Although Halloween is not a holiday typically recognized in Korea, businesses are finding that holding events to celebrate the day is quite profitable. This year, leading hotels in Seoul, such as the Marriot and the Grand Hyatt, held fancy parties complete with bands, DJs, drinks, food, and of course costume contests, charging $30-$100 per person. I don’t know anyone who attended these parties, but I have read in places that celebrities often make appearances at these events. I was more interested in the bar scene, but considering I had to work the day following Halloween, my options were quite limited. Because of this, I opted to check out Club Day in Hongdae on Halloween Eve.
My Korean friend, who had never celebrated Halloween before, agreed to come along. Our first stop was one of the five Ho Bars which boasted some great Halloween decor: cobwebs along the ceiling, hanging jack-o-lanterns, creepy noises playing over the speakers, and bartenders dressed as insane asylum patients. My favorite touch was the large screen TVs showing only static. I was waiting for Samara from The Ring to crawl out. Afterwards, we met with Adam, my newfound Mississippi friend at Gogo’s for happy hour, then bought our Club Day ticket. Club Day, held on the last Friday of each month, is particularly popular with young people, both Koreans and foreigners alike. One pays $20 and has access to a variety of clubs and bars. After a few drinks, Emily and I built up the courage to put on our costumes, though no one else was wearing them. I didn’t care, and was determined to celebrate Halloween the right way. We had a blast dancing around Hongdae as a schoolgirl and ladybug. I turned in once the subways opened and got a few hours of sleep before the next festivities.
After waking up, I dressed up in my costume, which was mandated by my school for the special Halloween program we were hosting. I dressed as Guem Jan Di, the lead character of my favorite Korean drama, which I have blogged about before. I have to admit proudly that my costume was pretty dead on. Perhaps my physical features won’t let me pass as Korean, but the kids still loved it and to this day call me “Guem Jan Di teacher.” I spent the day carving jack-o-lanterns and passing out candy to trick-or-treating students. We even had a haunted house and held “Dracula’s Festival” complete with Halloween themed games.
Still, Korea has its own commercial holidays. Shortly after Halloween, displays were set up at grocery stores and bakeries while posters were plastered on the windows of 7 Elevens and Buy the Ways, all of which promoting Pepero Day.
A pepero is a wafer-like cookie stick dipped halfway in chocolate manufactured by Lotte, an extremely large company in Korea. Legend has it that this holiday began in 1994 when some schoolgirls noticed that when placed together, four Pepero sticks resembled four 1s, thus 11-11 (November 11th). They then traded Pepero sticks on this day in hopes they would grow as tall and as slender as a Pepero. In my book, chocolate is known to have the opposite effect, but I guess I see the point. Still, it’s more widely accepted that Lotte contrived this holiday as a means for making money, what else?
Despite how it started, it has become a very popular holiday amongst couples, much the same as Valentine’s Day is in the United States. As if the couples’ outfits, couples’ discounts, and the other existing couples’ holidays weren’t enough! Other brands and companies have begun to manufacture variations of the snack and it can now be found in a multitude of flavors and sizes. I noticed that many stores offered Pepero gift baskets containing teddy bears in addition to the snack. One can even buy a kit to make his or her own treats to distribute amongst friends, family, and lovers. Despite its commercialism, raking in millions of dollars, mind you, it is a fun and tasty holiday.