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Flowers disappear in Korea

Posted February. 28, 2014 06:03,   


Few Koreans know that the government designated Tuesday as a day for “buying flowers.” There are flowers of the month but few people are aware of this. The flower for January this year is Cymbidium, and Freesia, the harbinger of spring, for February. These are the ideas to increase flower consumption, but people are callous. The sales of flowers, which once exceeded one trillion won (936.7 million U.S. dollars), fell to 800 billion won (749.4 million dollars). Flower consumption per person in Korea is 15,400 won (14.43 dollars), just one-tenth of Norway (149.8 dollars) and Switzerland (140.52 dollars).

More than 80 percent of orchids, which are quite popular as a gift for celebration, are imported and do not help domestic flower growers. Taiwanese and Chinese orchids are sold in a Vietnamese pot. It is widely believed that flower consumption is proportionate to per capita income but Korea seems to be an exception. Per capita income in 2005, which had the largest flower consumption, was 16,500 dollars and last year’s per capita income is estimated at 24,000 dollars. Over the years, per capita income increased 45 percent while flower consumption decreased 20 percent.

The intellectuals of the Joseon Dynasty used to draw Japanese apricot flowers, orchids and chrysanthemums for self-discipline. Old books prove that people loved flowers. Park Ji-won, a writer whose literary name is Yeonam, wrote, “The apricot flower withered by the rain yesterday, but peach flowers are still beautiful/ Does the Creator like either one personally” Seo Hyeong-soo, an aristocrat of the late Joseon Dynasty whose literary name is Jikjae, said, after coming from a flower picnic outside the castle of Seoul, “When beautiful flowers in Bukjeok-dong (now Seongbuk-dong) give out fragrance, it is always crowded with men and women of Seoul.”

In foreign countries, people often give flowers as a gift. They give yellow mimosa on the International Women’s Day (March 8) and men give roses to women on the Book and Flower Festival (April 23). Meanwhile, young Koreans exchange chocolates. Flower growers plan to send roses to universities including Ewha Womans University to promote flower consumption with the beginning of a new semester. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs call for daily flower consumption but there is little change. The disappearance of flowers might be related to the extreme confrontation in politics and society and the combative social environment. I wait for the revival of flowers with spring just around the corner.

Senior Editorial Writer Hong Chan-sik (chansik@donga.com)