This is part of the D-day installment in the series we are running for CL’s 22nd birthday.
Lee Chaerin lives in a society steeped in tradition and customs that most people thought had died out when the age of technology arrived. In this second to the last installment of this series we will take a look back and get acquainted with Chaerin’s cultural heritage through this special rite of passage called Coming of Age.
Last year, Chaerin joined several other young Koreans in celebrating a milestone in their lives when they reached their 20th birthday. It is what Korean’s call 성년의 날 – Coming of Age ceremony.
In the western world, young people are welcomed into the legalities of life when they reach the age of majority, which is 18 years of age, in most countries. At around this time, young people can cast their votes as part of their political exercise, buy and drink alcohol, get into clubs, get their driver’s license and legally marry. Normally, the coming of age is celebrated in a way that the person reaching adulthood feels like doing: a grand party, a trip somewhere, or a gathering of family and friends at home.
In South Korea, they have a special way of celebrating a young person’s entry into adulthood, a practice that records show dates back to before the Georyo Dynasty. A young Korean who is 20 years of age gets to participate in this ceremony celebrated annually every third Monday of the month May.
Traditionally elders and village leaders are invited to witness and celebrate this coming of age of the young people in their area. To mark this rite of passage, the young men will tie their hair into a topknot and wear a hat called “gat” while the young women will tie their hair into a bun fastened with a “binyeo” and put on a ceremonial cap called “jjokduri”.
Historically the ceremony is different for males and females and is broken into several parts with each part signified by the layers of dress added to them as they go through the ceremony. Young people going through this ceremony get their first taste of alcohol (for male) or tea (for female). The ceremony then ends “with the young people visiting their ancestral shrines to inform the heaven of being a responsible member of society.”
This custom of celebrating a young person’s entry into adulthood is more than a regular ceremony. Reaching this age is not just another year. For Koreans the coming of age is actually one of the four important rites of passage they go through in their entire life. The coming of age is supposed to be a formal reminder to the young person of the responsibility that he or she has as an adult. The ceremony signifies a transition in a young person’s life where childish ways must be put aside and a man or a woman must carry on life with the mind and heart of an adult.
Nowadays though young Koreans celebrate their coming of age the western way and they receive gifts from family and friends ranging from any or all of the following: a bottle of perfume, 20 roses, a kiss, and for some a hanbok or traditional Korean clothing.
Chaerin crosses into adulthood last year in a low-key way by lunching with her 2NE1 members and separately having a photo-session with long-time pals who also happen to be fellow coming of age celebrators. She adds a twist to the modern celebration by meeting with her grandmother for a hanbok fitting (the hanbok is a gift from her grandmother). Fans are able to see this important part of her life through the 2NE1Tv Season 3, Ep 10 feature on her (and Minji).
In the shop with Chaerin we learn that a hanbok is actually made specifically for a person and the color scheme of the dress is designed base on the designer’s assessment of the wearer’s personality. The designer considered her personal features and what it says about her to choose colors that would complement and compliment her.
As Chaerin celebrates one of the four important dates in a Korean’s life, Chaerin shares with fans several firsts.
First time for fans to meet and see Chaerin”s grandma
First neo-traditional boots
First cosmetic ad, and for Lancome, no less.
First time Chaerin shows herself to fans wearing a dress after a long time
First time Chaerin introduces her dear friends to fans
First stage collaboration with international artists Will.I.Am and Apl.de.ap
First international recognition through MTVIggy Best New Band in the World Award
Here in CLTBF, we celebrated her coming of age by sending her a bottle of Miss Dior perfume and a spa kit along with a bottle of wine to her parents. If you want to know more about this particular project, please click HERE
As we see her celebrate her coming of age last year, we did not notice much difference in the way she goes about her life just as she herself said so. She is not the type to go on party, go to clubs or have drinking spree so there’s really not much of a stark difference with the way she was before and is now that she’s legal. She has always lived her life responsibly, so being 20 years old does not seem to make a significant dent for her, except maybe for those who would want to marry her.
Seeing Chaerin in her first hanbok all shy and flustered gives fans a glimpse of a young Korean girl who has blossomed beautifully into a young adult and yet maintaining that same BabyRin-qualities who relishes in the simple joys of having for a company a cuddly Rilakkuma. She pleads to be treated as though she is still a young girl. She is still young that we have to agree but hearing her thoughts about her life, the physical and social changes she has seen happening in her because of her career, her passion for what she does, makes one see that coming of age or not, she has already gone into adulthood long before she even hit her 20th birthday.
A/N: Please do not be confused, Koreans add a year to the actual age because Oriental countries like Korea and China or Taiwan reckon the age from the day of birth, meaning the day a child is born he/she is already a year old. Chaerin was 20 years old in 2011 but her Korean age is 21.
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If you want to read the other parts of this series please click below:
9. Looking Back from Across the Bridge: Chaerin’s Coming of Age << You’re here now!