Foreigners dressed up for the ceremony, from the Chosun Ilbo.
An Acorn in the Dog's Food told us that Monday, the 18th, was Coming-of-Age Day (성년의날) in Korea. He goes on to give a little history of the holiday held on the third Monday of May, but says that it's not a very big deal, which explains why we barely heard anything about it.
It's a bigger deal in Japan, though, for their Coming-of-Age Day each January. For a little more on that see Wikipedia, and for a look at some modern celebrations see posts from Danny Choo, Tokyo Times, and Japan Probe. I bring up Japan because when I first heard Monday was Korea's Coming-of-Age Day, it reminded me of something I read in Confucius Lives Next Door, an interesting little book by an American journalist in Japan that I've quoted numerous times. I like what T.R. Reid has to say about Japan's version, which I will excerpt below. The author has described the events of the day, and it picks up after all the solemn speeches have finished.
As the dark-suited officials on the stage stepped away to make room for the massive drums and speakers to be used by Marcia's band, I sat in the back of the hall trying to remember what my community had done to mark my arrival at adulthood. I turned eighteen at a time when American teenagers were being sent to die in distant jungles, which perhaps explains why the only official recognition I received was a mimeographed postcard from the Selective Service System, the official name back then for the draft board. The card didn't bother to congratulate me on my new status in society, but warned me that I faced arrest and prosecution if I failed to register for the draft within the next thirty days. That was Seijin-shiki, American style.
It would be romantic to the point of naivete to suggest that all the nineteen-year-olds in Japan that day came storming out of the local Seijin-shiki armed with a new determination to work hard, obey the law, and devote themselves selflessly to the overall society. But some of them probably did react that way. And all of those who attended at least were made aware that the community had expectations for them---that the society had certain values and that the values were important, important enough for the whole country to take a holiday, and for the city to hold a ceremony, and for their parents to sehll out big yen for the necessary outfits. The so-called Confucian values or Asian values on display at the Coming-of-Age Ceremony were no better than, and not much different from, the Judaeo-Christian values or Islamic values or humanistic values treasured in other parts of the world. But the Japanese, at least on January 15 every year, were doing a better job of emphasizing how much those values matter.