Are you planning to visit Korea but are not aware of the insights into Korean culture? Well, worry no more because we got you covered! This blog will provide you with all the necessary information you need, so let’s get started!
North Korea and South Korea are two neighboring countries sharing the same border but no cultural values. These two countries, which are politically, ideologically, and culturally different, were once considered a single part of the world with the same attributes as mentioned above.
The entire peninsula shared one culture, also present in other parts like Manchuria. Various factors in history have shaped the South Korean culture we see today. There were different dynasties in the past, various religious groups, and ideologies,
The Korean peninsula comprises North and South Korea. These regions were together until 1945, when they split up, took different paths, and never reached a converging point. So while looking into Korean culture, we usually have to learn about South Korean culture and North Korean culture.
The peninsula majorly consists of a homogenous population; this indicates that all the people who currently live in the region share similar ethnic values.
A culture is made up of a set of beliefs and customs of a given group of people, and therefore we need to get some insight into Korean thoughts to understand their culture in a better way.
As mentioned earlier, an aspect of history that also shaped Korean culture is its religion, and the beliefs which have been prevalently seen in Korea are Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Confucianism has most influenced Korea’s political, social, and cultural aspects.
In Korean culture, a hierarchy is generally observed. This hierarchy is based on various elements: age, status, job, influence, etc. This is different from the Western culture as it emphasizes the talent and skill of a person.
However, in Korean culture, age is given due importance, which is why the people tend to respect their elders and ancestors a lot and therefore have different respectful ways of addressing elders in Korea.
채면 (chaemyeon) is an essential factor in Korean culture, generally meant to be preserved or maintained. 채면 (chaemyeon) refers to the face in Korean culture. The faces different interpretations in Korean culture. from meaning as a reputation to balancing other odds, it means everything.
Another meaning of this is to keep oneself calm and composed. Many people in Korea believe that a person should not show all the anger they have inside themselves for someone else on their face. They prefer to keep it hidden behind a facade.
There are different phrases to describe this, such as keeping one’s face or saving one’s face, which would indicate that a person’s reputation has been saved. Similarly, if you lose your face in Korean, that would mean that you have lost your dignity or importance.
Korean Family Structure
In Korea, many families have started westernizing themselves where they tend to send their children abroad or to other states to study, and the people are living alone on their own. However, this element still does not overcome Korea’s togetherness and collective culture.
In many families, all the family members gather together on several auspicious occasions to present a token of family values and togetherness. Different traditions surround the Korean family structure, like the older person starting the dinner, etc.
Are you interested to learn vocabulary about family members? Read here!
The word for home in the Korean language is 한옥 (hanok). The Korean people tend to choose a good spot for building their homes. Most of the time, they prefer to build houses in an area with a lot of sunlight so that each part of the house can feel the warmth and let the blessings come in. Historically, the Korean people used to build homes against hills, which is the reason why you can see tons of places with steep roads!
Traditions And Customs In The Korean Culture
The most important part of Korean culture; is its traditions and customs. Here are some of the essential Korean practices which are still alive and that you should know about if you want to go to Korea:
#1 세배 (Sebae)
On the holidays of Korean Lunar year’s celebrations aka 설날 (seollal), a traditional ritual 세배 (Sebae) takes place in which Koreans wear their traditional dress 한복 (Hanbok) and bow before each other. It is a way of starting the new year with a clean slate and wishing for a lot of good luck and blessings at the start of another year.
If you want to make some traditional Korean food that will go well with the ritual, then try making savory pancakes, 떡국 (Tteokguk) aka Korean rice cake soup, and 잡채 (Japchae) aka stir-fried glass noodles. You can also add some vegetables to make the entire meal more colorful.
#02 차례 (Charye)
On the holidays of Korean thanksgiving which is called 추석 (chuseok) in Korea, a traditional ritual that usually takes place is 차례 (charge) which is generally carried out to pay tribute to the ancestors of every family. You might be thinking of it as a ritual in which all the family members come together and pray for their ancestors. That is right, but this ritual is much more than that.
On 차례 (charge), the Korean families usually set the table and place an incense holder with a memorial tablet in the middle of the table. On the two opposite sides, two candles are placed. Prayers are offered, and thus 송편 (songpyeon), aka stuffed rice cakes, are enjoyed along with other dishes. It is one of the four ancestral rituals aka 제사 (jesa) performed in South Korea.
#3 Other 제사 (jJsa)
Besides 차례 (charge), there are also some other ancestral rituals in South Korea namely; 성묘 (seongmyo), 기제사 (gijesa), and 묘사 (myosa). The first one is a way for Korean people to visit their ancestors as they go to their graves and leave a token of love like flowers etc. Some people stay there and talk to their ancestors in the grave.
The second one is an annual ritual performed when an ancestor of a family passes away. The third one is a ritual that needs to be performed on the ancestors’ grave in October.
#4 Bowing And handshakes
A part of Korean culture is Bowing before each other. The Korean people tend to bow before each other on several occasions, from a basic greeting to Korean rituals. If you are younger and meet someone older, you need to bow from an angle between 30 and 45 degrees. The seniors do not bend down to show the element of their seniority.
Korean people also have a two-handed handshake in which they shake hands using both hands since using both hands symbolizes respect in Korean society, which is why the people often pass the bowl and give gifts using both their hands. You can also bow while thanking the other person for a gift.
#4 Exchanging Gifts
Korean love to receive and therefore exchange gifts. The word for gifts in Korean is 선물 (seonmul). Here are some do’s and dont’s for you to give gifts to a South Korean person:
- Nicely wrap the gift using yellow or red wrapping paper if you give a gift on a formal occasion like the Lunar New Year. It is important because red and yellow have been considered the color of royalty throughout history.
- Wrap the gift in yellow or pink if you are giving it on a fancy occasion like a birthday event or for proposing a person since these colors are considered happy colors in Korea.
- Make sure to be mindful while giving the gifts. If you know that the gift you are giving could be too expensive for the other person to reciprocate, then not giving that gift would be the best option since that could offend the other person’s sentiments.
- Do not use a white or black color of wrapping paper to wrap the gift because these two colors are generally associated with death in Korean culture, and people take that seriously.
- Writing a name with red ink is a big no, so feel free to use any color but red.
#4 Korean Names
One of the most prominent cultural differences is that the names in Korean are made up of syllables in which the Korean surname is written before the entire name. We also have a blog about the most common Korean names, which you should check out to get more information.
#4 Exchanging Business Cards
As mentioned earlier, Korean culture gives due importance to the seniority and the social status of an individual; therefore, exchanging cards at business meetings is a Korean custom that informs the other person of how they need to address the other person.
#5 Taking No
If anything, Korean culture always teaches everyone to take a no as a no. So if you go to South Korea, don’t be too pushy with the people since that can be taken as a gesture of arrogance and rudeness. Instead, try to go with the flow for some time, and unless it’s necessary, never force anyone.
The main element of Korean cuisine is rice. Besides rice, another element that forms the basis of Korean cuisine is seafood. Korean people always have a full table with many dishes and side dishes usually attractive and colorful enough. While ordering Korean food could be a great idea, making traditional Korean cuisine at home might elevate your impression among the native Koreans.
Let’s now look at the most exciting part of Korean culture: their Korean dance. Korean people have also referred to some dances like the “intangible cultural properties.” Dance is given due importance to Korean culture since the students are generally taught how to dance and work out which they are in the schools etc. In addition, the Korean natives believe in the idea of dancing as a way to please the spirits.
There are countless examples of Korean dance, but we will look at some of the most common ones.
If you love dancing but are not good at dancing or feel shy to dance, you should participate in the Korean dance 탈춤 (talchum). In this dance, the Korean dancers wear masks on their faces and dance with those masks on. There are seven sections of this dance.
The masks in Korean culture are not the same as those in western culture. The Korean masks are usually more enormous, covering the entire face and having different parts of uneven size. The masks are also mostly in blood-red color.
From a mere shamanic ritual to a source of entertainment, 탈춤 (talcum) has covered a long portion of history.
Suppose you love getting flowers, so why not participate in the Korean traditional dance that can help you get as many flowers as you wish. 가인전목단 (gainjeonmokdan) is a type of Korean dance in which all the dancers are dancing around a vase of flowers, and while they dance, they pick the flowers out and hypnotize the audience by dancing with their flower.
농악 (nongak) is a dance initiated by the farmers who needed to escape their tough everyday routine. So they used to get together and therefore dance. This dance was then named as 농악 (nongak). So the farmers used to get together and thus pray for a good harvest.
Four main instruments are used in this dance: small gongs, drum, janggu, and Longjing. Small gongs are a symbol of thunder; drums symbolize land and cloud; janggu is a symbol of rain; gongjing is a symbol of wind.
사물놀이 (Samulnoli) is another form of Korean dance which has originated from 농악 (nongak). The word 사물놀이 (Samulnoli) is made up using two Korean words: 사물 (samul)meaning four while 놀이 (noli) meaning dance. It involves a theatrical performance using pungmul which comprise 꽹과리 (kkwanggwiri), 징 (jing), 장구 (janggu) and a 북 (buk).
부채춤 (buchaechum), which is also known as the fan dance, is a dance that many people in Korea perform as traditional dance. People take fancy fans in their hands and thus dance, holding them on the sound of the music played in the background. It is a shamanic ritual and a court and folk dance in Korean culture. A “formation changing” strategy is used in this type of dance since the dancers often change their formations while dancing.
Now we are slowly approaching that part of Korean culture that has fascinated countless people worldwide. That element of the Korean culture that made Korean culture famous globally: Korean media.
The Korean wave, aka Hallyu, made Korean dramas, Korean music, and media a global sensation. In the Korean wave, the directors of media used various strategies that made Korean popular culture so interesting that people worldwide became fond of it.
K-pop refers to Korean pop, which launches different songs every month. There are different bands and solos. K-pop is nothing like any other band all across the world. To get into it, each member needs to go through intense training and then apply for the band they join after they get selected. The members do not select the bands; instead, the band committee chooses the members who deem fit.
Korean artists are not allowed to date or do a lot without the people in charge of the band. The committee decides which clothes the people will wear, and each person has a manager. Some of the most common and most liked boy bands are BTS, Shinee, Got7, Bigbang and
Korean pop usually consists of elegant and poetic lyrics and great dance moves. Each person in the band is supposed to sing and dance well. There are two main categories in Korean pop: rappers and vocalists.
So, which Korean band is your favorite band? For in-depth information, you can look into a blog about Korean Music!
Korean dramas are also another reason why so many people have become aware of Korean culture. K-Dramas have a different fanbase globally. The people love watching their interviews and general shows.
The ideology presented in each Korean drama is especially admired. People love the character of every male lead, which is usually manly and kind, along with a female character who is soft and intelligent at the same time. We also have a blog to learn some cooler vocabulary from Korean dramas.
That is all you need to know about Korean culture. However, if you want to get more information about Korean culture and language, then check out the Ling app. The Ling app can help you learn the Korean language easily through its outstanding platform. Created by real native speakers and language teaching practitioners, the lessons are guaranteed to make you feel confident in your skills in the language. So, don’t miss out and download it today!