Call Me When Holiday Season Is Over
By Jane Han
While some folks enjoy every moment of the year-end spirit, others squint at the overwhelming hustle and bustle of family and friends gatherings, long hours in the kitchen, topped with repetitive Christmas carols. And so, they decide to leave.
Starting late December, and on and off through February, crowds of Koreans fly overseas to free themselves from burgeoning responsibilities and excessive hassle.
``They're in search of freedom, a little personal downtime. This traveling trend was most common during `Chuseok' (Korean thanksgiving), but nowadays, more people seem to turn away from the year-end and New Year's season, too,'' said spokeswoman Min Hae-jeong of Kolon Tour, one of the nation's leading leisure and travel companies.
Hana Tour, another major travel agency, said this year's December reservations were up almost 30 percent to about 120,000 people compared to the same time last year.
Most of the tour packages are four to five days long and a popular departure date is Dec. 29, said Hana.
``They prefer to travel to a close destination, so the top picks are usually Southeast Asian countries, China and Japan,'' said a company spokesman, adding that one of the other drivers spurring year-end travel growth is workers' rush to use up their annual days off.
Another reason is the annual tax return money. A recent survey of 1,600 people done by online recruiter Job Korea showed that traveling is the No. 1 item on the to-do list with the little extra money workers get early in the year.
With this many people flocking to the airport from December through February, what about the traditional festivities?
``Ancestor-memorial services are the biggest victim of this leisurely trend,'' said Hyun Joo-min, a member of Trend Forum at the Samsung Economic Research Institute. ``We can easily see that even the older generation are becoming more flexible with this laborious task.''
But to help lessen the guilt trip, food companies are coming up with ready-made memorial service packages delivered to your door.
While this convenient service is beginning to spread, a recent local retailer's survey says already 35 percent of 1,000 respondents have benefited from the catering service.
``Life keeps getting easier and easier, but who is to blame?'' asked Hyun, saying that there is no end to convenience, as people continue to seek for better and simpler things in life.
And Min of Kolon adds that such convenience and leisure is becoming more widely enjoyed by people of various classes, and not just the rich.
``After all, traveling outbound can be even cheaper than staying in town because tour packages are as cheap as 400,000 won,'' she said. ``Stay here and go out for a few rounds of drinks, and you'll see a tab that's higher.''