Public Holidays

Koreans officially follow the Gregorian calendar, even though there are a few holidays that are based on the lunar calendar. During the official holidays, offices and banks are closed but palaces, museums, most restaurants, department stores, and amusement facilities are open. Seollal and Chuseok are the most important traditional holidays for Koreans, so millions of people visit their hometowns to celebrate with their families during these times. On Seollal, Koreans hold a memorial service for their ancestors and perform sebae, a formal bow of respect to their elders as a New Year’s greeting.

2017 Official Korean Holidays

New Year's Day (January 1)

New Year's Day (January 1)

As in other countries, the first day of the New Year is celebrated.

Seollal (January 27-29, 30 is a substitute holiday)

Seollal (January 27-29, 30 is a substitute holiday)

Lunar New Year’s Day (Seollal) is one of the most important traditional holidays of the year; the holiday is much more significant than January 1st. Most businesses are closed, and people take several days off from work to visit their hometowns to be with their family. On the day of Seollal, everyone gets up early, puts on their best clothes, and bows to their elders as a reaffirmation of family ties. Feasts are held with specially prepared food such as Tteokguk and Manduguk. People play traditional games, fly kites, or spin tops.

Independence Movement Day (March 1)

Independence Movement Day (March 1)

This day commemorates the Declaration of Independence proclaimed on March 1, 1919, while under Japanese colonization. A reading of the declaration takes place in a special ceremony at Tapgol Park in Seoul, where the document was first read to the public.

Buddha's Birthday (May 3)

Buddha's Birthday (May 3)

Falls on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, elaborate and solemn rituals are held at many Buddhist temples across the country and lanterns are hung in the temple courtyards. The Sunday before Buddha's birthday these lanterns are lit and carried in parades in the evening.

Children's Day (May 5)

Children's Day (May 5)

On this day, parents dress up their little ones and take them to children's parks, amusement parks, zoos, or to the cinema for a full day of fun and games.

Memorial Day (June 6)

Memorial Day (June 6)

Memorial Day is set aside to honor the soldiers and civilians who have given their lives for their country. The largest ceremony is held at the National Cemetery in Seoul.

Liberation Day (August 15)

Liberation Day (August 15)

This day commemorates Japanese acceptance of the Allies' terms of surrender and the resulting liberation of Korea in 1945.

National Foundation Day (October 3)

National Foundation Day (October 3)

This day commemorates the founding of the Korean nation in 2333 B.C. by the legendary god-king Dangun. A simple ceremony is held at Chamseongdan Altar on top of Manisan Mountain in Ganghwado Province. The altar is said to have been erected by Dangun to offer thanks to his father and grandfather in heaven.

Chuseok (October 3-5, 6 is a substitute holiday)

Chuseok (October 3-5, 6 is a substitute holiday)

Chuseok is one of the year's most important traditional holidays. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Chuseok is often referred to as Korean Thanksgiving Day. It's a celebration of the harvest and thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth. Family members come from all over the country to visit their ancestral homes.

Hangeul Day (October 9)

Hangeul Day (October 9)

Hangeul Day otherwise referred to as Hangeul Proclamation Day or Korean Alphabet Day, is a commemoration held on October 9th in South Korea to remember the creation of Hangeul, the country's native alphabet as proclaimed by the publication of Hunminjeongeum on this day in 1446.

Christmas (December 25)

Christmas (December 25)

Christmas is observed as a national holiday in Korea as in many other countries. To celebrate the festive season, Christmas trees and lights can be found decorated all over Korea.

Additional Holidays for 2017

May Day (May 1)

May Day has been designated as an official holiday to recognize the hard work of the labor force as well as improve working conditions. Many people are expected to enjoy a long holiday, taking trips to nearby recreational areas on this paid holiday.

Presidential Election (May 9)

May 9 has been selected as the official Election Day for the 19th President of the Republic of Korea. Polls will be open throughout the day, concluding at 20:00 KST. The votes will be counted with the results being announced on the news later that evening or early in the next day. Most businesses will be closed on this day, as well as many attractions and shops.

This page was last updated on April 20, 2017, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here.