Hundreds of neon lights in Korea during night time

5 Things You Didn’t Know About South Korea!

Take a look at the oddities in the South Korean culture

Koreans, being right next door to Japan, share some similarities in culture with the Japanese, yet the two cultures are still noticeably different from each other. Let’s take a look at some of the bizarre habits and traditions the Koreans have!

1. Beauty lies within

A woman wearing Japanese clothes and an red umbrella in front of a blossom tree in Korea. Korean beauty standards are high and a big part of Korean culture. Photo by Sasint / CC BY

South Korean people love their looks… Whether it is the obsession with celebrities and pop culture or successful campaigning by the make-up and beauty product companies, one thing is a fact – South Koreans love cosmetics and fashion! Especially men are crazy about cosmetics: Korean men are the world’s biggest male consumers of skincare products, spending four times the amount of money on cosmetics compared to the #2 nation in the world, Denmark.

South Korea also tops the list for the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the whole world. Koreans are also big spenders in fashion, and luxurious designer brands (which always come with a hefty price tag) are often on the wishlist of those living in modern cities.

2. No cheating!

A boy is talking to a girl while they are sitting on a bench in South Korea. Until 2015, adultery was punishable by law in South Korea. Photo by BigBrotherBB / CC BY

In most cultures, it is not acceptable to cheat on your partner. In South Korea, adultery wasn’t only unacceptable but also illegal until 2015! Over 50,000 people were indicted for adultery between the years 1985 and 2015 – sometimes the punishment involved some time in jail. Even though adultery is not a crime anymore, the no-cheating rule still applies, also when it comes to studying in Korea and your university exams!

3. Family names

Korean women with the surname Kim are playing field hockey in Korea. Korean soccer and field hockey matches are a real challenge for any tv and radio commentators. Photo by Reuters / CC BY

There are 50 million people living in Korea, and nearly 22% of the population shares the same family name, ‘Kim’. The few different variations of ‘Lee and Park’ account for another 23% of the population. The funniest thing (looking from an outsider’s perspective) may however be that in South Korea, for a long time, people with the same family name were not allowed to marry!

This law was due to the old Confucian principle of purity and was put in place to protect the nation against incest. Nowadays the law isn’t as strict anymore, and most of the 11 million “Kim s” of South Korea are allowed to marry each other as far as they can prove that they are not closely related.

You might also be interested in: How Confucianism has shaped Asian Cultures for over 2000 years

4. Very superstitious

A woman is sitting in front of a round small white house in a field with purple flowers in South Korea. White is the color that is loved by Koreans the most. It stands for truth, life, and virginity. Photo by Johen Redman / CC BY

Probably the most famous superstition in South Korea is the fear of number four. In hospitals, universities, and other public buildings, the fourth floor simply was never built, and the numbering on the elevator jumps from 3 to 5 instead. Sometimes the fourth floor is labeled as ‘F’ instead of using the number 4. Four is considered unlucky in Korea because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for ‘death’. Also Japanese and Chinese have a superstition for 4. (We apologize to our South Korean readers for mentioning the unlucky number so many times in this short chapter.)

Another handy thing for anyone heading to Korea is to know that the color red also symbolizes death. If you send a letter to someone in Korea, make sure you don’t write their name and address in red, and this would mean that you would either want them to die or that you are thinking they are likely to die soon.

5. Sugar helps you with your studies!

A child in a red dress is walking around in Korea. The Korean families even give candy to their kids to help them study! Photo by Bundo Kim / CC BY

We totally agree that eating some candy won’t do any harm when it comes to trying to achieve good marks on your exams. South Koreans know this very well, and the families give candy to their kids studying to help with the preparation for exams, especially in their senior year! Imagine studying for your finals while your family keeps on bringing you endless amounts of sugary treats – what a sweet dream!

Experience all the fun and cool things about Korean culture while studying in this amazing country.

Find out more about studying in Seoul, South Korea

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