Calendars and Chuseok

Earlier today I received the company calendar for 2014. My job is usually to edit a Korean poet’s translated poem into comprehensible English. I studied Chinese poetry at school so I have some experience in this, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to do. It’s actually one of the most challenging parts of the job because you need to marry the Korean meaning and all the sentiment in the original text with similar (but never exact) feeling in the English version.

Once they asked me to translate a Korean poem written in Chinese to have engraved on a stone in front of our guesthouse. So yeah, I’ve had my borrowed words written in stone.

Luckily this time, I’m just advising on the labels for the photos and the photos themselves. Yes, Dokdo is one of the photos (July). No, Dokdo would be a very poor choice as a destination compared with the other 11 places in our calendar.


It’s Chuseok this week, so we have a two day working week. My the actual Chuseok day falls on my birthday this year too. I will be celebrating with my cat; might even make a cake. I will probably also make some Korean food, like yanggaeng and bulgogi sliders. We’ll see.

Chuseok is often called ‘Korean Thanksgiving’ by Koreans. This is problematic for a few reasons;

  1. It doesn’t involve the prelude to genocide.
  2. Thanksgiving is an easy frame of reference for Americans and Canadians. Too bad if you’re neither.
  3. As an Aussie, I think about turkey and stuffing when thinking about Thanksgiving, though now I know better.

Koreans also call Chuseok ‘Hangawi’. No, Australia doesn’t do Thanksgiving (but like our North American cousins, we did engage in genocide).

Today we had an office party for all the birthdays in September. This happens every month, usually on the last Tuesday of the month. Double celebration today becuase of Chuseok. Might also mean we can knock off early tomorrow, too. Like on other major holidays, it is customary for the company to give gifts to employees. This year we received canola oil.

chuseok oil

Note that the picture above has olives and presumably a pitcher of olive oil. A few years ago we got actual olive oil for the new year holiday. I guess those were much better times in the shipbuilding industry.

Korean supermarkets and department stores are selling Chuseok gift packs of everything including whiskey, whisky (yes, there’s a difference), canned tuna and spam (seriously), fruit, beef, pork, shampoo. Here’s some fruit for sale.


That’s 30,000 won (~USD 27) for 2 rockmelons (sweet melon in Korea, cantaloupe in other places) and 40,000 won (~ USD 37) for 20 kiwi fruit. The important thing to remember is not what gift you buy, but how much you spend on the gift. Hot gifts are always those huge Jeju oranges and whiskey.

Whisky is OK too.

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