Friday, November 11, 2011

Hey hey it's Pepero Day

So while everyone in the States is observing Veteran's Day (thank you for your service!) over here in Korea it's Pepero Day.
Pepero itself is a snack made from sticks of cookie dunked in chocolate. It's the same as pocky essentially. There are a bunch of varieties- strawberry dipped, almond, chocolate filled, etc.- and they're available year round. However, November 11th is always Pepero Day because of course when you write 11/11 it looks like a bunch of sticks of pepero.

Pepero Day is pretty equivalent to Valentine's Day and White Day. The stores all put up massive displays and you can buy extra big boxes of it or the bakery made variety with sprinkles or "I Love You" written across it. If you've ever watched a Korean game show you may have seen pepero before when it's used in a kissing game. They play it a lot in We Got Married (우리 결혼했어요) which features a variety of Korean stars who are paired up for the show. Each person in the couple takes one end of pepero in their mouth and then begins eating it so that they get close to kissing, à la Lady and the Tramp. Of course since they're so shy about that here (take a drink every time a Korean drama fades out or cuts away from a kiss!) the game is basically to see which couple is willing to get close enough for a kiss before biting off and therefore have the shortest stick of pepero at the end. So Pepero Day is definitely a holiday that couples can indulge in but there is plenty of pepero exchange between friends too.

Walking to work I passed a bunch of students heading home and saw them carrying boxes with bows on them and gift bags and even one girl who had to use both arms to carry a heart-shaped pepero box display. At work one of the students in my first class gave me a box of pepero, the chocolate filled kind which is the best obviously. Then in my second class one of the students brought in extra large, individually wrapped sticks for everyone in the class. Another student even gave me a big box of pepero from Paris Baguette which is slightly fancier and probably cost much more. Very sweet!

I am for any holiday that encourages the eating of cookies dipped in chocolate so long live Pepero Day!

Trivia of the Day:  "The Liancourt Rocks, also known as Dokdo or Tokto (독도, literally "solitary island") in Korean or Takeshima (たけしま/竹島, literally "bamboo island") in Japanese, are a group of small islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Sovereignty over the islets is disputed between Japan and South Korea. The islets are currently administered by South Korea, which has its Coast Guard stationed there. The Liancourt Rocks consist of two main islets and 35 smaller rocks. Two Korean citizens—an octopus fisherman and his wife—are permanent residents on the islets. A small Korean police detachment, administrative personnel, and lighthouse staff are stationed in non-permanent supporting positions on the islets. Although claimed by both Korea and Japan, Liancourt Rocks are currently administered by the Republic of Korea. Both nations' claims extend back at least several hundred years. Significant arguments supported by a variety of historical evidence have been presented by both parties, which have been challenged by counter-arguments with varying degrees of success. North Korea supports South Korea's claim.

The Liancourt Rocks are a point of heated contention*, alongside other Japan–Korea disputes. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers its position "inalterable". South Korea, for its part, maintains a nationwide educational program which sends the students of 62 elementary, middle, and high schools on field trips to the rocks on a regular basis. The government has also written a textbook about the rocks, intended to be used in elementary schools across the country, and manages a year-round national educational tour. When Japan's Shimane prefecture announced a "Takeshima Day" in 2005, Koreans reacted with demonstrations and protests throughout the country, extreme examples of which included a mother and son slicing off their own fingers, and a man who set himself on fire. In 2006, five Korean "Dokdo Riders" embarked on a world tour to raise international awareness of the dispute. Another notable protest featured South Koreans decapitating pheasants in front of the Japanese Embassy."

*The Dokdo debate is serious business! My students get all worked up about it (although this is true any time Japan is mentioned) and it's been used several times during their end of class project. Most recently I had a group who drew a picture of the Korean peninsula as a buff person who was punching Japan and saying, "Dokdo is ours!".

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