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‘Family Month’ a growing burden on Koreans

7 out of 10 working Koreans say May is financially burdensome; average spending for May holidays stands at 360,000 won

Lee Jun-sik, a 33-year-old office worker who got married two years ago, has mixed feelings about May. Though he is grateful for the family bonding on holidays like Children’s Day and Parent’s Day, the costs of gift-giving drives up the couple’s monthly spending way beyond budget.

“Since our marriage, my wife and I have to worry about preparing sizeable cash allowances or gifts for both our parents as well as our nephews. Combined with all the ‘spring weddings’ in May, it’s a big financial burden,” he said.

Lee is just one among a growing number of Koreans, particularly those in their late 20s and 30s, who feel obligated to spend generous sums of money during the so-called “Family Month,” even as they have little to spend on themselves off their paychecks.

Many Koreans feel financially burdened in May, a month of gift-giving (123RF)
Many Koreans feel financially burdened in May, a month of gift-giving (123RF)

Financial burden of ‘Family Month’

For many average working Koreans, financial challenges define May, dotted with holidays dedicated to celebrating parents, children, spouses and even teachers.

Seven out of 10 working Koreans perceive May as a “financially burdensome month,” according to local consulting company Hunet.

Some 68.4 percent of 702 Korean office workers recently surveyed by the firm said that they felt a financial burden in May, due to the abundance of family holidays.

Parent’s Day, which falls on May 8 in Korea, was considered the most important family holiday of the month, as selected by 91 percent of those surveyed, followed by Children’s Day at 50.4 percent (overlapping responses were allowed).

Parent’s Day was also considered the most burdensome holiday in May, as chosen by around 65 percent of the respondents, with financial pressures cited as the main reason.

According to the Hunet survey, working Koreans expect to spend an average of about 360,000 won ($312) during the May holidays. The expected average spending was higher for those who were married (376,000 won) compared to singles (290,000 won).

In terms of spending volume, 43.2 percent of the respondents expected to spend between 100,000 won to 300,000 won, while 29.1 percent said they will likely spend between 300,000 won to 500,000 won.

A woman poses with a bundle of carnations, an iconic gift given on Parent’s Day in Korea, at a Daiso store in Seoul. (Yonhap)
A woman poses with a bundle of carnations, an iconic gift given on Parent’s Day in Korea, at a Daiso store in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Parents Day: top day for gifts

As Parent’s Day evokes the biggest spending spree among all the May holidays, local businesses enjoy a surge in sales of items geared for the middle- and older-aged population in late April and May.

According to local e-commerce operator Gmarket, 77 percent of some 765 customers surveyed from April 21-27 said they expected to spend the most on Parent’s Day, of all the holidays in May.

Among those who planned to spend the most on “Parent’s Day,” the top gift choices were cash certificates and e-coupons (27 percent), closely followed by health supplements such as ginseng extract (24 percent).

Others planned to buy clothes and fashion accessories such as wallets (15 percent), while some sought to purchase unconventional gifts for their parents -- toys and drones (12 percent), according to the survey. 

Korea Ginseng Corp.’s flagship Cheong Kwan Jang ginseng products (KGC)
Korea Ginseng Corp.’s flagship Cheong Kwan Jang ginseng products (KGC)

“Though traditionally popular items such as cash certificates and health supplements were once again top picks for Parent’s Day shoppers, many people cited plans to buy toys and drones for their parents, as if to reflect an emerging middle-aged population that is adopting younger lifestyles,” said Gmarket’s marketing director Kang Sun-hwa.

As for the gifts that Korean parents most wanted, “cash” overwhelmingly topped the list (56 percent), followed by “hand-written letters” (18 percent) and “tourism packages” (14 percent), according to a survey of 500 Koreans aged 50 and over by LINA Korea’s Jungsungki, a discount service provider for the elderly.

Meanwhile, none of the respondents chose carnation flowers, a key symbol of Parent’s Day in Korea, as a desired gift, it noted.

By Sohn Ji-young(jys@heraldcorp.com)

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