From Korea with Love

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Things You Can Do to Make Your In-laws Happy on Parents’ Day

Tomorrow is a special day for moms and dads in Korea, because May 8 is Parents’ Day (어버이날). It has been part of Korean tradition to give parents carnation on this occasion as symbol of respect and gratitude. For five years, my husband and I have been doing the same thing: we wake up early in the morning to pin carnation boutonnieres on his parents’ shirts, which they wear with pride the whole day. In the evening, we have dinner with the family. Perhaps, as a myonuri  (며느리: daughter-in-law), you do the same thing for your Korean parents-in-law every year, but if you’d like to do something different for them this time, here are some of the other things you can do to make your parents-in-law truly happy.

1.) Prepare a special breakfast for them.


They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, this is also true with the in-laws. After all, there is nothing like the smell of a sumptuous meal in the morning. Try cooking your sibumonim‘s (시부모님: parents-in-law) favorite soup or stew, and prepare your best banchan (반찬: side dishes). Most Koreans eat rice for breakfast, complete with soup and some side dishes, so you can make a feast that will surely wow them when they wake up in the morning.

2.) Make them a card or write them a letter… in Korean.

The heart is missing one eye and the shimmer has faded... but the message of love remains. ^^

The heart is missing one eye and the shimmer has faded… but the message of love remains. ^^

I have never done this on Parents’ Day, but when I had my first Christmas with the in-laws, I made them a simple card, and posted it on their bedroom door, so it’s the first thing they would notice when they wake up in the morning. My father-in-law doesn’t like posters, calendars or anything plastered on walls and doors. He would remove them. That card, however, stays on their door. ^^

On Youtube, there are tons of how-to videos on making pop-up flower cards. This one is my favorite. It looks elegant and is easier to do.

This Mother’s Day card will make a great Parents’ Day card, too.

3.) Take them to a posh restaurant.

Most older Koreans prefer dining in Korean restaurants and in places that are familiar to them, but it won’t hurt to have them try other restaurants and different cuisines, so if you have budget for a real treat, why not surprise them with the best fine dining experience?

Try Lotte Hotel World’s La Seine Buffet. The food is fantastic!

4.) Go hiking with them.

Spring is the best time of the year to go hiking. A lot of older Koreans go to the mountain in spring to gather herbs and vegetables that are quite pricey in the market. Go ginseng-searching with your sibumonim on Parents’ Day. Who knows, you might actually enjoy the activity, and start doing it regularly? Hiking can be exciting… and it can also help shed off those extra pounds.

5.) Be “Cinderella” for a day.


My husband volunteered to help out with his parents’ business for the entire week. His parents are pleased, because this is a busy season. If your in-laws have a business you can help them with, and you have all the time in the world to spare, a day of doing extra work for them will mean a lot.

The extra work can also be a housechore that you haven’t done in a while, like cleaning your in-laws’ bedroom (or the entire house), helping your si omonim (시어머님: mother-in-law) with the laundry, ironing si abonim‘s (시아버님: father-in-law) favorite shirts, etc. Before you say, “I’m not a slave!”, remember that this suggestion is meant only for a day, Parents’ Day. That is, if you don’t live with the in-laws. Think about the myonuris who have to do these chores regularly, because they live with their sibumonim.

6.) Hold a noraebang (노래방: karaoke) concert with them.

And the battle begins... ^^

And the battle begins… ^^

If your in-laws are not the killjoy type, invite them to the noraebang for a night of party. Team up with your husband. Your in-laws and other family members who are present will pair up, too. Each pair will select a song and sing duet. Karaokes usually score singers. You can use those scores to choose the best team. Our family did this once, and everyone had a terrific time. In fact, my father-in-law didn’t want to go home. ^^

I am sure that there are a number of ways we can make Parents’ Day memorable for our in-laws, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is not what gifts we give them or how we have impressed them with our efforts. What makes Parents’ Day meaningful for parents-in-law is how we treat them even when it’s not their special day. Some in-laws can be pain in the neck sometimes, but here in Korea, they are our second parents. No matter how tough parents can be, they deserve love, respect and understanding.

어버이날 축하합니다, 아버님… 어머님!


Photo taken from:


사랑합니다, Omonim… Abonim.

This morning, I was awakened by the clinking of chopsticks and my parents-in-law’s conversation over breakfast. If it had been an ordinary day, I would have hit the hay again, but today is Parent’s Day and I had to get up to greet them. I set the alarm at 7 before going to bed last night, because that’s the time my in-laws usually wake up, but they got up pretty early. It was a few minutes past 6 when I heard them in the dining room. I woke up my husband who was snoring louder than a lawnmower, hastened to change, washed my face and brushed my teeth. By the time, I was done, my father-in-law had already put on his jacket and was heading out for work. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was tidying up the dining table. I greeted them good morning. They were probably wondering why I was up so early. I told them that I was going to the hospital which was actually true, but the real reason why I was scurrying out of the bedroom was because I wanted to be the first to pin carnation boutonnieres on their shirts. The tradition of giving carnations during Parents’ Day in Korea typifies respect and gratitude for parents.


At school, students make paper carnations and cards to give to their parents. A day before the occasion, you can already find carnation bouquets being sold on the streets or in various shops and convenience stores. Bakeries sell cakes in the semblance of a carnation like this lovely ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins:


Cosmetic shops and department stores display Parents’ Day gift sets. Restaurants offer promos. Parents are usually given lavish presents or money, treated to dinner or pampered in the salon. On our way to the hospital, most of the big restaurants we passed by were full. In the department store, we saw a couple of parents and their adult children shopping together. I suddenly remembered my Mom. How I miss her. On Mothers’ Day, I take her shopping, too.

May 8 was originally Mother’s Day in Korea, but after some time, it became Parents’ Day (어버이 날 ). The occasion was altered, so fathers can also be recognized and thanked.

Tonight, my in-laws are going to have dinner with the family. My husband and I won’t be there, because we have to go to work, but I’m glad that we were the first to greet them today and tell them that we appreciate everything they have done for us. I rarely tell my parents-in-law that I love them, though I really do. When I told them “사랑합니다, 어머님… 아버님” (I love you, Omonim… Abonim.) as I hugged them this morning, their face lit up. My parents-in-law and I have lived together for four years, and though our relationship is not near to perfect, I believe that we have learned to truly appreciate one another. They care about me like parents to a daughter and I am grateful for their love. I may not be an outstanding 며느리 (daughter-in-law), but I try my best to show them that I also care about them the way a daughter cares for her parents.