You probably already know the 4 seasons but seasons in Korean can go more in-depth than that! Following the Chinese lunar calendar Korea’s traditional calendar has a solar system for seasons too, spaced approx. 15 days apart these dates mark specific points in the seasons.
Since it follows the Chinese calendar it the begins in February instead of January. The names are the original ones pulled from Chinese with matching hanja. The Korean calendar was used until the western Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1896.
Of course, please don’t take this as a clear-cut guide to weather in Korea, it can be close but think of it similar to our calendars which mark the seasons like “Start of Spring” but as you know can feel wildly off haha.
Breakdown of the Calendar and the Seasons
입춘: Feb 04 Beginning of Spring
우수: Feb 19 More Rain Than Snow
경칩: Mar 06 Insects Awaken
춘분: Mar 21 Spring Equinox
청명: Apr 05 Clear and Bright
곡우: Apr 20 Grain Rain
입하: May 06 Beginning of Summer
소만: May 21 Corn Comes
망종: Jun 06 Seeding Millet
하지: Jun 21 Summer Solstice
소서: Jul 07 Moderate Heat
대서: Jul 23 Great Heat
입추: Aug 08 Beginning of Autumn
처서: Aug 23 The End of the Heat
백로: Sep 08 White Dew
추분: Sep 23 Autumn Equinox
한로: Oct 08 Cold Dew
상강: Oct 23 Frost
입동: Nov 07 Beginning of Winter
소설: Nov 22 Light Snow
대설: Dec 07 Heavy Snow
동지: Dec 22 Winter Solstice
소한: Jan 06 Moderate Cold
대한: Jan 20 Severe Cold
Are These Dates Important?
Traditionally these seasons in Korean were more relevant for farmers and rice harvesting. Some days have some significance still, related to holidays or to when family’s start making kimchi. I think it’s still interesting though, and if you are into historic Korea and traditional poems or their farming culture you should check out Writer Paul Shin’s Lunar Seasons Project on Facebook, he gets into each date with a lot of information! Definitely worth checking out for any historical Korea buffs out there haha.
Though Koreans have moved away from using the traditional calendar it is still recognized and maintained by the government.
In North Korea they moved to a completely different calendar introduced in 1997. Their 주체 calendar has the first year listed as when Kim Il Sung (the founder of North Korea) was born. So 2023 is year 112 on their calendar. Years before the ” 주체 1″ are just listed normally like the Gregorian calendar such as 1847 and many calendars are written out like “주체112 (2023)” with the Gregorian year still displayed.
Some Key Dates for the Traditional Calendar
입춘: Feb 04: Tradition of hanging handwritten signs put on houses welcoming spring and good luck with the season.
하지: Jun 21: The supposed longest daylight of the year.
입동: Nov 07: Traditionally when families start making kimchi, said that the cabbage is best harvested at this time and kimchi is the best made 5 days after or before 입동.
동지: Dec 22: The supposed longest night of the year, there were traditional celebrations for winter solstice but they seem to happen less in modern day, tradition of eating 팥죽 (red bean porridge) too.
Related Sino-Korean & Hanja
입 (立): used at the beginning of each season meaning stand or rise
춘 (春): spring
하 (夏): summer; 하복 summer clothes (in 교복 하복 for summer uniform) 하계 summer season (in 하계 올림픽 for summer Olympics)
추 (秋): autumn; 추석 Korean harvest festival
동 (冬): winter
춘하추동 (春夏秋冬): the four seasons in Korean
분 shortened from 분점 (分點): equinox