Christmas: A Financial Nightmare for Korean Parents

In South Korea, Santa came to kindergartens to deliver presents. But as children took their wrapped gifts from costumed Santas’ hands, they soon realize that the gifts were really coming from their parents. Schools and parents have begun to complain about the phenomenon of children becoming hurt and ashamed when they open their gifts and they aren’t as nice as their classmates’.

Online, Korean mothers and fathers complained about the pressure to buy the must-have gift this season, a Tobot transformer toy. Netizens mocked some families for overspending so they don’t become embarrassed, but others justified their gift-buying by saying they don’t want their children to grow up feeling inferior.

From Naver:

Even Kindergarteners’ Christmas Presents Show Gap Between Rich and Poor

Despite tight finances, Ms. Jung (36), who lives in Seoul’s Songpa District with her seven-year-old kindergarten son, bought a ₩350,000 (USD $330) transformer robot and sent it to her son’s kindergarten as his Christmas present on the 23rd. Ms. Jung said, ‘Last year, the kindergarten told us to prepare a small present, so I sent them a small figurine. My son cried his heart out because he was the only one with a shabby present.’ She added, ‘The gap between rich and poor is quite large in the Songpa district, so this year I did not want my son to get hurt even if I had to overwork myself.’


Recently many kindergartens and day care centers have been holding Christmas events where the parents prepare gifts for their children. The size and contents of the presents for these Christmas events are considerably different depending on the parents’ financial resources. This has caused a lot of controversy because parents are increasingly concerned about hurting their children’s feelings.

The director of one kindergarten located in Seoul’s Yangcheon district said, ‘Every Christmas we hire a Santa to hand out the presents to the children to make it seem like Santa himself gave them the gifts, but these days the children catch on quickly and realized that their parents had prepared the gifts beforehand. The children compare their gifts with each other, so we asked the parents to prepare gifts that are 30 cm or less in height and width. Some of the gifts don’t abide by these rules, but we cannot return them, so we’re in a tough situation.’

These expensive and popular toys can cost parents several hundred thousand won apiece. Certain brand-name model cars even have asking prices of several million won. Some parents spend money they don’t have to purchase these expensive gifts so that their children do not get hurt.

Another Ms. Jung (34) from Ulsan, who has a six-year-old son in kindergarten, said ‘The mothers in the neighborhood are so competitive about preparing these gifts, so I bought a ₩260,000 (USD $245) Nintendo game that cost more than our family can support. Christmas does not feel like a blessing, but more like a nightmare.’

However, the Ministry of Education as well as city and provincial education bureaus say that they cannot be involved in every kindergarten event.

The coveted Transformer Tobot

The coveted Transformer Tobot

Comments from Naver:


They keep whining about having no money and then move to Seoul because of pride.

vhy9**** (responding to above):

Pride? Many people can’t leave because of their children’s education or work.

trip**** (responding to above):

Children’s education, you say? If you live outside of Seoul, your education is so terrible you can’t go to Seoul University? To put it bluntly, has there been anyone, even an upright politician, who has been educated in Seoul? If you can raise a child to become a successful person who does not quarrel but is instead useful, I will acknowledge your comment.

redt**** (responding to above):

Is there any evidence that education in Seoul is good? Is it a good idea to change jobs from the countryside to Seoul? There are many educational systems in the countryside that are good. The reason why so many jobs concentrate in Seoul is because everyone flocked to Seoul. Before that, the unbalanced growth designed by the government was a trap.


350,000 won? A Transformer Tobot is only 35,000 won. Ke

wlsd**** (responding to above):

There has been a shortfall in Tobot production, so there are not enough around. People have kept an eye on this, hoarded them, and are now selling them on the internet for 200,000 to 300,000 won. I don’t know what this guy’s talking about?

smj0**** (responding to above):

You’re right. There weren’t any at the mart and when I searched online, the prices were extremely jacked up.

club**** (responding to above):

Ah~~ Tobots… My four-year-old kid has Tobot X and R. Earlier this month, my husband bought Tobot R for him as a birthday present.. Tobot is a really new product.. Good thing I avoid the toys section when I go shopping. Geez.. I’m not the kind of parent who buys whatever her kid wants, but I don’t want to tempt him, so I stay far away from there.

Price differences between buying the toy at E-mart (top left) and online

Price differences between buying the toy at E-mart (top left) and online


Buying expensive gifts for children isn’t good. Children soon forget about Christmas gifts, but mothers are very sensitive. Raise them the way you believe is best.

char**** (responding to above):

By seeing the gap between rich and poor through the presents with their own eyes, young children feel envious and inferior. Do you think it’s easy for them to forget that? They might not remember it once, but if it happens several times, it might affect their feelings and personalities.

outw**** (responding to above):

At that age, even if they only feel love at home, they have high self-esteem, right? You must be talking about the mothers’ sense of inferiority. If this repeats later on even after growing up, the child might feel a sense of inferiority, but if the parents are firm, even if the child’s self-esteem is hurt, it won’t be so bad to the point where he can’t go out in public.

outw**** (responding to above):

Also, I think that people should understand their family’s means to a certain extent and raise their children within those means starting at a young age so that they don’t get discouraged and don’t think that everything is done for them.


A salary of 5 million won a month is not enough to make a kid happy?

vs1y**** (responding to above):

Even department heads of large corporations are struggling. Their kids attend 2-3 private academies, and then during vacation, they also attend language courses. In the end, all of the money they earn is spent on tuition.

minj**** (responding to above):

You just gotta earn more. If you earn 5 million, spend about 5 million. If you earn 10 million, spend about 10 million. Your lifestyle must adjust accordingly.

poal**** (responding to above):

So many people are out of their minds…


I want to live a sweet and happy life with pets and no kids.

tkdg**** (responding to above):

Honey, I’m two weeks pregnant

kkk0**** (responding to above):

Oh wow, I’m also female, so how did I get pregnant?

amad**** (responding to above):

Take care of yourself. Have a nice life^^

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