South Korea has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists and international students alike. The growing fascination the country attracts is mainly due to its recent economic boom, as well as its current major role as a worldwide exporter. If you’re wondering what it is Korea exports, well, we’d have to say… just about everything. From K-pop and yummy kimchi to your smartphone – or parts of it, in any case -, Korean products are everywhere.
South Korea is a small but incredibly rich and varied country, where the old meets the new and urban and natural beauty coexist. If you’re still wondering what makes this nation so unique, these 10 facts are bound to leave you open-mouthed:
Koreans will always be a year older than you
If you’re both counting in your native way, that is. Koreans are automatically a year old when they’re born and the whole nation turns a year older at New Year. Therefore, you could actually be two years older than you are according to your international age!
Korea is all about education
Studies such as PISA and the World Top 20 Poll constantly rank South Korea world-best in terms of education system. In addition to this, the percentage of population that has attended university is 68% – the highest among all OECD countries. With students spending up to 16 hours at school, it’s no wonder the Korean education industry is massive!
The Korean entertainment industry is becoming one of the biggest in the world
K-Pop, K-Movies, K-Drama… the Ks are all around us! Korean girl and boy bands have become a huge hit worldwide and the cinema industry – one of the biggest on a global level – is increasingly present in traditionally Western contests and awards such as the Oscars.
Food is the essence of everything in Korea
There’s a reason why Korea is often referred to as “the Italy of the East” – food is at the very centre of the nation’s culture and (we cannot stress this enough) IT IS SO GOOD. Aside from the famous kimchi (for which we would need a whole new post), Korean cuisine is incredibly varied although spicy flavours do tend to be predominant. From street food to homemade meals, eating equals well-being from Seoul to Busan and inquiries into someone’s health usually include questions on what the person has eaten!
The plastic surgery business is booming
Looks are a huge thing in Korea, with studies showing over 25% of the population admits to have had plastic surgery. The beauty approach differs to the Western world’s – the focus is mainly on improving facial features and Korean men also feel the pressure to undergo surgery in order to resemble the male beauty models imposed by K-Pop and Korean Dramas.
Seoul is ridiculously cool
And with 25 million people living within the city’s limits, Seoul is also the third biggest metropolis in the whole world! You’ll find futuristic architecture everywhere, mind-blowingly huge shopping malls and endless displays of the city’s SMART status, so it’s incredibly innovative and modern. However, history is also largely present throughout Seoul and, although it is indeed a very large city, it’s actually rather intuitive and orderly – Koreans are also famous for respecting rules, which makes traffic, for instance, easy to handle.
Korea is a tech haven
The country has the fastest internet and best 4G service in the whole world, so you can forget about being stranded Wi-Fi-wise while in Korea. The massive tech wave also includes video games and e-sports – you’ll find there are a huge number of video game parlours, and not only indoors, e-sport events are even held on beaches!
Alcohol is a big thing
This may surprise you, but Koreans are the top-drinkers in Asia by far. In fact, they rank 17th worldwide – above countries we usually associate with high-alcohol consumption like Ireland or Germany. Soju may be a large contributor to the country’s status, since it’s commonly drunk with meals and is usually around 19% alcohol content. Luckily, Koreans also know how to deal with the after-effects alcohol usually brings so if you’re in a restaurant in Korea after a night out, look out for their comforting hangover soup (“해장국”).
Titles Over Names
Korean culture is very hierarchical and very much based on age. Therefore, calling someone by their name is only allowed in very specific situations – you would mostly refer to them by title. However, this can certainly cause confusion in the workplace (if you’re managing someone older than you) and even at home, since it can be a point of strife if family members don’t recognize rank.
South Korea has more than 4000 islands
And to spend a day on each one you’ll need 9 years. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for some island hopping while visiting Korea – quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. Korean island life is wildly different to the cities’ vibes as traditional fishing culture and seaweed farming are still the main sources of income. A far cry from the techy lifestyle we previously mentioned!
As you can see, Korea is an extremely interesting and complex nation. The more you learn about it, the more you want to know! Luckily, if you’re looking to really become an expert on the country and speak the language fluently, at ESL we have you covered!