Officially called the Republic of Korea, it is a sovereign state in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The country shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. South Korea is equally known for its green, hilly countryside dotted with cherry trees and centuries-old Buddhist temples. The country’s coastal fishing villages, tropical islands, and high-tech cities such as Seoul are high points visitors can look forward to.
Apart from those few, there are quite a number of amazing facts about South Korea that many would-be visitors need to know. For instance, did you know that South Korea, and not a western country, is first in many technological advancements? Did you know that the Korean word kibun has many meanings? What is the meaning of Nunchi and why do South Koreans value it so much?
The answers to these and more are in the following 12 amazing facts about South Korea. Enjoy!
President: Park Geun-hye
Prime minister: Hwang Kyo-ahn
Currency: South Korean won
Population: 49,039,986 (2014 estimate)
Government: Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic
Amazing Facts About South Korea
Here are the twelve amazing facts about South Korea you should know….
1. FIRST IN MANY
In 2005, South Korea became the first country in the world to fully transition to high-speed Internet and start the world’s first mobile TV broadcast with 97% of cell phones already having Internet access. Is that amazing or what?! South Korea also has the world’s fastest Internet speed and highest Smartphone ownership, ranking first in ICT Development, e-government, and 4G LTE coverage.
2. FAMILY IS FOREMOST
The family is the most important part of Korean life. In line with Confucian tradition, the father is the head of the family and it is his responsibility to provide food, clothing, and shelter. It is also his responsibility and privilege to approve the marriages of family members.
3. FAMILY HIGHER THAN INDIVIDUAL
To South Koreans, family welfare is much more important than the needs of the individual. This is because members of the family are tied to each other, the actions of one family member reflecting on the rest of the family. In fact, in many cases, it is amazing to find that the family register can trace a family’s history, through male ancestors, for over 500 years.
4. ANCESTRAL WORSHIP
Children are raised to believe they can never repay their debt to their parents. That is why ancestor worship is so popular. Ancestral worship ceremonies are held for the previous three generations (parents, grandparents, and great grandparents) several times a year.
5. ONE WORD, MANY MEANINGS
Kibun is a word with no literal English translation. The closest terms for kibun are pride, face, mood, feelings, or state of mind. Isn’t that amazing?! Hurting someone’s kibun means hurting their pride, causing them to lose dignity, and lose face. Korean interpersonal relationships operate on the principle of harmony which the kibun concept protects. It is important to maintain a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere at all times, even if it means telling a “white lie”.
6. MIND READING
Nunchi is the ability to determine another person’s kibun by using the eye. Since South Korea is a culture where social harmony is crucial, being able to judge another person’s state of mind is critical to maintain the person’s kibun. Nunchi is accomplished by watching body language and listening to the tone of voice as well as what is said.
7. GREETING SEQUENCE
In South Korea, greetings follow strict rules of protocol. The person of lower status bows to the person of higher status. However, it is the most senior person who initiates the handshake. The person who initiates the bow says, “man-na-suh pan-gop-sumnida”, meaning “pleased to meet you.”
8. STRICT PROTOCOLS
Wait to be introduced at a social gathering. When being introduced, remember to follow amazing strict rules of greeting protocol. And when the social gathering is over and you are leaving, say good-bye and bow to each person individually.
9. GIVE GIFTS CAREFULLY
It is inconsiderate to give someone a gift they cannot afford to reciprocate accordingly. Instead, bring fruit or good quality chocolates or flowers if invited to a Korean’s home. Gifts should be wrapped nicely. One amazing fact is that number 4 is considered unlucky, so gifts should not be given in multiples of 4.
10. THE LUCKY NUMBER
Giving 7 of an item is considered lucky. Have gifts wrapped in red or yellow paper. These are royal colours. Alternatively, you could use yellow or pink paper since they denote happiness. It is amazing however, that you cannot wrap gifts in green, white, or black paper; and do not sign a card in red ink.
11. HONORING INVITATIONS
When honoring an invitation, remove your shoes before entering the house. The host pours drinks for the guests in their presence. The hosts usually accompany guests to the gate or to their car because they believe it is insulting to wish guests farewell indoors. Send a thank you note the following day after being invited to dinner.
12. AMAZING CHOPSTICKS
During the meal, wait to be told where to sit. Never point your chopsticks. Do not pierce your food with chopsticks. Drop chopsticks on the table after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak. Do not cross your chopsticks when putting them on the chopstick rest. Do not pick up food with your hands.