Chuseok is nearing- the holiday of celebrating plentiful harvest and sharing the spirit of thanksgiving. This year, in particular, will be the first Chuseok of overcoming the long and tedious pandemic period. However, it is difficult to experience the lively vibe commonly found in traditional outdoor markets prior to the holidays. Merchants and consumers alike are burdened by skyrocketing inflation, recession and the aftermath of the recent floods. Merchants are devastated by weather reports of the typhoon nearing Korea, worried that the typhoon might sweep away their last ray of hope.
The traditional outdoor markets visited by the Dong-A Ilbo reporter team ahead of the Chuseok season still appeared to be heavily impacted from the aftermath of the flood last month. There were many merchants whose sacks of grain and refrigerated dried goods, stocked ahead for the holidays, were still flooded. Some of the merchants managed to buy new facilities through loans to make sure they did not miss out on the holiday opportunities, but there were several stores preparing to close down their business as they could no longer afford to carry on their business. Some butcher shops slashed down prices of meat products to clear stock ahead of the typhoon Hinnamnor, which is forecasted to hit Korea over the weekend.
Most of the shopping baskets of shoppers were empty. A head of cabbage was priced at 10,000 won, while 10 apples cost 40,000 won. The average cost preparing for a meal for a memorial service was 318,045 won this year, 6.8 percent higher than last year. To save costs, consumers try removing key items such as moon-shaped rice cakes, dried fish, or fruit, from the menu, but then the meal appears to be incomplete. Shoppers are concerned that there not be enough food to go around, especially when families reunite after the pandemic. The owner of a store that used to be well known for its generous helpings refused to meet the eyes of customers, while a sign pointedly advised not to "ask for more as prices have gone up."
Mayors of the city district and congressmen visited the markets after the flood, asking about the damage. The government promised to finalize all the compensation from the damages before the holidays. However, there is no news of the government's disaster relief aid of 4 million won even after a month and with Chuseok nearing. The slow and tedious administrative process remains unchanged even in the face of an unprecedented recession and inflation. Traditional outdoor markets, once so full of vibe, are losing energy and confidence- ahead of Chuseok, the holiday of abundance and sharing.