15 Stunning Culture Facts about South Korea

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Facts you did not know about South Korea

South Korea’s the country of the hour. Not only is Hallyu (the Korean wave) sweeping over the Western world but also traditional elements of Korean culture from Kimchi too well… most likely, your smartphone (or parts of it) are gaining popularity worldwide. So, what’s there to know about this unique peninsula? Here’s everything you wanted to know (and didn’t know you wanted to know). From fun facts to cultural peculiarities: Ladies and Gentlemen, here are 15 stunning facts about Korea. 

South Korea is unique in many different ways. From stunning landscapes to the mecca of esports… what else? Photo By Dilara /CC BY

1. Korea is all about education

One of the impressive facts about Korea is its remarkable education system. The country is constantly ranked among the best in education methods and student knowledge, as studies such as the PISA and the World Top 20 Poll suggest. Also, out of all OECD countries, South Korea has the highest tertiary university attainment for people between 25 and 34: 68% of Koreans have graduated from a university or a similar educational institution. It’s no wonder, then, that education is a massive industry in this Asian tiger state and that already in high school, students spend up to 16 hours per day in school. This country is all about their studies!

Global learners planning to enroll in the country can experience top-quality education and other exciting benefits! To view the best Korean universities for international students, click HERE

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Hanyang University semester abroad program for international students

2. South Korea has made one of the most impressive economic leaps in modern history

In the late 50s, South Korea was one of the poorest countries on earth. It was below the poverty line with a per capita GDP of 94$ (compared to North Korea’s 140$) back then. A controversial ruler, but most of all a hard-working people, changed this rapidly. In only about 20 years, South Korea turned from one of the poorest to one of the wealthiest nations. While it should not be forgotten that this all happened under an alleged and rather inhumane dictator, this economic leap is unprecedented.

If you plan to enroll in a business program in South Korea, check out the best learning institutions HERE.

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Unlock new opportunities and achieve academic success with a study in a Korea program

3. There’s a widespread belief that fans in closed rooms might kill you

Koreans aren’t scared of a lot. But if you put them in a closed room, put them to sleep, and turn on a fan, you might be causing some severe anxiety. Nobody knows where this belief originated, but it’s still widespread nowadays.

4. South Korea is the mecca of eSports

You’ve always dreamed of massive rooms where you and all your friends can play online games together on high-end computers. Or, as we all know, you wanted to attend massive eSports events on the beach? Well, Korea’s the place. Among the fun and exciting facts about Korea is that computer rooms (PC bangs) are as standard as European bakeries. And yes, also that eSports event exists on Gwangalli Beach in Busan. But beware, Koreans are world-famous for being some of the best eSport players in the world!

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South Koreans consider sports players celebrities compared to athletes in traditional sports. Photo by Florian / CC BY

5. A soju brand is the most sold alcohol worldwide—by far!

Would you’ve guessed that vodka or gin tops the list? For years, Jinro Soju has been the world’s best-selling alcohol! It might not be surprising, given that with 11.2 shots on average, Koreans are also the world’s biggest consumer of hard liquor. Haven’t been able to try it yet? Time to visit Korea!

6. Almost half of all Koreans are either called Lee, Park, or Kim

A relic of Korean merchants’ desire to grow in standing in the 18th century, a couple of names made it big in the peninsula. Especially Kim has a unique position: one in five Koreans has this last name.

7. Kimchi is life – quite literally

Back when Koreans were poor, and winters were long, Koreans had little choice but to ferment cabbage to survive. In essence, this is how Kimchi was born. This tradition is so deep-rooted in Korean history and character that today, you’d have difficulty going to a restaurant and not having any Kimchi. It is always served as a side dish—no matter where you are. It is pretty logical that Koreans also say ‘Kimchi’ instead of ‘Cheese’ when taking photographs.

8. Koreans will always be a year older than you

Well, at least if you both count in your native way. The difference is that in Korea, everyone is already one year old at birth. Also, on New Year’s, everyone simultaneously turns a year older! That means, in turn, that in the Korean age, you could already be two years older than you are in an international age.

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Your Korean age is always either one or two years older than your Western age. Mind blown, isn´t it? Photo by Johen /CC BY

9. ¼ of Koreans had plastic surgery before

Amongst the interesting facts about Korea is the country’s obsession with looks, and many consider plastic surgery enhancements. While most of those are relatively minor (double eyelid surgeries), the plastic surgery business in Korea is booming.

10. Love motels are all around

Something of a rather unusual concept for many Westerners, love motels are big business in Korea. Love what? Love motels, which include rooms for several hours or one night, are primarily designed for one very reason. They range from budget to luxury, from basic to kinky. And why all that? Most young Koreans live either in a dorm or with their parents until past their student time. So, this is meant for something other than hookups. Quite the opposite: many couples book a nice room for their date nights in advance!

11. The Korean entertainment industry is becoming one of the biggest in the world

Among the notable facts about Korea is creativity as seen in K-pop, k-movies, k-drama, k-beauty… the K’s all around! Not only do you hear Korean music even in European supermarkets these days, but the cinema has also made it to the world stage. As one of the biggest global movie industries, it is also on the way to its first Oscar: Boon’s Parasite is the movie of the hour.

You might also be interested in: Watch out for the Korean wave!

12. Koreans respect rules

In Korea, people love to have a good time, and they also love entertainment. But they are not crossing the line—pun intended. Even in bustling Seoul, you will rarely see non-tourists jaywalking or misbehaving. It’s part of the identity and the culture not to cause too much trouble or problems for others.

Among the best facts about Korea is that citizens rarely break the rules. It makes the nation extremely safe compared to many other European countries. 

To learn more about the country, read the benefits of living and studying in Korea HERE

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You rarely see South Koreans break rules. It makes the country extremely safe compared to many other European countries. Photo by Kseniya / CC BY

13. Koreans got their president impeached with a non-violent mass protest

Caused by many issues, such as the lack of responsibility for the Sewol ferry disaster as well as corruption, back in 2016/2017, millions of Koreans took to the streets to protest against their president (on a side note: this president was Park Geun-Hye, quite interestingly the daughter of the aforementioned, alleged dictator leader of Korea in the 60s and 70s). Their weapons? Candles! A mass protest without violence or uproar (for reasons, see 12) but with something much more important: success. They were so ubiquitous in the media that they led the assembly to impeach Park, who is now serving a 24-year sentence for several crimes.

14. The national hero is an ice skater

Yuna Kim is everybody’s darling in Korea. Just check out her Wikipedia; she’s won everything possible and brought the Olympics to Korea alone. You’ll always see a smile on every Korean’s face mentioning the three-syllabus Kim Yuna (which is, by the way, the correct order to spell names in Korea).

15. Food is the essence of everything in Korea.

Among the top facts about Korea is the food culture! Not only do Koreans eat out a lot, but eating also equals well-being from Seoul to Busan. Saying ‘How are you?’ can primarily be associated with ‘Have you eaten?’. Parents always worry about ‘eating well’ when talking to their children. What’s more, watching live broadcasts of people eating is a massive thing in Korea; everything can be delivered, and food trends are significant: every season has its one-hit wonders and new food experiments. It’s for all these reasons that Koreans are sometimes called ‘Italians of the East.’ And the unique Korean cuisine is a part of every Korean’s identity.

Summing it up

The facts about Korea are enough to pack and enroll in the country. If you have other concerns, schedule a free counseling session today and start your journey! 

Ever thought of studying in creative Korea? Find out more here

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students worldwide. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, please get in touch with us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This blog was written by our former student Niklas!

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