Over the course of a few decades, South Korea has been transformed from a developing country into an impressive global economic power. It is the world capital of cosmetic surgery.
Hard work, hierarchy, and protocol are the watchwords of Korean society. Tradition coexists side by side with cutting-edge technologies. Indeed, South Korea is the world’s most advanced country in terms of high-tech.
Korean culture has many unique aspects. You can discover some of them by browsing the pages of my blog. First an foremost, it is important to pay attention to the roles occupied by men and women in South Korean society, particularly if you intend to visit the country. That applies whether you are thinking of visiting for a holiday or moving there.
South Korea is a country that has very few foreign visitors. As such, Koreans who have not had the opportunity to travel will not necessarily be familiar with your culture and will not always have sufficient English to hold a conversation. Some people will therefore avoid entering into discussion with you, which does not necessarily indicate a lack of respect. Be aware that you will be a kind of “ambassador” for your country once you arrive in South Korea. That applies no matter where you’re from. Consider, therefore, the quality of your interactions with the Korean people and the impression that you will leave them with at the end of your stay.
Also note that Koreans place a great deal of importance on a person’s age. Seniors, such as “Ajummas” (women who can be recognised via their outfits – floral blouses and bumbags) are unlikely to have any foreigners among their immediate acquaintances. Some of them, therefore, will come and speak warmly to you, while others may be reticent to approach you.
South Korean suffered from war during the early part of the 20th century and during the Second World War. The country spent half a century fighting to rebuild itself. To enable the country to arise from the ashes, the country’s leadership put everything into educating their children. “Hangul” became South Korea’s official alphabet, thanks to its simplicity, enabling the educational system to be established rapidly. This choice made it possible to build an economy from scratch in just a few decades. South Korea has now become an impressive, global economic power. It is thanks to the fact that an entire generation of Koreans was sacrificed to enable the country’s rebirth that this country is so competitive. As such, the population of Korea attaches a great deal of value to the academic success of its children.
Respect for one’s elders is a value that is drilled into every Korean child. The country remains highly traditional, notably as a result of the many festivals that take place throughout the year. Religion also attracts a great many followers. You will find Buddhist temples everywhere, even in the heart of downtown Seoul; nevertheless, the country is currently a majority Christian nation. Other religions are less well represented, and generally practised only by immigrants.
The religious and cultural aspect is widespread among younger generations – but this does not prevent South Korea from being the world’s most advanced country in terms of “high tech” industries. The country has a 5G network, with internet connections being available in the street and even on underground trains – with noticeably more bandwidth than in other countries across the world.
As for fashion, I will simply say that appearances matter – a lot – to South Koreans. Women and girls maintain their image carefully. South Korea is also a major player in the field of cosmetic surgery. The business is lucrative and is designed to meet South Koreans’ expectations. Surgery is therefore a frequent occurrence and considered by Koreans to be a matter of routine. As such, there are many private clinics located in ordinary shopping streets. Surgery is also used by stars, particularly K-pop groups, who have clauses relating to operations (often on the face) included in their contracts.
The position with regard to religion in South Korea is quite surprising because, even though there are a great many Buddhist temples and cultural festivals, a majority of the country is Christian at this point in time.
Buddhism is nevertheless widespread in South Korea. Other religions are less well represented, and generally practised only by immigrants. Religion is not a taboo subject, and everyone is free to practise his or her own religion.
I can’t complete this introduction to South Korea without talking about the way that young Koreans are educated. To start with, children go to classes five or six days per week, as they have a class every other Saturday morning. The school year starts in March. The course of their future careers is predetermined as soon as they enter nursery school. Enrolment in a prestigious school makes it easier for children to get into good schools throughout the course of their educational career. The name of their university is a decisive factor in getting a job with a large company, such as the best known of all, Samsung. You will understand, therefore, that most parents will not hesitate to borrow vast sums to ensure that their children get into the best schools for the sake of their future.
It is a heavy burden to bear at such a young age. That is why school life is referred to as “transfer hell.” This term perfectly expresses the fear that young children feel when faced with their competition, and the fear of failing to get into a good school as a result. They won’t hesitate to take evening classes, pursue extra credit, and enter contests. It’s impossible to find a good job in South Korea without a bachelor’s degree at least, which is awarded after four years of post high-school study.
Success can also be revealed by sporting achievements. The most widely practised sport is taekwondo. It is a martial art that only involves the legs, and which is South Korea’s national sport.
South Koreans have a very different lifestyle from other countries, but the country nevertheless remains highly welcoming. It’s easy to join the crowds during festivals or take a road trip across the entire country. The inhabitants of Seoul are more familiar with foreigners than the rest of the country. By contrast, they are rarer in the countryside, but most Koreans are nevertheless open to discussion and will sometimes be curious about your origins.