Read important articles published in Wolgan Saemaul.
The Rules on Family Rites that Sowed the Seeds for Today’s Culture of Simplified Formalities
Wedding Hall, Bridal Bouquet, Veil, Free Photographs
and Mirrors for Souvenirs
“The 49th Saemaul Civil Wedding Ceremony was held on March 3 at 11 a.m. at the Civic Center Annex Building, presided over by Koo Ja-Chun, Mayor of Seoul. In addition to the 2,917 couples who have taken their vows in Saemaul Weddings since March 1972, 37 new couples at the ceremony became husbands and wives. The City of Seoul announced that it will hold civil wedding ceremonies twice a month from March, with the Mayor and the Chief of Gu to preside over the ceremonies on the 1st and the 15th of each month, respectively. Applicants should visit their Dong Office, the Social Affairs Division of the Gu Office or the Women’s Division of the City Hall to file applications. Wedding ceremonies will be held at no charge.” (Chosun Ilbo, March 4, 1976)
the City of Seoul held joint wedding ceremonies for the citizens of Seoul. Grooms wore corduroy national suits and brides wore hanbok (Korean traditional dress) with white veils. Ceremonies and wedding photographs were paid for by the City and mirrors were given as souvenirs.
Thanks to this service, the citizens of Seoul were able to save their wedding expenses.
The joint wedding ceremony was a public service pursuant to the Rules on Family Rites, which was enacted in 1969 with the aim of simplifying the formalities of the four major ceremonial occasions (traditional coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, funerals and ancestral rites). With penalty clauses added in 1973, the Rules were promoted alongside the Saemaul Undong movement. It was then that the new custom of joint weddings was first born.
Let’s live well like others by following
the new Rules on Family Rites
On February 14, 1973, the Saemaul Undong Central Council* announced the Measures on Simplifying Family Ceremonies, organized 25,587 instructor groups for 34,668 villages and distributed 12 major rules to 1.27 million members of women’s associations nationwide.
* The Saemaul Undong Central Council (Presidential Decree No. 6104) was launched on March 7, 1972 and consisted of the Minister of Home Affairs as the Chairman and 12 Deputy Ministers as members. The purpose of the Council was to promote the Saemaul Undong movement in a comprehensive and unified manner by effectively discussing and coordinating government policies and plans.
• Omit wedding invitations and obituaries, and inform only close relatives or acquaintances
• Do not send congratulatory or condolatory flowers
• Do not serve food to visitors at funerals
• Do not wear mourners’ suits at funerals and wear mourning bands instead
• Do not pay congratulatory or condolatory money in excessive amounts
• Come off the mourning period after 100 days
• Replace engagement ceremonies with the exchange of family registers and health exam reports
• Use town halls or public buildings to hold weddings
• Only hold ritual ceremonies for parents, grandparents and spouses
• Hold ancestral rites for lineal ancestors only
• Hold memorial services at an appropriate time with basic food
• Use Korean to write jibang (spirit tablet made of paper) and chukmun (written prayer) used for ancestral rites
At the time, these practices were sensational and shocking for most people.
It was the conventional norm that bigger weddings and funerals were better, as weddings were important life events and mourning for one’s ancestors was an expression of his/her filial piety. Statistical data which show that approximately a quarter of annual household income was used to cover expenses for four major ceremonial occasions (traditional coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, funerals and ancestral rites) demonstrate the customs at the time.
However, these formalities intended to keep face were considered “outdated customs” running counter to the Saemaul spirit which sought to achieve modernization through an industrious and frugal mindset.
The Rules on Family Rites were an effort to cause major changes in these perceptions.
Rules on Family Rites (Wolgan Saemaul, March 1973)