Memorial Day in Korea

Memorial Day in South Korea – History and Interesting Facts

Did you know that Korean Memorial Day is celebrated too?

If you are from the United States, chances are you might be familiar with the public holiday. Other countries are also familiar with Memorial Day and often have celebrations to commemorate that day.

In this article, we’ll tell you all about this important day in South Korea: Its history and how South Koreans celebrate it around the country. We will also teach you the Korean language term for Memorial Day! Let’s get to it.

Memorial Day in Korea

We used several words in this article that are in Hangeul (the Korean Alphabet). If you want a structured course that will help you learn Korean in a fast and easy way, you can check out the 90 Day Korean Membership Program. It uses proven methods that will help you have 3-minute conversations in Korean in the first 90 days!

When is Memorial Day in Korea celebrated?

Memorial Day in South Korea is a public holiday occurring on June 6th of every year. It’s a yearly event with a long history and is celebrated by regular citizens and influential public figures.

What is Korean Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is dedicated to soldiers– brave men and women who sacrificed their lives while doing military service during the war. While it commemorates all of the soldiers in general, it is specially celebrated to remember the men and women who gave their lives during Korean War and Vietnam War. The other two wars significant to this day are the Battle of Bongoh Town and the Battle of Cheongsan-ri, both fought by brave men and women against the Japanese Imperial Army 100 years ago.

Apart from heroes of the Korean wars, the holiday also celebrates other soldiers and the patriotic people who are still serving the republic.

How to say “Memorial Day” in Korean

In the Korean language, Memorial Day is called 현충일 (hyeonchungil).

Now when you see it marked in a calendar in Korea, you’ll know what it means! You will also be able to understand your friends from Korea when they speak to you about 현충일 (hyeonchungil).

History of Memorial Day

This national holiday has been celebrated in South Korea since 1956. It was declared a public holiday on April 19 of 1956, specifically after the end of the Korean War.

When the Korean War began, it was very devastating for the people of Korea. It eventually split the Korean Peninsula into two countries – North Korea and South Korea. The war began in 1950 and ended in 1953. It did not take long after the ending of the Korean War for June 6th to be declared a public holiday to commemorate soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Korean War.

This holiday also recognizes soldiers who served during prior conflicts that happened on Korean soil and fought for Korean independence.

Battle of Cheongsanri

The battle of Cheongsanri is one of the battles that are significant to the Korean nation. The casualties of this battle are also remembered during Memorial Day in Korea.

When did South Korean Memorial Day start?

In April of 1956, the South Korean government designated June 6 as the Korean Memorial Day.  Prior to that, the month of June has been viewed as a month dedicated to the veterans of war and patriots of South Korea since 1954.

Why is Memorial Day important?

Memorial Day is important because it helps South Korean remember the sacrifices that soldiers made for the nation.

How do people celebrate Memorial Day in South Korea?

Since 1956, a memorial ceremony has been held at Seoul National Cemetery, with the president of South Korea, other government officials, and civilians taking part in the location. Regular citizens and public officials alike gather and pay respects to the war dead.

In 2020, a very special Memorial Day was had, as it also corresponded with the 100th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Bongoh Town. On this day in 2020, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, declared this as the most significant war victory in the history of the Korean Independent Army.

Official Ceremonies during Korean Memorial Day

On June 6, every year, the ceremony begins at 10 in the morning. A siren rings all around the country, and the flag of South Korea is raised to half-staff. As the siren rings, South Koreans from all walks of life all around the country offer one minute of silence to pray.

The solemn event is marked by one minute of silence and remembrance of all the sacrifices their countrymen had to face to serve the republic.

Paying Respect to Soldiers during Korean Memorial Day

Even the cars and people on the streets will stop during this moment to offer their respect and pray for the war soldiers who died for this great country. It is also common for civilians and military officials to lay flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died due to the Korean War between North Korea and South Korea.

The Seoul National Cemetary is a usual place for memorial ceremonies during this day. A song known as the Memorial Day Song, or 현충일 노래 (hyeonchungil norae), is played during the memorial ceremony as some spectators watch.

It is also common for some business establishments and even households to proudly display the Korean national flag on their front doors during June as a sign of respect and honor for the sacrifices of the Korean soldiers who have died for their country.

Letters to Soldiers

Before Memorial Day, some events will also be held in different schools around South Korea, in which students will make drawings related to the day. Alternatively, they will write letters to the soldiers currently serving at DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)) and South Korea (Republic of Korea).

Students also participate in the holiday by discussing in school the significance of the day and how the acts of these brave soldiers have impacted Korean history.

Wrap Up

So there you have it! We hope you enjoyed these important facts about Memorial Day in South Korea.

Holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Movement Day, National Liberation Day, and National Foundation Day are important days for national unity.

Does your country also have holidays similar to Memorial Day? How is it celebrated? Have you ever been to South Korea during their Memorial Day celebrations? Let us know below in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Memorial Day in South Korea – History and Interesting Facts”

  1. Adenike Babalola

    Thanks a lot for this educative post. When my Korean neighbors told me today, June 6, was a national holiday, I wondered why and made up my mind to find out. Now I know what June 6 represents and why I can see almost 10 South Korean flags outside some apartment windows. Thank you.

  2. Shamonia Lawson

    In the US, we also have a Memorial Day. It used to be May 30th, but was changed in 1970 to last Monday in May to allow workers to have a long weekend to travel to various places & connect with family in other states, etc. Originally meant to remember all soldiers in all wars, it has also become the day to honor all family that has passed on. We decorate graves of family (most of which have a soldier), have a picnic or lunch, visit & play games. My father was in US Air Force & served in Korea as a radar operator just east of Seoul, Korea during the Korean War. He talked to us about his time spent there. I have had uncles, cousins & friends in all wars since WWI.

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