. Celebrating anniversaries are big in Korea too. Couples celebrate the 100th day every year or 1000th day and so on. Girls usually get perfume, jewelry, accessories; whereas guys get cologne, shoes, etc. Koreans give plants when someone opens up a new business. 

The gift-giving process isn’t strict, but there are different forms of gifts for different holidays that are celebrated in Korea. Some holidays like Seollal are not celebrated in the West so the gifts are different. But gifts on Christmas are very similar. All in all, the gift-giving process is just a way to show appreciation to the people you love and respect.