In 1900, just days before the Chuseok (thanksgiving) holiday, Ji Gyu-sik, a craftsman who supplied crockery to the palace and government offices, lost his nine-year-old child, Sugu, to disease. He boiled taro soup and prepared songpyeon rice cake for the holiday, but we can hardly imagine how he would have felt. There were more jujubes hanging on jujube trees behind his house than before and he harvested as much as he could, but he couldn't give them to his child anymore, which saddened him deeply. Ji Gyu-sik wrote a poem about his feelings in his diary.
The Chuseok holiday has begun. Family is a love-hate relationship. So when you go down to your hometown through the heavy holiday traffic after a long time away from home and meet your family members, oftentimes you have hard time finding the right words to tell no matter how deeply you missed them. But there are also people who can't have a chance to meet their family even if they want to. The poet Park Nam-soo wrote, "The mid-autumn moon / Looked on far away from hometown / Is a mirror of longing./ Missing my grandmother in North Korea / Missing my wife who went to America / Like a cricket, now I am / Shivering my body in the cold."
Exactly 100 years ago, Chuseok was the same way. On September 26, 1923, the day after Chuseok, The Dong-A Ilbo published a long list of survivors of the Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan under the headline, "Arrival of the results of the 2nd Safety Survey at the Government-General's Office." Those who had been anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones following the September 1 earthquake that year would have felt relieved after reading the list. Dong-A’s editorial read, "It's Chuseok, but I feel lonely! These are unusually sad words."
Around Chuseok in October 1933, The Dong-A Ilbo published a letter written by a ‘young sister at home’ remembering her brother, who had left for Manchuria to earn money. "Today is Hangawi in mid-August, A deep night with a bright moon flowing in the blue sky in silence....When I look at aimlessly the faraway place where my brother is staying and think of his hardships, I feel deeply pitiful as if my heart is burning like a fire."
The Samguksagi (Chronical of Three Kingdoms) states that Gavae (Hangawi) originated when King Yuri of Silla designated six divisions, divided them into teams, and let them compete in a weaving game. The losing side served alcohol and rice as both winners and losers played together. The following passage is rather strange: "Then a woman of the losing side got up, danced and lamented, saying, Hweso Hweso, and the tone of the song was sad and beautiful, so they entitled the song Hweso-gok years later."
It is a big blessing for us to just be able to get together. This Chuseok, let's refrain from nagging even if you want, and instead share your heartfelt best wishes.