by TONY KIM
It’s the Korean holiday you likely never heard of: Sambok.
Beginning around mid-July, Sambok spans three days, divided by 10-day and 20-day intervals, respectively. Traditionally, Korean farmers would take a break during this period due to the heat and focus on rejuvenating their tired bodies.
Certainly, next to Chuseok (Harvest Day) or Seollal (Lunar New Year), this traditional farmers’ holiday is not exactly celebrated today, even in Korea. However, you’ll know it’s Sambok when you see droves of people flocking to their favorite restaurants serving samgyetang, a Korean soup with chicken and ginseng, and even dog meat soup.
And apparently it’s no different in North Korea. The Daily NK recently reported how North Korean media often write articles in July about the different foods to eat during Sambok, a period known in Korea as the three hottest days of the summer.
Last July, the North’s Central News Agency reported, “With the start of Sambok upon us, many restaurants are serving customers foods to revitalize their bodies and increase their appetites against the heat.” The article then described why samgyetang, dog meat soup and other summertime superfoods are so beneficial.
Sam means “three,” and according to the North Korean news article, bok means “to lie face down because the summer days are so hot that even a frog cannot endure it, lying flat with its stomach stuck to the humid earth.”
In the North, other popular dishes to eat during Sambok include steamed chicken and boiled rabbit, which is stuffed with chestnuts, dates, black soybean, and milk vetch root, according to the Daily NK article. The rabbit dish first became popular in the 1970s as part of North Korea’s “Kid Plan,” said the news site.
For North Koreans who can’t afford these dishes, yujigo, which consists of sticky rice, oil, eggs and sugar, is a popular alternative.
An anonymous defector told the Daily NK, “North Korean women work hard to make sure their husbands get to eat revitalizing foods. The most well-known food for revitalization is steamed chicken, but different regions have different specialties.”
Meanwhile, in South Korea, patjuk, or red bean soup, is also a well-known favorite during Sambok for its purported medicinal properties, which is said to fend off heat and illness. Patjuk was traditionally believed also to drive away evil spirits because these spirits avoid the color red. Jangoegui,or roasted eel, is also widely eaten because the vitamin A and E it contains is supposed to aid in blood circulation and prevent skin wrinkling.
This year Sambok began on July 18, with the second day yesterday, and the final day on Aug. 7.
Picture via The Waygook Effect