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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in South Korea Series on KoreanClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Korean holidays and observances. I’m Brandon, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 5: National Foundation Day.
Do you know when Korea was founded?
Koreans believe that the history of the country starts in 2333 B.C. That's when a nation called 고조선 (Gojoseon) was founded, and that’s why we’ve designated October 3rd as National Foundation Day, or 개천절(Gaecheon-jeol.)
Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question- what does the word 개천절(Gaecheon-jeol) mean?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The nation of 고조선 (Gojoseon) is believed to have started on 강화도 (Ganghwa-do) Island, which is near today’s Incheon International Airport. Many events are held on this island on October 3rd.
A major event for the holiday is the 개천대제 (Gaecheon-daeje) a special set of rites. In the ancient times of 고조선 (Gojoseon), the 개천대제 (Gaecheon-daeje) ceremony was held to offer sacrifices to the heavens. On March 3rd, people recreate these rites. The event starts with seven students who wear traditional white dresses and perform fan dances. Then it moves into a torch-lighting ceremony atop a memorial. It’s meant to reenact the way people paid tribute to the gods.
On this day, places sell various local foods from 강화도 (Ganghwa-do) Island. One of the most popular products is 강화약쑥 (Ganghwa yakssuk) or Ganghwa absinthium, a plant also known as mugwort.
The king of 고조선 (Gojoseon) is known as 단군왕검 (Dangun Wanggeom), or 태군 (Tangun.) The legend says that 단군왕검 (Dangun Wanggeom) was the son of a woman who had been a bear and of a god named 환웅 (Hwanung.) The story states that the bear wanted to become human, so she lived in a cave for one hundred days and only ate garlic and mugwort. After that, she transformed into a woman, and married 환웅 (Hwanung.) That’s part of the reason why many people buy mugwort from 강화도 (Ganghwa-do) Island.
In addition to the events on the island, cities like Seoul host a variety of events on this day. This holiday celebrates the long history of Korea, and cities will host many performances of traditional dances and songs, as well as festivals showcasing traditional attire.
Here's our fun fact for the day! When people go to 강화도 (Ganghwa-do) Island to attend events for National Foundation Day, they also stop by a historical structure called a dolmen, or portal tomb; the Korean name for it is 고인돌 (Goin-dol.) It’s a huge slab of stone laid across two stone columns, and serves as a tomb for tribal leaders or clan leaders who died in prehistoric times—similar to the pyramids in Egypt.
Now it’s time to answer our quiz question: what does 개천절(Gaecheon-jeol) mean? 개천절(Gaecheon-jeol) is composed of Chinese characters that mean “the day the heavens opened.”
Legend has it that 환웅 (Hwanung), the father of 단군왕검 (Dangun Wanggeom), king of 고조선 (Gojoseon), descended to the Korean Peninsula when the skies opened up. That’s how this holiday came to bear that name.
Well listener’s, how was the lesson? Did you learn a lot of interesting things?
In your country, do you have a day like 개천절(Gaecheon-jeol) in Korea? What events do you usually have?
Please leave us a comment at KoreanClass101.com.
And we'll see you next time!