S. Korea leads in number of overseas travelers during Lunar New Year holidays among Asian countries

By Park Sae-jin Posted : January 26, 2024, 11:03 Updated : January 26, 2024, 11:03

SEOUL -- South Korea has become the country with the largest number of travelers headed to overseas countries during the Lunar New Year holidays among other Asian countries that follow the lunar calendar, according to data released by the global tourism information company Agoda.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated over a three-day festive holiday known as "Seollal" in South Korea. Families typically gather at the eldest member's house to prepare food and catch up with each other. About two decades ago, it was common to see adult family members spending holiday nights drinking with relatives and playing traditional board games.

"Charye," a Confucian rite, is a key element of Korean traditional holidays. Families set up a table with over a dozen food dishes as offerings for deceased ancestors. The eldest male family member usually leads others in a ritual involving a series of full deep bows, and the moving of chopsticks and spoons on top of various dishes throughout the rite to simulate the dining process of ancestors.

However, for modern families and young working people, preparing Charye has become a financially and physically burdensome process. According to data from the pollster Korea Price Information (KPI), the cost for a four-member family to shop at traditional marketplaces for the Charye table averages 280,000 won ($209), representing an 8.9 percent year-on-year increase due to inflation.

The debate over whether it is ethically against Confucian values not to prepare Charye tables during traditional holidays has persisted for decades, sparking controversies over people traveling to foreign countries during the three-day holidays. Some defend overseas travelers, arguing that spending time in foreign countries brings happiness. 

Agoda's data released on January 25 showed that South Korea had the highest number of travelers visiting foreign countries during the Lunar New Year holiday in February 2024. South Korean tourists' favorite destination was Japan, followed by Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Thanks to the low yen currency rate, Japan has emerged as the most-favored travel destination in recent years. Some travelers choose to spend less money and visit Japan rather than domestic tourist hotspots such as the southern resort island of Jeju.
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