Choo-suk (harvest moon) marks the end of hot summer and the beginning of cooler autumn weather. The staple grains of the country have fully ripened, and the moon is usually large and bright on this night.
Choo-suk comes on the fifteenth day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar uses the moon as its reference rather than the sun as the solar calendar does. This year choo-suk will be on the twentieth of September. It is Korea’s largest and most enjoyable holiday of the year. Everyone thinks of it as a vacation time and an opportunity to keep Korean customs alive.
People wear especially beautiful traditional Korean dress on this day and special foods are served. Song-pyun (rice cake steamed on pine needles) is served only on this holiday.
There is a legend that if someone faces the full moon and makes a wish on choo-suk he will get his desire. Young girls play a game called kang-kang-soo-wool-lay. About twenty of them join hands in a circle while one girl in the center is blindfolded. Another stands behind a girl on the outside of the circle. The one in the center is given three chances to guess the name of the girl the one on the outside of the circle is standing behind. If the blind-folded player guesses correctly, she becomes part of the circle.
A feature of choo-suk is that on this day Koreans pay tributes to their ancestors by preparing and bringing fancy foods to a memorial service held at the grave site of relatives who have died.
Hangul, the Korean writing system, was developed in the fifteenth century by a group of scholars under the direction of King Sejong (1419–1450). King Sejong recognized the need for a simple system of writing, since the Chinese characters then being used could only be learned by wealthy people and those with a lot of leisure time. With the introduction of Hangul, all the people of Korea were able to learn how to read and write.
Hangul uses an alphabet with forty letters. Twenty-one of these represent vowels and diphthongs (a combination of letters for certain sounds), and nineteen are consonants. Twenty-four are basic letters while the others are compounds of the basic letters. Syllables are formed this way:
cv cv c v c = consonant
cv c cc v c v = vowel
Korean writing is printed in columns and read from right to left, the same as Chinese.
Husbands and wives in Korea have different last names. It is the custom to call the wife by her maiden name instead of by the name of her husband. Also, men are called by their surnames first and then their given name. Dr. Kim Ho Jik’s last name, for example, is Kim.
The First Korean Convert
Dr. Ho-jik Kim was the first Korean to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He helped to establish the Korean Mission and a friend once said of him, “His righteous influence and simple faith in God was a great light for the people of Korea.”
While he was still a young man, Ho-jik searched many places to find the true religion. At one time or another he had joined several churches but none of them satisfied him; he wanted something more. After attending an agricultural college and a university in Korea, he decided to go to America to obtain a better education.
While studying at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he met Oliver Wayman, a Latter-day Saint who became his friend. Oliver invited Ho-jik to attend some church meetings with him and later gave him the Articles of Faith, the Book of Mormon, and several other books. Ho-jik Kim read them all and believed they were true.
He was baptized in the Susquehanna River near where the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized. The power of the Holy Ghost was strong and Brother Kim, thinking of the words of Jesus, “Feed my sheep,” felt that he should preach the gospel to his fellowmen.
He earned a doctor’s degree in education and returned home to Korea in 1951 where he held important positions in education with the government.
Dr. Kim played a big part in bringing the gospel to Korea and in helping the Church to grow there. He was an inspiration to the members and his example taught them humility, devotion, and faithfulness.
One Sunday morning Ho-jik Kim was teaching a Sunday School class when the president of Korea, Syngman Rhee, sent his secretary to get him. Dr. Kim was the vice minister of education at the time, and President Rhee wanted to discuss an important matter with him.
Arriving at the LDS meetinghouse, the secretary found Dr. Kim in Sunday School and urged him to go at once to see the president. Brother Kim said he could not leave until he had taught his Sunday School lesson.
Afterward, when Brother Kim met with the president, he was criticized for being late. Dr. Kim explained to the president the importance of his calling as a Sunday School teacher. President Rhee, realizing how much the Church meant to Dr. Kim, patted him on the shoulder and said, “Chalhaeso!” (You have done well!)
Before the Korea Mission was organized in the summer of 1962, it had been a district of the Northern Far East Mission. Besides the new Korea Mission president, Gail Edward Carr and his wife, there were nineteen missionaries. The five organized branches of the mission then included 1,603 Church members. Today in Korea there are two missions (Seoul, Puson), with 6 districts and 24 branches; 1 stake, with 8 wards and 2 branches, 320 missionaries; and a total membership of 10,000 Saints.