South Koreans recharged after rare 10-day break

South Koreans at Seoul Station during the Chuseok holiday last Saturday. The long festive period, which began on Sept 30, saw record numbers travel overseas and within the country. The break was also aimed at boosting domestic spending.
South Koreans at Seoul Station during the Chuseok holiday last Saturday. The long festive period, which began on Sept 30, saw record numbers travel overseas and within the country. The break was also aimed at boosting domestic spending.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

String of holidays part of government's push to improve work-life balance in the country

South Koreans returned to work yesterday, after a rare 10-day holiday that saw record numbers travel overseas and within the country.

Ms Bae Ji Sook, 36, a manager at Hyundai Motor Group's finance subsidiary, said the mood at work was happy and teammates exchanged stories of what they did over the holiday, which began on Sept 30.

"I didn't go anywhere but managed to binge sleep and watch tonnes of movies, meet friends, cook and enjoy quality time with the family. This is a really rare opportunity to take a long holiday and everyone just liked it," she told The Straits Times.

Monday was the last of a string of public holidays that made up the 10-day break, including Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), National Foundation Day and Hangeul Day, which marks the founding of the Korean alphabet. The long break was part of the government's push to improve work-life balance for South Koreans, who work long hours and rarely use up their leave entitlement. It was also aimed at boosting domestic spending.

About 1.2 million people went overseas last week, with Incheon Airport handling an average of 187,000 passengers a day, the highest recorded over a national holiday, said the airport's operator.

Traffic on the roads also increased 13.9 per cent compared with Chuseok last year, according to the Ministry of Land. Some 3.58 million vehicles used major expressways on Sunday, mostly returning home after vacation.

Major retailers reported brisk sales, with Lotte Department Store seeing a 9.5 per cent jump in demand for gift packages for Chuseok.

  • 1.2m Number of people who went overseas last week, with Incheon Airport handling an average of 187,000 passengers a day.

But the end of the holiday also meant getting back to work to meet challenges cast aside temporarily.

For President Moon Jae In, it means dealing with North Korea's increasingly volatile nuclear threat and carrying out reforms to drag the country out of an economic slump.

Mr Moon, during a meeting with top aides yesterday, called for more efforts to accelerate social and political reforms to "innovate old practices", enhance national competitiveness and improve people's lives.

"What I managed to confirm again over the Chuseok holiday was people's strong desire for us to push for reforms more swiftly. The government must respect the people's wishes," he said, according to the presidential Blue House.

Some have expressed hopes of a more flexible leave system that would allow them to choose when they can take longer vacations, instead of being confined to national holidays, during which the cost of travel surges with soaring demand.

Business planner Zoey Kim, 28, who spent her break travelling in Germany, marvelled at how its flexible labour policies allowed a friend to take one whole month off to travel to China to study Chinese, while another worked four-day weeks to pursue a master's degree.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'S. Koreans recharged after rare 10-day break'. Print Edition | Subscribe