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Millions of South Koreans head to hometowns for Chuseok holiday


SEOUL, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- The annual exodus for Chuseok began Tuesday with millions of South Koreans heading to their hometowns ahead of the traditional holiday this week.

One of the two major traditional holidays in the country, Chuseok, or the major harvest festival, sees families getting together in their hometowns, close and far, to give thanks and pay tribute to their ancestors by preparing a meal and visiting their graves. The other such holiday is the Lunar New Year.

Chuseok, or Korean thanksgiving, is celebrated on Aug. 15 in the lunar calendar, which falls on Thursday this year.

During the holiday this year, some 35.13 million people are expected to visit their hometowns by car, bus, train or plane, with the daily number of migrating people to reach some 5.85 million, according to data by the government.

As the holiday period is longer than in past years -- five days from Wednesday -- travelers are likely to experience better traffic conditions than the usual holiday traffic nightmares, it added.

Highway traffic was running relatively smoothly as of 3 p.m. on Tuesday. It takes about three hours to travel from Seoul to Daejeon, some 150 kilometers south of the capital, and an average of seven hours from the capital city to the southern port city of Busan, according to the Korea Expressway Corp., the state-run expressway operator.

"As the exodus began in earnest this afternoon, highway traffic is expected to become more congested later in the day, and the congestion will reach its peak tomorrow," said an official of the operator.

The government decided to add extra trains, buses, and air and sea carriers to provide holiday travelers with safety and convenience, but homecoming crowds flooded public transportation, with most tickets for rail and bus services sold out.

Some 675,000 people are expected to use Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to Seoul, and most of them will embark on an overseas trip during the holiday period, the airport officials said.

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