중앙데일리

Happy holidays, unless you’re the designated cook

Feb 06,2008
Mimi MiLphyne from the Congo, dressed in her traditional attire from Africa, prepares Korean holiday food for the Lunar New Year with her two children at their apartment in Suwon. By Kang Uk-hyun
For Mimi MiLphyne, 35, the Lunar New Year is more than a time of festivities and family gatherings.
“It’s a time for me to be working harder than usual,” said MiLphyne as she fried some Korean traditional cuisine while her 5-year-old daughter, Lee Min-ji, and her fifth-grade son, Lee Gun-woo, munched on some of the treats in their Suwon, Gyeonggi apartment.
“I usually start preparing for the Lunar New Year three days prior to the holidays,” said MiLphyne.
Originally from the Congo, MiL phyne has been preparing Korean food for the Korean ritual practiced during the Lunar New Year since the family moved here seven years ago.
“When we lived in the Congo I didn’t have to do any of this,” MiL phyne said. “But since we moved here I have been preparing the ritual every year all on my own.”
She has become an expert in setting a traditional table filled with soup, fish, fruit and more. She knows what to pick and can differentiate between Chinese and Korean products.
“Korean produce and fish look fresh and they have stronger colors compared to Chinese goods,” said MiLphyne. “They also taste better.”
Lee Mi-sook, 32, is a neighbor who was watching MiLphyne tackle her big job. “She’s amazing at what she does,” Lee said. When she looks at MiLphyne, Lee is grateful to not be married to an eldest son.
“If I had to do all that work, I would just run off,” Lee said.
MiLphyne isn’t overjoyed with the holiday workload.
“There’s just too much work and I told my husband about it, but he is an old-fashioned Korean man who truly believes that we should follow tradition,” MiLphyne said. “Still he never lifts a finger to help.”
After the ritual MiLphyne said the family takes a break by hiking up a nearby mountain. “That’s the only time I get a break,” she added.
Mary-Jane Liddicoat, counselor of education at the Australian Embassy, has things easier and actually enjoys the holidays. Liddicoat is celebrating her third Lunar New Year in Seoul and said her wonderful sister-in-law does the bulk of the work.
Liddicoat said her Korean husband was the second son in his family and the youngest, therefore she is off the hook. Still, she helps her sister-in-law when preparing dumplings enjoyed during the holidays.
The Asian festivities, however, are not entirely new for Liddicoat.
“I think every country has a similar celebration,” said the Australian. “In my country there is Christmas when all of the relatives get together and greet one another,” she said. Liddicoat said her children love the holidays because they get to see their cousins and play Korean traditional games, including yut-nori, a Korean board game.
What really shocked her was the work all the women have to do during the holidays. “Every Korean woman I know told me that they are under a lot of pressure and stress during the holidays,” Liddicoat said. “In Western society there is more flexibility in traveling during the holidays, but in Korea it seems everyone takes the trip on the same day.”
Still she said it is a much-needed tradition that keeps the essence of the Korean tradition alive. The only thing that needs to be changed is the formality. “It is a nice, colorful Korean tradition,” Liddicoat said.
She observed that children make a little cash during the holiday when adults out money to children when kids bow and give their Lunar New Year’s greetings.
According to the National Statistic Office, the number of foreign people married to Koreans has been steadily increasing, particularly the number of foreign women married to Korean men.
As of 2006, the number of foreigners married to Koreans numbered over 39,600. The number of foreign women married to Korean men was 30,208 the same year. That is a distinct increase from 2000, when there were 7,304 foreign women married to Korean men.
With the number of foreign women marrying Koreans growing, some local governments offer education about Korean customs, especially with Lunar New Year right around the corner.
The Gunsan Agricultural Development and Technology Center, operated by the government in North Jeolla, last month offered 25 foreign wives in the area tips on Korean holidays.
Kim Mi-cheng is in charge of the program. She said the response from students, mostly women from Vietnam and the Philippines, was strong.
“They liked it because the program not only teaches Korean but also the proper way to wear hanbok, how to cook doenjang, the proper way to address relatives and etiquette, which no one had previously taught them,” Kim said. The next class is Feb. 13.
The Jeonju government is also planning a festival for foreigners, with activities like making tteok.


By Lee Ho-jeong Staff Reporter [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]


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