Koreans Stress Over How Much Money to Give on New Year

korean children receiving new years money elders

Lunar New Year, or (설날 Seollal), is one of the most important holidays in Korea. Companies give their employees almost a whole week off from work, and many people go home to visit family and celebrate together the official beginning of the year. While New Years is a happy, restful occasion, it is causing stress for many Koreans this year. Part of the New Year’s tradition is bowing to one’s elders, and receiving New Year’s money, or “lucky money.” This money is given by parents to their younger children and relatives, from older children to their parents and relatives, and from grandparents to their grandsons and granddaughters. It’s a cycle of giving and receiving that promotes the spread of luck throughout the new year, but has turned into an economic burden and source of stress as people worry about being able to afford giving money to their large families, the amount of money that is appropriate to give relatives based on their age, and how the bad economy will affect their giving this year.

Article from Newsis:

“How Much Money Should I Give?” Stress Over “New Year’s Money”

“It’s been a while since I’ve been back to visit my hometown so I’m excited, but I’ve already begun worrying about how much new year’s money to give my family members.”

48 year old Kang Hong-won, who works at an automobile part supplier, has been anxious since the start of his Lunar New Year holiday about the money he will be giving his family.

Giving new year’s money to more than 10 family members and relatives is quite a burden for Mr. Kang.

I feel proud of being able to give new year’s money to my nephews and nieces, but on the other hand, it’s actually kind of a burden.” He confessed, “My wallet is thinner than last year, so I’m worried about how much money to give my family.”

The number of people who go to the bank the day before the all-important New Year holiday to get crisp bills to give their family members has increased. The number of people who worry about the appropriate amount of money to give has also increased.

At a bank in Seoul’s Apgujeong one to two days before the New Year’s holiday. The counters were packed with people looking to get new bills to give to relatives for New Years.

new year's money korea worried

As the bank tellers neatly stacked wads of bills in a pile, and put them in an electronic counting machine, the machine dispensed crisp new bills.

The most popular denomination for New Year’s money is of course, 10,000 won and 50,000 won bills. However, banks quickly ran out of the bills allocated per branch by about 30,000,000 ~ 50,000,000 won.

Beads of sweat rolled down worker’s faces as they showed people older bills that were still in good shape, and counted them when they ran out of crisp new bills.

The majority of people that we met at the bank are planning to decrease the amount of money they give relatives for new years because of the bad economy.

43 year old worker Park Hu-seon says, “I have to give money to my nieces and nephews, but because of the bad economy, my bonus is smaller than last year, so it’s an opportunity for me to decrease the amount from last year.” “The New Year’s holiday [where workers get almost a week off] is great, but to monthly salary earners, having to give New Year’s money is stressful.”

37 year old Ms. Hwan Bo-kyung exchanged a 10,000 won bill for 10 bills, and said “It’s normal for my nieces and nephews to anticipate new year’s money, but I have to decrease the amount I give out because of the bad economy.” “I’ve decided to give 30,000 won to relatives who are in middle or high school, and 10,000 won to those in elementary school.”

There are also people who are giving digital products or gift cards instead of new year’s cash because of the economic burden.

31 year old worker Kim Gwang-soo says “I’m thinking of giving my nieces and nephews digital products that I bought at a discounted price instead of cash.” He also said, “I think my relatives should understand that their uncle is trying to save up money for wedding expenses.”

Most workers give out 200,000 worth of New Year’s cash.

The employment portal Job Korea recently conducted a survey of 728 male and female workers about New Year’s money, and the average amount of money they were planning to give as New Year’s cash was 201,456 won.

Married workers (36.8% of the sample) will give an average of 240,932 won, and non-married workers (63.2% of the sample) will give an average of 161,021 won. Married workers will give about 80,000 won more than unmarried workers in New Year’s cash.

The majority of respondents (46.4%) said they will give the same amount of money as last year. 44.4% said they would give less money, and only 9.5% said they would give more than last year.

The most popular reason for decreasing the amount of money given is because “Besides New Year’s money, there are a lot of expenses to pay” (38.4%). The second most popular answer was “Because it’s hard to eat and live.” (36.8%)

The amounts of money workers think are appropriate for new year’s money is: college students and people who are job hunting: 50,000 won, middle and high school students: 30,000 won, elementary and younger: 10,000 won.

Experts said it’s important to think about the meaning and usage of new year’s money.

from Jung Yeon-hak, from the National Folklore Museum’s Arts and Sciences research division says, “Originally new year’s money was “money that would bring luck” that you would gift and receive, and “to the recipient, even if the amount of money is small, the meaning was important.”

“Nowadays, new year’s cash has taken on very economics-based value, and the value that it carries is fading.” He added, “It’s good to give and receive money, but it’s important to remember its meaning and usage.”

Comments from Naver:


Give money in accordance with your financial situation. Don’t go overboard, and just think of it as giving pocket money to your parents and relatives. Give and receive in equal amounts. It would be great if everyone lived in plenty and was happy this New Year, but because of the bad economy, everyone will have a difficult New Years. As your family members greet you with New Year’s bows and well-wishes, don’t talk about topics like university, getting a job, marriage, or giving birth. It will be hurtful and stressful. Tell them things like “Happy New Year” and “Best wishes for your health.” Happy New Year to everyone, and I hope you all remain in the best of health.


Will his nephews and nieces understand the uncle’s [reasoning]? keke


Ah…I miss the days when I used to get New Year’s money.


I gave and received New Year’s money as “lucky money.”


That’s too bad…but the relatives don’t care about the uncle’s financial situation.


My niece (or nephew) didn’t come back to their hometown with the excuse that they were studying. They Kakao messaged me saying “Happy New Year,” and asked for money. I took a picture of a 50,000 won bill and sent it to them keke


Why would you give money to university students? They’re of the age when they can work part-time jobs to get money.


Kids are supposed to be thankful at getting any money at all, but their expressions fall when you give them 10,000 won. Kids nowadays don’t seem to understand the value of money. Nowadays, even elementary school students will dislike it if you just give them 10,000 won keke Oh man, holidays are bothersome as I get older.


Erase the picture of the 50,000 won bill…


If you really get married, you don’t amass money, but gain debt.


Give elementary school students 10,000 won, and middle and high school students 20,000 won. If they’re college students, 30,000 won is enough. Are they going to invest the money? Be thankful when you receive the money. When did New Years become a day where people bow their precious heads and received money? It’s enough to wish each other a good year as an expression of your heart.


My uncle passed away two years ago on New Year’s Day in a car accident…It’s okay not to give a lot of New Year’s money, so drive safely, and I hope everyone has no accidents this year, and has a happy New Year’s!


Please don’t forget the meaning of bowing to your elders on New Year’s…Do you bow to get money? Are you not going to bow if you don’t get money? Happy New Year’s everyone.


New Year’s is not just a day to get money, you thoughtless teens.

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