Everything You Need to Know About Korean Parents’ Day (어버이날)

Parents’ Day is the “two birds with one stone” of Korean holidays.

If you want to score points with Korean parents or in-laws, you’re going to love it!

Sure, they might say you can skip it, but you should never take their word for it. never. ever. (⊙ˍ⊙)

It’s pretty convenient to have one combined Parents’ Day, so you can go all out.

Let’s get started!

Lingua Asia_Korean Celebrations_Parents' Day (어버이날)

When is Parents’ Day in South Korea?

Parents’ Day is May 8th every year, but it’s NOT a legal holiday in South Korea.
**Shame on you Korean government for emphasizing filial duty, but making it a non-holiday. ( ˘︹˘ )

Parents’ Day (어버이날) is one half of Family Month (가정의 달) with Children’s Day being the other.

Since you don’t get a day off, most grown-up children visit their parents on the adjacent weekends.

Thankfully, it’s Sunday this year 2022! (no excuses this time ahem**)

Why do Koreans celebrate Parents’ Day?

Well, most Korean parents pay for everything until their kids graduate university. Some will even do so until their kids get married, or even after!╰( ̄ω ̄o).

The least we can do as Korean kids is to give them carnations 💐🌸 with a thank you letter and some gifts.

A little bit of history:

Parents’ Day started on May 8th, 1956 in South Korea.

It’s believed to have been influenced by American culture, because there was only Mother’s Day at first in Korea.
Korean dads felt discriminated and complained about being treated as “찬신세 (chan-bap-shin-seh, which is literally ‘cold rice condition’, and means being left ‘out in the cold’)”. Or “chopped liver” if you prefer 1920’s American English.

In order to include fathers, the old word, “어버이 (Eobeoi)”, was rediscovered and everyone was happy.

What do Koreans do for Parents’ Day?

It depends on how old they are.

When kids are in school, they usually write letters and buy carnations.

Korean families will have a nice meal together, but parents pay for it.

Once Korean kids grow up and get a job, they start buying decent gifts, which will be listed later in this post.

How do Koreans greet parents on Parents’ Day?

You can choose one from below and write it on a card or send it through a KakaoTalk message with one of those neat e-cards.

  • 낳아주시고, 키워주셔서 고맙습니다. 사랑해요!
    (Thank you for giving birth to me and raising me. I love you!)
  • 쑥스러운 마음에 자주 표현하진 못하지만 감사하고, 사랑합니다.
    (I didn’t express it enough because I’m shy, but thank you and I love you.)
  • 오래오래 함께 해주세요. 사랑합니다.
    (I hope you stay healthy and live long. I love you.)
  • 낳으시고 길러주신 어버이 은혜에 감사드립니다. 항상 건강하세요!
    (Thank you for giving birth to me and raising me. Always be healthy!)
  • 깊은 사랑으로 감싸주시고 키워주셔서 감사합니다. 그리고 사랑합니다.
    (Thank you for nurturing and raising me with deep love. And I love you.)
  • 세상에서 가장 소중한 부모님이 계셔서 정말 감사합니다. 항상 건강하세요. 사랑합니다.
    (I’m so grateful for having the most precious parents in the world. Always be healthy. I love you.)

What is the Parents’ Day Song in Korea?

You know there has to be a song for this day.^^ 어머니 마음 (Mother’s Heart) is considered “the jam” of Parents’ Day songs in South Korea.

The lyrics in Korean go:

낳으실 제 괴로움 다 잊으시고
기르실 제 밤낮으로 애쓰는 마음
진자리 마른 자리 갈아 뉘시며
손발이 다 닳도록 고생하시네
하늘 아래 그 무엇이 넓다 하리요
어머님의 희생은 가이 없어라
어려선 안고 업고 얼려주시고
자라선 문 기대어 기다리는 맘
앓을 사 그릇될 사 자식 생각에
고우시던 이마 위엔 주름이 가득
땅 위에 그 무엇이 높다 하리오
어머니의 정성은 지극하여라
사람의 마음속엔 온가지 소원
어머님의 마음속엔 오직 한가지
아낌없이 일생을 자식 위하여
살과 뼈를 깎아서 바치는 마음
인간의 그 무엇이 거룩 하리오
어머님의 사랑은 그지 없어라
I didn’t translate it because it’s all about moms suffering to raise you. If you set the dialogue of a morning K-drama to music, you’ll get the gist.

Gift ideas for Parents’ Day?

Lingua Asia_Parents Day Gift_Korea_2021

Korean parents/in-laws will be just happy to see you on Parents’ Day. But, they’ll love you even more if you don’t go empty-handed.

When I was in uni, I bought carnations made of gold since they last longer than actual flowers.

You can buy health supplements (red ginseng), cosmetics from department stores, a Celadon vase, brand scarf, massage chair (if you have deep pockets), or give cash in an envelope or flowers.

You can also treat your parents/in-laws to a nice dinner.


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