Katie, who came to Korea as a native English teacher, is in trouble. She received a wedding invitation card from Miss Park, who works with her, but she could not figure out how much money she should give as a gift.
It seems that 30,000 won is too small and 50,000 won is too much for her. So she asked several colleagues but they didn’t give her a clear answer.
This is not something that only confuses foreigners. Even Koreans are often not sure how much they should give every time they go to a wedding ceremony or a funeral hall.
How much money should we give?
▲ Photo courtesy Yunho Lee
According to a survey taken by Duo, the Marriage Company, 58% of unmarried men and women in their 20s to 30s think 50,000 to 70,000 won is a proper amount of money to give as a gift. After this, 25% think 30,000 to 50,000 won is ok, while 5.9% think 70,000 to 100,000 won, and 4.1% think 150,000 to 200,000 won.
And also, the biggest reason to decide the amount of money to give as a gift is familiarity (79%), how much other people pay (11.6%), economic situation (4.1%), and the amount received by the host (4.1%).
If you attend the wedding of someone you don’t know very well, but you have to go because the person is one of your coworkers or a member of a social club you are part of, then giving 30,000 won should be acceptable. Although, if the wedding takes place in a luxury hotel that provides an expensive meal, 50,000 won should be safe.
And if you know them well and you have to see them everyday at your place of work, 50,000 won should be perfect.
If you attend the wedding of someone that you consider one of your best friends, then 100,000 to 200,000 won should be good. But be careful that you don’t give too much. Money gifts in Korea are always give and take so if you give them too much money, they could feel burdened.
Why is the money gift an odd number?
Scholars believe that giving money as a gift has been commonly used since the Japanese occupation.
If you look at history, it seems that in the past Koreans generally gave fruits, rice cakes, and livestocks.
Traditionally, an odd number represents yang, and an even number represents yin. Here, yang can be translated as bright or positive and yin can be translated as dark or negative. So it is not hard to know the difference between yang and yin from numbers three and four, which represent odd and even numbers.
Number three is a sacred number for Koreans, like how number seven is for westerners, whereas number four represents death. So, the number of dishes displayed for worshipping ancestors have to be an odd number.
Some scholars believe that the odd number of a money gift came from this concept.
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