Korean Soldiers celebrate blessings for ancient national holiday
CAMP HOVEY, South Korea - Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army celebrated a uniquely Korean holiday known as Chuseok, literally "fall evening," from Sept. 13 to 18, leaving base to spend time with loved ones to give thanks and to remember their ancestors.
Chuseok, similar to the American holiday of Thanksgiving, celebrates the harvest, but it also honors ancestors for their spiritual protection throughout the year. Some Koreans set out traditional foods and burn incense for their ancestors on a small table during a ceremony called "Charye," though the ceremony is not common for Christian Koreans.
Chuseok has possibly been celebrated in Korea for 2,000 years. In the "Samguk Sagi," or History of Three Kingdoms, one of the oldest extant Korean historical records covering the kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla written in 1145 A.D., the precursor holiday is mentioned that has possibly evolved into Chuseok. During ancient times, two groups of women from the kingdom of Silla competed in a weaving for a month, and on the day of Chuseok, when a full moon usually appeared, they celebrated their hard work.
The exact date for Chuseok varies every year since the holiday is observed every 15th of August on the lunar calendar. This year, Chuseok was celebrated September 15, with millions of South Koreans traveling to celebrate with families.
Whereas South Koreans celebrate the holiday for three days, North Koreans only celebrate the holiday for one day; the government of North Korea considers the birthdays of the nation's former leaders bigger holidays.
For Korean Soldiers serving with U.S. Soldiers, Chuseok means more than just time-off from work.
"I am going to spend Chuseok with my family and relatives," said Sgt. Ja-Hyun Jun from Battery F, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "This is the second time I spend Chuseok in military. This year I feel more responsible for the family, because my father passed over in April and I'm the only male in the family."
The holiday is an opportunity for U.S. and South Korean Soldiers to learn about each other's cultures.
"As a KATUSA, I think it is important to introduce the meaning of Chuseok to U.S. Soldiers," said Pfc. Jun-Ho Kim, a combat engineer from Company B, 91st Engineer Battalion, 1st ABCT. "Since they are staying in South Korea without families, it would be a great opportunity to celebrate the holiday by sharing Korean traditional food."
The holiday is special for Korean Soldiers, but they never forget that their service in the military in defense of South Korea is the most important thing, said Kim.