As part of our Ramadan Around The World series, we will be sharing heartwarming stories on how Ramadan is celebrated around the world. Based on the story submitted by Emir Kim from South Korea, this interview has been edited for length and clarity by Have Halal, Will Travel's editorial team.
Celebrating Ramadan as a Korean Muslim revert in South Korea
Part of what makes Islam beautiful is the diversity of the ummah, and such is true when we read about Emir Kim, a Korean Muslim revert who is spending his Ramadan in Cheongju, South Korea, which is a 1.5 hour train ride from Seoul.
The moment Ramadan is upon us, the first thing that comes to mind for Emir is the significance of the holy month and what it represents. In the city where he lives in, non-Muslims in South Korea are less familiar with the tradition of fasting during Ramadan, yet he continues to embrace its joys and blessings with his family.
"Before Ramadan begins, I would wait for the official announcement from Korea Muslim Federation. Once we know the start date and time of Ramadan, my wife and I would prepare sahur together." He shared that his sahur typically comprises a humble spread of banana, tamurs, and water - he also confesses to drinking more water because he deals with thirst more than hunger.
After sahur, he performs Fajr prayers and returns to sleep before waking up again to go about his daily routine. When asked about his favourite food for iftar, Emir praised the delicious home cooked meals prepared by his wife who is Algerian (his favourites are soups, spring rolls and lamb). Then, he completes his evening with Maghrib prayers and a relaxing stroll with his wife.
You might experience similar activities as Emir during Ramadan, but celebrating the holy month in Korea is different. In a Muslim-minority country like South Korea, Emir confesses on how challenging it is for Muslims to embrace Ramadan because fasting is not a norm in South Korea. "The most difficult thing about doing Ramadan in Korea is that Koreans are not familiar with why Muslims fast. Some people would insult the Islamic religion and Ramadan, which makes it a sad and difficult time for me," Emir shared about overcoming his biggest challenge during Ramadan.
We may be celebrating Eid in a more humble fanfare this year, but he looks forward to celebrating it with his wife. "At the end of Ramadan in Korea, the Eid event is not spectacular, but I will probably attend the Eid prayer depending on the pandemic situation in South Korea. I would also probably host a small party with my wife, visit Itaewon, Seoul and have a good time."
Planning your future travels to South Korea
While we're waiting for international borders to reopen for leisure travel, you might be wondering what are some of the must-see spots and must-try street food that await in South Korea - and there's no better person to ask than Emir Kim himself! If you enjoy sight seeing, he recommends visiting as many tourist spots in Seoul as you can. For foodies, Emir raves about the all-time favourite, Tteokbokki, which is convenient and inexpensive.
"My hometown is in Seoul and there are many good places for local Koreans. There are also several palaces in Seoul and I recommend that you visit them." Whether you're aiming for the cherry blossom chase or a romantic autumn, Emir said the best times to visit Seoul is in May and October because of its amazing weather.
Our mission in Have Halal, Will Travel is to foster peace and understanding between people of different backgrounds. If there's one thing that Emir hopes for the world, that would be fostering acceptance and overcoming the prejudice against the religion of Islam. "I am a Muslim since 2013, but there are many Koreans who do not know much about Islam and Muslims, which led to prejudices. To overcome it, it is not enough for me to do it alone. If more foreign Muslims live in Korea or come to study or work, the Islamic infrastructure will naturally increase inshaAllah."
Share your Ramadan Around The World stories
Interested to share how Ramadan is celebrated in your country? Share your story in our form below and answer a few questions, from your favourite Ramadan moments to the traditional sahur and iftar food you enjoy every year!
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