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How Single People Celebrate Valentine’s Day In South Korea

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Valentine’s Day, also known as Single AF Day, is a day for lovers to express their love for each other and for new love to begin as well. It is great when you have someone to celebrate it with…and the grocery stores can celebrate it too with all of their red and pink heart decorations a whole month in advance. However, for single people it is a day that reminds them that they are alone without a significant other. For those without a significant other or potential love interest, the heart decorations invoke reactions of disgust and lead them to say, “Valentine’s Day decorations already? New Year’s Day literally just ended.” But, at least the candy is on sale.

Valentine's Sweetheart Candies
Jill Wellington on Pexels

The feelings for both lovers and single people can be found internationally. As a Korean-American, I have been able to dip my toes into both cultures as a single person. The feeling of riding solo is mutual in both South Korea and America. In both countries, people may mutually feel that the extravagant decorations and love songs are a bit excessive, cringe-worthy or mushy. However, in the U.S., single people only have to deal with one day of love, while in South Korea it occurs over three days across three months.

Traditionally, couples in the U.S. usually celebrate Valentine’s Day by gifting each other chocolates or an expensive dinner. However, in South Korea, only women are the ones to gift their significant others with homemade chocolate as a sign of affection. Homemade chocolates signal to the significant other that he is the girl’s “only one” which is contrasted with women giving friends and coworkers regular chocolates to signify platonic relationships. This tradition can be seen as convenience stores all sell chocolate-making equipment around this time. Making chocolates by hand can be time-consuming and expensive, but investing in the homemade chocolates sets the price range for the men a month later.

South Korea is all about give and take. A month later, on March 14th, the men reciprocate by gifting their significant others on a day called “White Day” which is also celebrated in Japan and Taiwan. On this particular day, the man is expected to follow the “Rule of Three” which states that the man must give the woman a gift that is three times the value of what he received in February. In South Korean culture, the amount the man spends for “White Day” is a sign of how much he values the relationship. If he were to spend less than what the woman spent, it may signify that the man thinks he is superior to the woman. Or, if he spent an amount equal to what the woman spent, it would be a sign that the man is ending the relationship. Honestly, it seems a bit superficial, but it also seems like the perfect time to indirectly communicate with your partner on whether or not you want the relationship to continue.

In America, single people tend to either celebrate their single-hood or curse those in relationships, and they chomp on discounted candy while spending the day alone. In South Korea, single people do not celebrate Valentine’s Day on the actual day. Instead, they celebrate on April 14, also known as “Black Day.” This day is dedicated to those who did not get gifts on either Valentine’s Day or “White Day.” Individuals dress in black and get together with other single people to eat a Korean-Chinese dish called Jjajangmyeon (짜장면), which is a black bean noodle dish with vegetables. Some people mourn their lack of having a partner, but others also spend this day celebrating their single-hood and appreciating themselves.

In my opinion, Valentine’s Day in South Korea seems like a lot of work, but I like it more than Valentine’s Day in America because you can make use of the traditions to confess your feelings to someone and hear their response. It is perfect for introverts and shy people, in general, to tell someone how they feel through chocolate and gifts.

Lauren is a fourth-year Psychology major with a minor in Asian Languages at UCLA from Studio City, California. In addition to writing as a feature writer for Her Campus at UCLA, she loves reading for leisure, playing with her dogs, and watching The Office.
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