Seori

Headword

서리 ( Seori )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Arts > Folk Games

Writer HanYangmyung(韓陽明)

The stealing of grain, fruit, and poultry for fun among children to satiate their hunger when there was food shortage during the agricultural off-seasons.

There were various stealing practices committed in farming villages prior to the 1960s, primarily among children in their early teens. Since younger children had difficulty in searching and choosing what they would steal and did not know how to cook the stolen food well, they had to rely on the food given by their older peers. As children reached their early teens, they would feed cows or fell trees in groups. Children would release the cows and let them freely feed themselves in the appropriate places, which required only one or two children to keep watch on the cows. In contrast, the rest of the children could play various games. Whenever they felt hungry, those children would steal a healthy amount of crops, fruits, or vegetables, and enjoy them together. As children grew older, they became bolder, and naturally, children in their late teens would be inclined to steal poultry rather than crops. Therefore, depending on the amount of poultry being stolen, one could easily assume the age of the children in a town.

The easiest target was grain. Grain fields were rarely kept on watch, enticing children to easily steal crops at their leisure. When partaking in Seori, some of the children would head to the field, while the rest prepared to cook and enjoy whatever was brought back. The amount of the stolen food was usually enough to share a handful of grain per person. Usually, two weeks prior to harvesting the wheat, barley, and beans was the height of the Seori tradition, since unripe crops were very tasty when slightly singed by fire. The most popular crops for stealing were barley and wheat, as the harvest for wheat would overlap with the season of spring hunger, the hungriest time of year, leading to children stealing crops to appease their hunger. The most popular target during the autumn, however, was beans. Food was relatively abundant compared to the spring, while autumn was the time when the harvest was nearly over.

Children were more careful when they stole vegetables and fruit due to the higher value in comparison to grain. Only the most agile and clever of children would do the stealing, while the younger and clumsier sat by and watched. Among the vegetables, potatoes were the most popular, whether they were ripe or bitterly unripe. Cucumbers and oriental melons, or Korean melons, usually raised in gardens, were stolen as well.

Stealing poultry, however, was the most daunting challenge, since their coops were placed indoors, not to mention the fact that they were difficult to catch, making it hard to go unnoticed by the owner. Children could steal poultry at any time, but primarily would do so during the agricultural off-season, particularly in the winter, when people rarely engage in outside activities. Those who did the stealing were children in or above their late teens, and whenever they felt hungry after hanging out and being on the job, they would then go and steal poultry. Just as with stealing chickens, children often stole side dishes on winter nights. Kimjang kimchi (kimchi made to eat throughout winter), and radishes, buried underground, were popular targets among children in their mid-teenage to young adult years.

As food shortage was solved thanks to the distribution of Tongil rice (a variety of rice developed in Korea) and the widespread use of machines and chemicals in agriculture during the early 1970s, this custom of Seori, among children gradually began to disappear. Of course, the stealing of fruit and poultry had been around for a while, but it was mostly for entertainment.

As a form of stealing that was culturally accepted, Seori needed to be understood from a more welfare-based standpoint. Due to a limited food supply and opportunities to eat, children often would be starving especially during the spring hunger when food was scarce. Therefore, the stealing of grain, was considered to be tolerable within the scope of the community ethos.

In this way, Seori was seen as inherently playful. As there existed a limit to the amount and types of food that could be stolen, any excess of stealing activities led to a fixed form of punishment. It was especially the case with stealing poultry, which was accompanied by the thrill of committing a prohibited act despite the potential danger of punishment. Moreover, this playful nature was intensified thanks to the combination of strategic competition in overcoming a variety of obstacles to reach a goal, along with a sense of anxiety of being caught at any given moment.

Meanwhile, Seori served a specific role in helping children learn about the community culture in terms of socialization and enculturation. Seori actually provided the means for children to better understand the cropping of cultivated land, as well as seeding, growth, and harvesting, naturally encouraging a deepened awareness of quantity and quality, and the taste and nature of agricultural produce. Eventually, children were able to grasp the economic conditions of their family and neighbors. In fact, while children witnessed firsthand the generosity and discipline of the community regarding theft, they were clearly able to recognize the priority of certain values and ethics within the community.

Seori

Seori
Headword

서리 ( Seori )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Arts > Folk Games

Writer HanYangmyung(韓陽明)

The stealing of grain, fruit, and poultry for fun among children to satiate their hunger when there was food shortage during the agricultural off-seasons.

There were various stealing practices committed in farming villages prior to the 1960s, primarily among children in their early teens. Since younger children had difficulty in searching and choosing what they would steal and did not know how to cook the stolen food well, they had to rely on the food given by their older peers. As children reached their early teens, they would feed cows or fell trees in groups. Children would release the cows and let them freely feed themselves in the appropriate places, which required only one or two children to keep watch on the cows. In contrast, the rest of the children could play various games. Whenever they felt hungry, those children would steal a healthy amount of crops, fruits, or vegetables, and enjoy them together. As children grew older, they became bolder, and naturally, children in their late teens would be inclined to steal poultry rather than crops. Therefore, depending on the amount of poultry being stolen, one could easily assume the age of the children in a town.

The easiest target was grain. Grain fields were rarely kept on watch, enticing children to easily steal crops at their leisure. When partaking in Seori, some of the children would head to the field, while the rest prepared to cook and enjoy whatever was brought back. The amount of the stolen food was usually enough to share a handful of grain per person. Usually, two weeks prior to harvesting the wheat, barley, and beans was the height of the Seori tradition, since unripe crops were very tasty when slightly singed by fire. The most popular crops for stealing were barley and wheat, as the harvest for wheat would overlap with the season of spring hunger, the hungriest time of year, leading to children stealing crops to appease their hunger. The most popular target during the autumn, however, was beans. Food was relatively abundant compared to the spring, while autumn was the time when the harvest was nearly over.

Children were more careful when they stole vegetables and fruit due to the higher value in comparison to grain. Only the most agile and clever of children would do the stealing, while the younger and clumsier sat by and watched. Among the vegetables, potatoes were the most popular, whether they were ripe or bitterly unripe. Cucumbers and oriental melons, or Korean melons, usually raised in gardens, were stolen as well.

Stealing poultry, however, was the most daunting challenge, since their coops were placed indoors, not to mention the fact that they were difficult to catch, making it hard to go unnoticed by the owner. Children could steal poultry at any time, but primarily would do so during the agricultural off-season, particularly in the winter, when people rarely engage in outside activities. Those who did the stealing were children in or above their late teens, and whenever they felt hungry after hanging out and being on the job, they would then go and steal poultry. Just as with stealing chickens, children often stole side dishes on winter nights. Kimjang kimchi (kimchi made to eat throughout winter), and radishes, buried underground, were popular targets among children in their mid-teenage to young adult years.

As food shortage was solved thanks to the distribution of Tongil rice (a variety of rice developed in Korea) and the widespread use of machines and chemicals in agriculture during the early 1970s, this custom of Seori, among children gradually began to disappear. Of course, the stealing of fruit and poultry had been around for a while, but it was mostly for entertainment.

As a form of stealing that was culturally accepted, Seori needed to be understood from a more welfare-based standpoint. Due to a limited food supply and opportunities to eat, children often would be starving especially during the spring hunger when food was scarce. Therefore, the stealing of grain, was considered to be tolerable within the scope of the community ethos.

In this way, Seori was seen as inherently playful. As there existed a limit to the amount and types of food that could be stolen, any excess of stealing activities led to a fixed form of punishment. It was especially the case with stealing poultry, which was accompanied by the thrill of committing a prohibited act despite the potential danger of punishment. Moreover, this playful nature was intensified thanks to the combination of strategic competition in overcoming a variety of obstacles to reach a goal, along with a sense of anxiety of being caught at any given moment.

Meanwhile, Seori served a specific role in helping children learn about the community culture in terms of socialization and enculturation. Seori actually provided the means for children to better understand the cropping of cultivated land, as well as seeding, growth, and harvesting, naturally encouraging a deepened awareness of quantity and quality, and the taste and nature of agricultural produce. Eventually, children were able to grasp the economic conditions of their family and neighbors. In fact, while children witnessed firsthand the generosity and discipline of the community regarding theft, they were clearly able to recognize the priority of certain values and ethics within the community.