Asia Minute: South Korea’s Holiday Worries

Sep 23, 2020

South Korea has been making progress in its continuing battle against the coronavirus. The country was hit early, reduced the number of cases and saw them spike again. The numbers are declining once more, but health officials are worried about next week.

Chuseok is often described as “Korea’s Thanksgiving.” It’s a harvest festival, with some tracing its roots back more than a thousand years.

But public health officials are worried about this year’s Chuseok — a holiday of several days that starts in about a week. Traditions include travel – going back to hometowns – celebrating ancestors, getting together with families, sharing food, and close quarters.

The government is discouraging large get-togethers and travel, so those groups don’t share infections.

This week, officials announced all 11 national cemeteries in South Korea will be closed starting next Wednesday, and lasting through the weekend.

Online services will be offered instead.

Earlier this month, the Korea Railroad Corporation announced it would only sell window seats to holiday travelers — to preserve social distancing.

Some are heading for a vacation, which carries its own risks.

The island of Jeju, popular with visitors, is expecting about 200,000 over the holidays, according to the local tourism association.  

Overall, the Transport Ministry estimates travelers will decline by nearly a third from usual levels this year – but that still means than on October 1st alone, more than six million people will be on the move.