Korean gift-giving customs – Gifts for exam candidates

What types of gifts do Koreans give to their family members or friends who are going to take an exam?  According to their superstitions, the following gifts can bring good luck to exam candidates:

Yeot (엿) (Korean hard taffy) or Chapssaltteok (찹쌀떡) (glutinous rice cake)

In Korean, the verb “붙다” has two meanings – to stick to something or to pass the exam.  As Yeot and Chapssaltteok are sticky, a Korean gives them as gift to an exam candidate to express the wish that the candidate will pass the exam. Moreover, it is believed that eating these sticky food can help sticking the materials studied by the candidate to his/her mind.

That’s why Koreans do not want to eat seaweed soup (미역국) on the exam day.  Seaweed is slippery so it is difficult for seaweed to stick to something.  So, Koreans are afraid that if they eat seaweed soup, they will fail in the exam.

Toilet roll

As a toilet roll unrolls smoothly, a Korean gives a toilet roll as gift to an exam candidate to express the wish that the candidate will solve all problems in the exam as easily as unrolling a toilet roll.

Fork or fork-shaped chocolate / axe or axe-shaped chocolate

In Korean, the verb “찍다” has several meanings – to spear (with a fork), to chop (with an axe), or to pick out (the right answer).   Therefore, a Koreans gives a fork or fork-shaped chocolate as gift to an exam candidate to express the wish that the candidate will  pick out the right answers from the multiple-choice questions in the exam.   The same applies to an axe which is not as common as the fork.

If you are taking an exam, which of the above Korean-style gifts would you like to receive?  I would prefer Yeot, Chapssaltteok or fork-shaped chocolate because I can eat them while revising for the exam – this can make the revision less boring! 🙂

Reminder: The next post will be published on 15 December 2014.  Watch this space!



Connie Lee, “Superstitions surround Korea’s college entrance exams“, Arirang News, 2014-11-13

이해영, 김은영, 신경선, 주은경, 이정란, 이현의,  《생활 속 한국 문화77》, 서울: 랭기지플러스<한글파크>, 2011, 74-75, 82-83쪽


33 thoughts on “Korean gift-giving customs – Gifts for exam candidates

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