Valentine’s Day in Korea
Valentine's Day in Korea is a bit different from Valentine's Day elsewhere in world. In fact, Valentine’s Day is one of 12 "love days" celebrated on the 14th of every month in Korea. These days range from the popular (White Day) or depressing (Black Day), to the bizarre (Hug Day) and everything in between. Big money is both spent and made on Valentine’s and White Day, while the other love days receive little to no commercial attention.
Valentine's Day (February 14th): Rather than the catch-all holiday it is in the rest of the world, on Valentine's Day in Korea women give chocolate to men as a sign of affection. Traditionally, men that receive these gifts will give a gift in return the following month on White Day. This has been changing in recent years, as retailers have begun targeting Men and Women on both days. As such, the day is a couples day, rather than a generally observed holiday as it is in countries like the United States. Many convenience stores set up large displays out in front of their shops, with a heavy focus on chocolate and chocolate candies like Ferrero Rocher, Twix and Chupa Chups. These shops remain up from roughly the week before Valentine's Day to the week after White Day. Similarly, many advertisers capitalize on the two days to anchor their early season sales of jewelry, sweets, lingerie and other sentimental gifts.
White Day (March 14th): First celebrated just over 35 years ago in Japan, White Day is the man's turn to show his affection with sugary sweetness, and takes place a month after Valentine's day on March 14th. The name stems from the giving of primarily white gifts, like white chocolate and lingerie, by Men as an answer to Valentine's Day gifts. In recent years, the exclusively white nature of the holiday has changed to include both dark and white chocolate, other shades of lingerie and non-chocolate candies like lollipops. Some people follow the so called "Rule of Three" which dictates that the reciprocal gift given by the man must be roughly 3 times the value of the gift he received on Valentine's Day. This rule is not widely expected or practiced, but many Men view it as a rough guideline for reciprocal gifting.
Black Day (April 14th): Supposedly, singles that did not receive a gift on either Valentine’s day or white day congregate on April 14th, otherwise known as "Black Day" to eat Jjajyangmyeon (Black Noodles) with other single friends. According to actual Korean 20-somethings, sad singles meeting on the 14th and sharing the day's namesake dish is less reality, and more depressing hogwash. By April 14th, the weather in Korea is generally fair and mild, summer is around the corner and "you don't need a reason, or a day, to go out anymore." Perhaps the most telling difference between the two major relationship holidays and Black Day is that the advertising around Black Day is nearly non-existent, in stark contrast to both Valentine’s Day and White Day.
The Other Days: Other monthly couples days occurring on the 14th are: Diary Day (January), Rose Day (May), Kiss Day (June), Silver Day (July), Green Day (August), Photo Day (September), Wine Day (October), Movie Day (November), Hug Day (December).
Contributing writer: Brendan Pickering