Posted : 2013-09-16 19:45
Updated : 2013-09-16 19:45

Chuseok worship no longer a must

Some 50 North Korean defectors conduct ancestral worship rituals at a gymnasium in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, Sunday, ahead of the Sept. 19 Chuseok holiday. Many Koreans are choosing to simplify ceremonial acts, while a growing number opts to travel abroad during the traditional vacation. / Yonhap

Buddhist temples performing ‘substitute rituals'

By Kim Jae-won

Many Koreans are simplifying ancestral worship rituals during Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving and changing the way they observe the traditional holiday.

Many families are starting to reduce the amount of food they prepare for the ritual. Some pay Buddhist temples to have them conduct ceremonies on their behalf, while others even skip the rites and go abroad to enjoy a week-long holiday.

With the growing demand for "substitute worship" performed by temples, it is emerging as a new revenue source for Buddhist temples.

"We are going to perform three collective worship rites on Chuseok ― one at 8 a.m., another one at 11 a.m., and the other at 1 p.m. About 300 people applied for the service," said an official from the Jogye Temple in downtown Seoul.

The business is more sophisticated in Gangnam, southern Seoul, the most affluent district of the country. Yoo Joon-ha, an official of Bongeun Temple, one of the nation's largest, said it offers two types of ancestral services ― one is for a collective ceremony and the other is for an individual service for each ancestor.

The temple charges 20,000 won for collective services and 400,000 won for an individual one. So far, it has received some 2,300 orders, double the number last year.

For those who do not want to make food, catering service agencies are another alternative.

Daryeone, a leading food catering company which has 10 branches nationwide, provides a wide set of products with prices ranging from 210,000 won to 350,000 won.

It even offers different sets of food depending on the region ― Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, and Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces ― to meet the various needs of customers.

A record number of people are expected to travel abroad during the holiday. The immigration office expects the number of tourists heading for foreign countries to increase 13 percent to 108,000 per day during this year's Chuseok holiday compared to a year ago.

Airlines say that Chuseok is one of the hottest business seasons for them.

"We expect a good performance during the latter part of this year due to the unusually long Chuseok holiday. Most of our overseas routes are fully booked thanks to customers who want to enjoy the season in neighboring countries," said an executive of Jin Air, a low cost affiliate of Korean Air.

Local tourism destinations are no exception. Most hotels and resorts on Jeju Island and at6 Mt. Seorak are already fully booked, with people seeking to spend time at the seashore or mountainside instead of preparing ritual food.

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