Public Holiday in South Korea

Leaving 2020 behind and getting ready to greet 2021, let’s talk about the national holiday in South Korea.

Public holidays in Korea follow the ‘Regulations on Holidays of Public Agencies’. The reason for following the regulation is to expand the application of holidays for institutions, from public institutions to private institutions. Currently, public institutions are required to rest on the holidays, and the other companies can choose holidays optionally.

Public holidays in South Korea are as follows:
- New Year’s Day: January 1
- Lunar New Year's Day: December 31, January 1 and 2 of lunar month
- Independence Movement Day: March 1
- Children’s Day: May 5
- Buddha’s Birthday: 8th day of 4th lunar month
- Memorial Day: June 6
- National Liberation Day: August 15
- Chuseok: August 14,15,16 of lunar month
- National Foundation Day: October 3
- Hangeul Day: October 9
- Christmas: December 25
- Election Days(Presidential, legislative, and local election day)

Also, Korea has a substitute holiday- extra day off on the weekdays just after the public holiday when it overlaps with other holidays or Sunday. Substitute holliday is applied only for Lunar New Year, Chuseok, and Children’s Day.

Then, let’s look into some public holidays with details. Most national ceremonies such as Memorial day are broadcasted or live-streamed and the national flags are expected to be shown flapping on the streets.

1. New Year’s Day
Every first day of the year, Korean people have celebrated the new year’s coming with the Bosingak Bell-ringing Ceremony since 1953. Some are participating in the ceremony and others are watching it broadcasted on the TV. The ceremony is held at midnight turning to the new year. Unfortunately, it won’t be held for 2021 because of the pandemic, and it is the first cancellation. :-( Otherwise, some people go to the East Sea to see the first sunrise of the year. Looking at the sunrise, people make resolutions and wish their best luck in 2021.

2. Independence Movement Day
March 1st is a national holiday to commemorate the independence movement of the year 1919. The 3.1 Independence Movement was one of the earliest public displays to declare Korea’s independence during the rule by Japan. This nonviolent resistance triggered widespread movements all over the country.

Thanks to this peaceful declaration, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established- which is considered as a Constitutional spirit of the Republic of Korea. On this day you could find the national flags on the streets, honoring the spirit of the 3.1 independence Movement.

3. Memorial Day
June 6th is a memorial day for the patriots who sacrificed for the country. A memorial ceremony is held in Seoul National Cemetery and broadcasted. There will be one minute- siren ringing all over the country to have silent prayers for condolences. The National flags are supposed to be flown at half-staff.

4. National Liberation Day
August 15th is the liberation from the Japanese occupation. It is a japanese surrender day of 1945, the end of World War II. We call it a Gwangbokjeol in Korean meaning ‘the day the light returned’, liberation.

In addition to the national ceremony, flash mobs are held to show the spirit of Korean Liberation. A flash mob that people gathered for minutes to declare, shouting “Hurray for the Independence of Korea” to revive the historical scene.

5. National Foundation Day
October 3rd became a national holiday after the formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon. Historical records say that Gojoseon began when Hwanung descended from heaven to live with mankind in 2333 BC, and the day was named ‘Gaecheonjeol’ meaning ‘The Opening of Heaven’. There has been another Chosun in Korean history other than this- the Chosun Dynasty established in 1392. It was named after Chosun of Hwanung to succeed its spirit, and later descendents added Go(meaning Old) before Chosun to differentiate them.

Hunminjeongeum Haerye (Image Source:

6. Hangeul Day
Yes, we have Hangeul Day- the korean alphabet. Hangeul is the only one having historical records of who created and when it was created. October 9th is a day when the Hangeul was invented by King Sejong the Great of the Chosun Dynasty. Hunminjeongeum Haerye, which is about the process of creation, is a national treasure.

Till now we discussed six public holidays in Korea, and most of them have historical meanings. It is not only to celebrate its meaningful events but also to remember the history behind and keep it in mind.The rest of the holidays will be discussed in the next article.

Happy New Year! ♥

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