Untitled - Korea.net



Untitled - Korea.net
Passport to
Korean Culture
Korean Cluture and Information Service
Ministy of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Part I
Korea Today
Enjoying Life in Korea
1. Currency and Prices 9
2. Shopping 12
3. Efficient Public Transportation 17
4. Housing 21
5. Special Days 26
Korean Food
6. Unique Flavors of Kimchi 31
7. Koreans and Rice Cakes 35
8. Table Manners 38
9. Five Dishes Non-Koreans Like Best 41
Popular Culture and Hallyu
10. The “Korean Wave” and Pop Stars 46
11. TV Dramas 49
12. Chungmu-ro and the Film Industry 52
13. Korean Pop Songs outside Korea 56
14. Taekwondo 59
15. Football and the Red Devils 62
16. B-boys and Namsadang 66
17. Samullori and Nanta 71
18. Koreans at Leisure 75
19. Norae-bang and Jjimjil-bang 78
20. Tourist Attractions 81
Seoul City Tour
21. Seoul City Tour 88
22. Museums 96
Part 2
Korea in History
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage
1. Hanbok 103
2. Major Holidays 106
3. Traditional Life Experience 110
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People
4. Classical Music 115
5. Traditional Dance 119
6. Graceful Pottery 123
Part 3
Korea in the World
1. Geography, Climate and Population 129
2. The People 133
3. Spoken and Written Language 136
4. Emerging Multicultural Society 140
5. Korean Enterprises and Economy 142
A Glimpse of Korea
6. UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in Korea 146
Enjoying Life in Korea 5
Korea Today
Korea and Its People
Part I
Part I
Korea Today
Enjoying Life in Korea
1. Currency and Prices
2. Shopping
3. Efficient Public Transportation
4. Housing
5. Special Days
Korean Food
6. Unique Flavors of Kimchi
7. Koreans and Rice Cakes
8. Table Manners
9. Five Dishes Non-Koreans Like Best
Popular Culture and Hallyu
10. The "Korean Wave" and Pop Stars
11. TV Dramas
12. Chungmu-ro and the Film Industry
13. Korean Pop Songs outside Korea
14. Taekwondo
15. Football and the Red Devils
16. B-boys and Namsadang
17. Samullori and Nanta
18. Koreans at Leisure
19. Norae-bang and Jjimjil-bang
20. Tourist Attractions
Seoul City Tour
21. Seoul City Tour
22. Museums
Enjoying Life in Korea
Currency and Prices
The Korean currency is called the Won (
and Korean money consists of banknotes in four
denominations (
10,000 and
50,000) and coins in six denominations (
1 and
100 and
Korea Today
Part I
500). However the
5 coins are virtually unused today
because of their very small value. Historical figures, cultural treasures and important symbols
are featured on the notes and coins.
The Appearance of Korean Money
Sin Saim-dang was the mother of Yi I, one of
Korea's most famous Neo-Confucian scholars).
She was an accomplished artist who was particularly famous for her paintings of nature subjects such as flowers and insects. Her image
graces the largest-denomination Korean bill,
50,000-won note, for her adorable motherhood
and faithful wifehood.
King Sejong (r. 1418-1450), the 4th monarch of
the Joseon kingdom (1392-1910) appears on the
10,000 note. He is credited with the invention
of the Korean native script, Han-geul, a project
that was carried out with the help of selected
scholars. He was also very much interested in
the promotion of science, and many important
inventions were created during his reign, including a rain gauge and sundial.
Enjoying Life in Korea 9
The portrait of Yi I (1536~1584, pen name: Yulgok) appears on the
5,000 note.
He was one of the most prominent scholars in Joseon and an accomplished
statesman who is acclaimed for his tireless efforts to fight political corruption in
his time.
The person who appears on the
1,000 note is another great Joseon philoso-
pher, Yi Hwang (1501~1570, pen name: Toe-gye). He was a leading scholar in the
study and development of Neo-Confucianism.
The Manchurian crane, a symbol of longevity, wealth and fame, is depicted on the
front of
500 coin, while the
100 coin features the portrait of Admiral Yi Sun-sin
(1545~1598). He brought key victories to Korea during the Imjin War (1592~1598),
utterly defeating invading Japanese naval fleets with his "turtle ships," the world's
first iron-clad war vessels. The
obverse of the
50 coin bears the
image of a rice stalk, emphasizing
the importance of Korea's agrarian
tradition. Dabo-tap, a four-storied
stone pagoda at Bulguk-sa (temple in Gyeongju) is on the face of
10 coin. The pagoda is considered one of the finest examples of
stone masonry from the Silla kingdom (57 BCE-935 CE), was designated Korean National Treasure
No. 20, and was included on
UNESCO's World Heritage list in
Korean Housing and
Transportation Expenses
Apartment: typical housing
10 Passport to Korean Culture
Housing is rather expensive in
Korea. A 2009 study by the Office of Statistics
showed that the average household income was
39,150,000 (US$1.00 =
1,150) in 2008, and
individual households managed to save an average of
9,530,000. A 100m2 apartment costs at
560 million in Seoul. Thus, the typical
late 60s before he could afford to buy his own
home. In other words, most Koreans cannot own
their house in Seoul without help from parents or
someone else.
On the other hand, public transportation in
Korea is relatively inexpensive. The taxi meter
starts at
2,600, and increases at
100 incre-
ments. The basic fares of Seoul subways are
1,000 and
1,300, while the bus costs
1,000 to rise. You get a significant discount
when using a rechargeable transportation card
and transferring between bus lines, the bus and
US military
personnel stationed at different locations
worldwide were
surveyed on the relative
cost of living. According to that
report, a cup of cappuccino and a
piece of pastry costs around $2.75
in Italy, $4.00 in Germany, $5.25 in
the US, $6.00 in the UK or Seoul,
$6.50 in Tokyo and over $9.00 in
Okinawa. Although the coffee was
pricy in Seoul, a Big Mac was priced
at US$4.38--as opposed to $5.68 in
the US, $6.28 in the UK, $6.41 in
Tokyo and $9.94 in Naples. A halfliter of draft beer can be had in
Seoul for $2.52, but you have to pay
$2.88 in Germany, $3.20 in the US
and $5.43 in Tokyo for the same
subway or between subway lines.
10,000 Buys Today
Ten thousand won is enough to buy two servings of Chinese noodles in bean sauce
(jjajang-myeon), or five orders of spicy rice cake (ddeogbokki). With the same
amount of money, you can get a bowl of rice mixed with assorted vegetables (bibim-
bab), along with a cup of coffee. If you are not hungry,
10,000 will get you 30 min-
utes at a singing room (norae-bang). And if you go in the daytime, when business is
slow, the proprietor may let you sing a while longer. For the health-conscious, a trip
to the dry sauna (jjimjil-bang) will cost no more than
tronic games or web-surfing at a PC parlor costs only
10,000, while playing elec1,500 per hour.
Enjoying Life in Korea 11
Part I
Korea Today
salaried worker in Seoul would have to be in his
Cappuccino & Pastry :
$6.90 in Seoul, $6.50 in Tokyo,
$5.20 in the US
Shopping is one of the great pleasures awaiting travelers to Korea. Shopping
venues are diverse, including the traditional open markets, fish markets and
department stores. People go to these places not only to shop but also to discover
the latest fads and trends.
Variety of Markets
No trip is complete without a visit to the local marketplace. Traditional markets
that carry local specialties are always tourist attractions for their uniqueness,
unlike the modern discount stores or department store.
Gyeongdong Shijang
The massive (some 100,000m ) Gyeongdong Shijang (Market) is in Seoul's Jegi2
dong (District). This market formed in 1953, after the Korean War, with vendors
coming together spontaneously to buy and sell hot peppers, garlic, wild greens and
herbs. As such, it became a center for buying ingredients for Oriental herb medi-
Ingredients for Oriental herb medicine at Gyeongdong Market
12 Passport to Korean Culture
cine. One of the great benefits here is the low prices. Pricing is not set, and people
can still haggle on unit prices and get volume discounts. This is a place where you
can feel the warmth of common folk, Koreans of the most genuine kind.
Namdaemun Shijang
East of Namdaemun (the Great South
Part I
Korea Today
Gate in Seoul) is a huge marketplace,
visited each day by some 450,000 to
500,000 people. On a site of more than
40,000m are 58 buildings that collec2
tively house over 9,000 shops, with
97,000m in total floor space. Here you
Dynamic and lively Namdaemun Market
can buy clothes, fabrics, kitchen utensils, home appliances, foodstuffs imported goods and many other items, retail or
wholesale, at very attractive prices.
Shoppers are not only local but also from America, Europe, Southeast Asia and
elsewhere. A major item found here is children's clothing; in fact 90% of all the
children's clothing in Korea passes through here. The advantage for buyer and
seller is the elimination of middle men, meaning lower prices without compromising quality. The market opens at 11:00
AM and closes at around 3:00 AM the
following day. Late at night, the place
remains crowded with retailers and
wholesalers from all over the country;
the hustle and bustle is a memorable
experience for any visitor.
Dongdaemun Fashion Town
The area near the Great East Gate
(Dongdaemun) has long been a popular
Buying clothes at Dongdaemun Market
Enjoying Life in Korea 13
retail and wholesale
market, especially for
modern high-rise buildings (Migliore, Doosan
Tower, APM) that cater to
the garment trade were
added, and a so-called
emerged. In the vicinity,
shoppers are treated to
live performances by
young artists who want
Modern high-rise Dongdaemun Shopping Malls
to show off their skills.
This is Korea's largest retail/wholesale
district, with 26 shopping malls, over
30,000 specialty shops and some 50,000
manufacturers clustered together to
trade in garments, textiles, footwear,
sportswear & accessories, electronic
goods, office supplies and toys. Nearby
are many shops carrying wedding dresses as well as other items for weddings
such as cloth, bedding, kitchen utensils
and traditional Korean clothing ( han-
Noryang-jin Fish Market
The huge fish market in Seoul's
Noryangjin Fish Market
14 Passport to Korean Culture
Noryang-jin district originally begun as
the "Gyeongseong Fish Market" at Uiju-ro, near
the Seoul Railway Station in 1927. Some 370 different marine products, including live or frozen
fish, are sold wholesale through auction. The
products are delivered from all parts of the country. The auction starts at 1:00 AM for shellfish,
People can also buy individual fish for cooking or
sashimi at low prices. The daily transaction vol-
Market Websites :
Gyeongdong Market:
Dongdaemun Fashion Town:
Noryangjin Fish Market:
Moran Market:
Other Shopping Centers
ume averages around 330 tons of marine products, worth some
1 billion. More than 30,000 people and 5,000 vehicles visit the
market daily, and some 100,000 tons of products are sold here annually.
Traditional Moran Market
The market at Seongnam-dong in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province is held every
fifth day, on the 4th, 9th, 14th, 19th, 24th and 29th of each month. This is probably
Korea's most popular "5-day market," drawing some 50,000 people each time it
opens. The merchants total about 2,000 (1,200 registered members and some 800
non-member vendors). The market is divided into several sections that specialize
in medicinal herbs, garments, flowers, grain, shoes, marine products, vegetables,
food, pet dogs, poultry, and sundries. Visit the food section and you can eat generous portions of traditional rice soup with blood sausage, noodles and pork head in
a simple yet inexpensive setting. Sometimes you will also be treated to street
entertainment reminiscent of traditional times.
Yongsan Jeonja Sang-ga
The Yongsan Electronics Mall (Jeonja Sang-ga), in Yongsan-gu, deals in personal computers, computer peripherals and other electronic and electric goods.
Clustered together in this area are large buildings (Jeonja Land, Seo-in Sangga,
Terminal Jeonja Sangga and others) with multiple vendors. Computer buffs can
Enjoying Life in Korea 15
Part I
Korea Today
1:30 AM for fresh fish and 3:00 AM for live fish.
Yongsan Electronics Mall
either have their own PCs assembled here or purchase do-it-yourself parts.
Department Stores & Other Large Retailers
Koreans around the country today frequently shop at large retailers that carry
everything from food and clothes to home
appliances, and consumer electronics at
attractive prices. They are usually conveniently located near public transportation
and offer plenty of parking space. The
sales area is spacious and pleasant, and
the stores remain open till late evening.
Some of the better-known ones are Emart, Lotte Mart and Home Plus.
Department stores (Lotte, Hyundai,
Shinsegae, Galleria and others) are for
Department store
16 Passport to Korean Culture
high-end luxury goods.
Efficient Public Transportation
Rapid, and convenient, public transportation is an integral part of life in Korea,
to include buses (local and intercity), subways, taxis, trains (regular and highspeed) and airplanes. However the subway systems are limited to Seoul, Busan,
Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju and Incheon, and not every city is directly connected to
Part I
the high-speed rail service (KTX).
Korea Today
Popular Bus Routes
The most frequently used public transportation in Korea is the bus, with some
six million passengers daily in Seoul alone. Bus riding became even more popular
in the capital after the introduction of bus-only
lanes in July 2004, which made
the service much faster
Recently, a monitor
added at bus stops to
Accessing Bus Information
You can find bus timetable at each
bus stop. On the Internet log onto
bus.seoul.go.kr for information on
bus and subway services (bus
stops, timetables, routes). Getting
information by phone: First press
1577-0287, then 7 + bus stop number + #; or route number + #.
Bus information monitor
Using the transportation card
Bus-only lanes
Most people in Seoul pay their fares
with the transportation card rather
than in cash. The cards are honored
on buses and subways as well as in
taxis. The benefits of using the card
include discounted basic fare and
free or discounted transfers.
Recently, convenience stores and
pay phones have also begun
accepting these like cash. They can
be purchased or reloaded at convenience stores, kiosks, subway stations and the mini-kiosks at bus
Enjoying Life in Korea 17
Inside a Seoul Metro train
provide information on the estimated
arrival time of each bus.
The low fare is another reason why
bus ride is so popular. You also receive a
discount on the basic fare as well as on
transfers between bus lines, or bus and
subway lines.
Rapid Subway Service throughout
Greater Seoul
The Seoul Metro offers fast, inexpensive and convenient services via 11 lines
Seoul Metro platform
Subway information is available on
Seoul Metro homepage.
that connect virtually every destination.
For instance, Line 1 is connected with Line 2 at
Seoul City Hall Station; Lines 1 and 4 intersect at
Seoul Railway Station, and Lines 5 and 9 serve
the international and domestic air terminals at
18 Passport to Korean Culture
Gimpo. The subways are safe and reliable, unaffected by road traffic congestion.
The basic rate starts at
1,000- 1,300.
The subway will get you to most tourist attractions downtown as well as
throughout the Greater Seoul Area, extending as far as Soyosan in the north,
Yangsu in the southeast and Sinchang in the south. On the subway you pay only
half what a regular train costs; for example, the subway takes you to Onyang Hot
Part I
Springs for only
Korea Today
3,500. The Seoul Metro is a truly attractive way to get around on
weekends to areas within the Seoul city limits as well as out into Gyeonggi and
Chungcheong Provinces.
Multiple Taxi Types
Taxis are readily available in
Korean cities. The basic fare
starts at
2,600, and the
meter increases at
increments. The cost of taking
a taxi in Korea is much lower
than fares charged in most
other countries. You may
catch taxis on the street or
Regular taxi
call them to come to your
location (in which case you pay an additional
1,000 won if the total fare is less than
10,000). The fare can be paid in cash or with
either a transportation card or credit card. A free
interpretation service is available for communication with taxicab drivers.
In Seoul, "water taxis" also run on the Han
River, providing shuttles during rush hour or
used by individuals or families for tourism or fun.
Using International Taxis
International taxis are fast becoming
popular among foreign visitors in
Seoul. The drivers speak English,
Japanese and/or Chinese, providing
friendly service. You may reserve an
international taxi by contacting the
Call Center (1566-2255) one hour in
advance, any time, 365 days a year.
For more information, log onto
Enjoying Life in Korea 19
KTX (for Korea Train eXpress)
High-speed Rail (KTX) Express Buses
The KTX (for Korea Train eXpress) high-speed rail serves many major Korean
cities. The KTX began operation in April 2004,
Using KTX
Advance tickets for KTX can be purchased either from automatic ticket
machines installed at train and subway stations or from travel agents.
You may also purchase your ticket
online by logging onto the Korail
homepage at: http://www.korail.
connecting Seoul with Busan (Gyeongbu Line) in
2 hours and 40 minutes and Seoul with Mokpo
(Honam Line) in 2 hours and 58 minutes, facilitating one-day business or sightseeing trips.
Tourist companies take advantage of the fast and
pleasant KTX trains in their package tours. Night
trains with sleeping cars are also in service.
Meanwhile, express buses run between all the
Using Express Buses
East (Dong) Seoul Terminal: (02)
446-8000 or http://www.ti21.co.kr/
Seoul Nambu Terminal: (02) 5218550 or http://www.nambuterminal.co.kr/
cities and are a very popular form of transportation. The Gyeongbu, Guma, Yeongdong and
Honam lines depart from the Seoul Express Bus
Terminal, while the Seoul Nambu and East Seoul
Terminals also offer similar services.
20 Passport to Korean Culture
Residential lifestyles are diverse in Korea today, ranging from the traditional
hanok to high-rise apartment complexes and ultra-modern mixed-use buildings.
Koreans may choose to live in a private home (either traditional or Western-style),
low-rise apartment, high-rise apartment or unit in a mixed-use building, depend-
Part I
ing on their taste, financial status and purpose.
Korea Today
Traditional Houses
The traditional-style private dwellings in Korea are called hanok, which have
evolved over time. However a certain basic tradition remains: The hanok has a
wood frame, walls and floor of clay, and either thatched-straw or tiled roof. As
such, the structure "breathes," allowing the proper amount of ventilation yet
blocking the winter chill. The interior is not too humid in the summer rainy season
and warm in winter. The ondol heating system in the floor is highly efficient, and
an open area with wooden floor is built between the two bedrooms to serve as a
living room that is cool in summer. The ideal placement is facing south, which
allows more sunshine in the winter while avoiding the most intense rays of the
sun in the summer.
Hanok Revival
The hanok began to disappear
in large numbers during the
1980s, as Koreans flocked to
the more convenient apartments or Western-style single
family dwellings. Recently,
however, the traditional Korean
home, with its environmentfriendly features, has again
Jeonju Hanok Village
Enjoying Life in Korea 21
Ondol: Korean-style
Hypocaust System
The traditional ondol system is a
series of under-floor flues that convey heat from wood burned in a fire
pit. The flues are covered by thin
stone slabs that can retain heat for
several hours. Of course the system
has evolved over time. For example,
the fuel first changed from wood to
coal briquettes and then boilers
were adopted to supply and circulate heated water under the floor via
plastic pipe. The heated floor is the
main reason Koreans have had a
preference for sitting on the floor.
Hanok, exterior and interior with open floor
become popular among the health-conscious.
Some of Korea's younger architects are now
designing hanok -style offices for government
offices (at the lowest administrative level--dong),
22 Passport to Korean Culture
Experiencing the Feel of
Hanok Cultural Center homepage:
dental offices and apartments.
The interior of these structures has a rounded appearance, with wooden beams,
pillars, and living room floor.
The windows and doors
papered with traditional
paper ( hanji ), providing the
atmosphere of the original
hanok .
hanok -style
apartment is becoming popular for its combination of traditional elegance with modern convenience. The adobe-covered walls, hanji-papered windows and doors,
traditional latticework and classical motifs on the ceiling, inner court instead of
veranda or balcony, and open living-room with wooden floor add up to a cozy
dwelling. The popularity of the hanok look is boosted by concern for good health
and a desire to recover traditional values.
Enjoying Life in Korea 23
Part I
Korea Today
Jeonju Hanok Village is located in
Pungnam-dong and Gyo-dong,
Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. About
700 hanok remain here, maintained
by the provincial and municipal governments, and now being developed
as a tourist attraction. The homepage: http://www.hanok.jeonju.go.kr
Single-family Homes (Dandok Jutaek)
Single-family home (Dandok Jutaek)
Single-family houses in Korea have their own gates and yards. The inside features are similar to other types of housing: living-room, bedrooms, kitchen and
bathroom. Young people prefer apartments for their convenience and low maintenance, while families with children like the privacy of homes with their own yards.
Today, Koreans are increasingly moving into private homes outside the large
urban areas. One advantage of these rural dwellings is the small garden.
High-rise Apartments
High-rise (15+ stories) multi-unit housing called "apartments" in Korea (or condominiums in the West because they are owned, not rented) are found throughout
Korea. More than half (52.7%) of the population live in apartments and 68.9% say
they prefer them to other types of housing. The first apartment buildings were
constructed in the 1960s to ease the housing shortage in large cities. Since then,
apartment design and quality have improved greatly. The growing urban popula-
24 Passport to Korean Culture
tion and scarcity of residential
land have also contributed to
apartment boom.
A building that has both residential and commercial space is
called jusang-bokhap (mixed-
Part I
Korea Today
use) and an example of the
greater versatility in modern
architectural design. The commercial facilities typically occupy
the second through fourth floors,
and the upper stories are residential.
Such buildings are usually very
high and centrally located for
convenience of transportation.
Thus they command good view,
especially on the uppermost
floors, and the floor space is flexible. They often come with a
swimming pool, bowling alley,
indoor driving range or health
club for residents to enjoy.
High-rise Jusang-bokhap buildings
Townhouses & Low-rise Apartments
Townhouses (or yeollip jutaek, "row houses") are defined as having no more
than 4 stories and floor space totaling over 660m2 per building, while low-rise
apartments ("villas") are 3-5 stories. The townhouses are aimed at lower income
groups; the unit sizes are usually smaller and maintenance fees are low. The price
and quality of "villas," on the other hand, varies widely.
Enjoying Life in Korea 25
Special Days
People in every country have special days within the lifecycle. In Korea these are
the child's first birthday (dol), the wedding day, the 60th birthday, and the day of
the funeral.
A baby’s first birthday
party has been a special
event since early times to
Dol table and celebrating family
express gratitude for the
baby's surviving its first twelve months. Infant mortality was high in traditional
times, when medicine was still undeveloped. Today, families still throw a big party
for friends and relatives when their child reaches one year old. The highlight of
the auspicious occasion is when the baby is put in front of a table that has various
items arrayed on it (for boys: a book, paper money, sheet of paper, ink brush, inkstick, and bow & arrow; for girls: a pair of scissors, yardstick and needle are in
place of the bow & arrow). The baby that picks up the money first is expected to
grow up to be rich, while selection of the book or brush signifies the destiny of a
future scholar or high-ranking government official, while the bow or arrow would
suggest a future general. Today, a cake sometimes replaces the traditional display, and the party itself is held at a hotel or a restaurant. The well-wishers are
given small gifts together with pieces of rice cake.
26 Passport to Korean Culture
Wedding Ceremony
Part I
Korea Today
Pyebek at traditional wedding ceremony
To Koreans, a marriage is
not just a union of a man
and woman but also the
union of two families. In traditional times, the bridegroom-to-be went to the
house of the bride-to-be for
the wedding ceremony and
then spent the first three
days there before bringing
his bride to his own home.
Modern wedding ceremony
Today, however, Western-style ceremony (with some modifications) is preferred to
the traditional type, and it is held at a wedding hall, hotel, or church. Prior to the
wedding, the couple are busy preparing many things not only for the wedding itself
but also for life as newlyweds. Of course, invitation cards are mailed to relatives,
Enjoying Life in Korea 27
friends and colleagues, and special photos are taken in advance, many of which
are outdoors. Professional wedding planners are frequently consulted as well.
Immediately after the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds are to change into traditional hanbok, and the bride formally greets her new parents-in-law with deep
bows in a ceremony called pyebek. Traditionally, a folding screen is set up in the
room, with the father-in-law sitting in the east and mother-in-law in the west. The
bride bows four times, offering some simple food, and in response the in-laws
throw jujubes onto the bride's traditional skirt (chima), expressing wishes of a
happy marriage and many children.
Hwegap (60th Birthday)
Hwegap (or hwan-gap or
suyeon) is a big celebration on
the day one turns 60 (or 61
according to the Korean system). The 69th birthday
(Korean age 70), called gohui,
is also a special celebration
but not as much as hwegap is.
The significance of 61 is that it
completes the 60-year zodiaGohui : 69th birthday party
cal cycle. In traditional times,
surpassing 60 years of age was considered a special blessing. The children offer
their parents glasses of wine or liquor expressing wishes for an even longer life.
Funerals and Condolences
Koreans remain heavily influenced by Confucianism, which stresses the magnitude of
key four ceremonies: the coming-of-age, marriage, funeral, and sacrifices to deceased
ancestors. The funeral is considered as important as the wedding. Funerary customs have changed over time, influenced particularly by the contemporary reli-
28 Passport to Korean Culture
Part I
Korea Today
Funeral bier, traditional funeral procession
gion and philosophical value system.
The deceased were virtually always buried from prehistoric times to about the
7th century CE, when the Three Kingdoms Period ended. The influence of
Buddhism as the state religion spread the practice of cremation for the next seven
centuries or so. Then, the importance of burials returned in the Joseon Dynasty
(1392-1910), when Confucianism prevailed, and has remained the mainstream
custom until the present. In recent years, however, funerary customs have begun
to diversify once again.
In the past, funerals were usually held at the home of the deceased, but now
simplified ceremonies are more commonly performed at a funeral parlor attached
to a hospital. Condolences are expressed in different ways according to one's faith.
A Buddhist would offer two bows, while a Protestant would say a silent prayer and
present a flower.
Enjoying Life in Korea 29
Korean Food
Unique Flavors of Kimchi
No discussion of Korean food is complete without mentioning kimchi. This indispensable part of the Korean diet is rich in lactic acid bacteria and nutrients, and
has attracted global attention as a health food. Today, kimchi is enjoyed in many
Part I
Korea Today
Korean Food 31
Experiencing Kimchi
Event : The Foundation for the
Preservation of Cultural Properties
organizes events for visitors to
experience aspects of traditional
Korean culture.
Date : All year round
Venue : KOUS (Daechi-dong,
Gangnam-gu, Seoul)
Korea House (Pil-dong,
Chongno-gu, Seoul)
Duration : 2-3 hours
Admission : Free
Application : Reserve by phone
(The application form can be
Information : Tel: (02)566-7037,
5951-2; Fax: (02)566-6314, 5954
e-Mail: [email protected]
Essential Part of Every Korean Meal
The origins of kimchi can be traced back at
least 1,300 years, starting out simply as salted
vegetables. Then pickling methods were developed, and various spices were added. Chili peppers were introduced to Korea in the 16th century
and gradually became popular, contributing to
development of today's hot and spicy kimchi varieties.
Diverse Varieties of Kimchi
The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current kimchi types.
32 Passport to Korean Culture
Different varieties are served according
to the season and region, and the varieties are determined by the main vegetables and seasonings used.
Popular in spring are tongbechu kim-
chi (whole-head Chinese cabbages),
Part I
Korea Today
nabak kimchi (sliced radishes in brine),
jjokpa kimchi (scallions), minari kimchi
(dropwort). Early summer brings
oisobak kimchi (fresh cucumbers), oiji
(pickled cucumbers) and yeolmu kimchi
(young radishes with the radish greens),
followed by gaji kimchi (eggplant) and
kimchi ddeok
sigumchi kimchi (spinach) in late summer.
Autumn varieties include bechu geot-
jeori (unpickled cabbage), ggakttugi
(cubed radish), chongkak kimchi (young
radishes), and godeulbegi kimchi (a kind
of lettuce). Winter kimchi types such as
tongbechu gimjang kimchi are well fermented to last a long time.
kimchi bun
Other winter favorites are seokbakgi (radishes sliced in large pieces), bossam
kimchi (stuffed cabbage) and oyster kimchi.
Different regions have their own specialties, like godeulbegi kimchi from Jeolla,
bossam kimchi from Gaeseong and ggakttugi from Gongju. Generally, people in
the north tend to use less salt and chili pepper in their kimchi than those in the
south do. The use of fish sauce is more common in the south as well.
Recently, fusion dishes that include kimchi have been developed and are becoming quite popular among Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
Korean Food 33
Nutritional and Health
Koreans have developed
many fermented foods such
as soybean paste, soy sauce,
fermented soybeans and
kimchi . The fermentation
process kills bacteria and
regular consumption of fermented foods can strengthen
the immune system. Kimchi
is rich in vitamins minerals
and dietary fiber yet low in
calories. Some studies sugkimchi refrigerator
gest that regular consump-
tion of kimchi can inhibit cancer growth.
Why Spicy
Koreans generally are not fond of oily or sweet food. When they do eat it, they
like to follow with kimchi, because the spiciness feels refreshing. Actually, chili
pepper contains capsicine, which burns fat and stimulates the appetite while
reducing the need for salt in flavoring.
Storage and Flavor
The same type of kimchi will taste different depending on the temperature at
which it is fermented and stored. Optimal flavor and nutrition is normally achieved
by fermenting kimchi for 2-3 weeks at 2-7 C and then storing it at 0-5 C. Allowing
kimchi to freeze can detract from the flavor, so Koreans traditionally kept their
winter kimchi underground. Nowadays, refrigerators have been developed specifically for storing kimchi.
34 Passport to Korean Culture
Koreans and Rice Cakes
Part I
Korea Today
Ddeok rice cake (sometimes with millet, beans, squash etc. added) has long
been an integral part of Koreans' lives.
This is evidenced by the many wellknown expressions involving ddeok :
"Eating ddeok while lying down" (a very
simple task); "The ddeok in another's
hand always seems bigger" (jealousy);
"The ddeok in the picture" (pie in the
sky) and many others. No Korean ceremony involving food is complete without
rice cake, and ddeokbokki (broiled and
seasoned sliced rice cake with meat,
eggs and other ingredients) is a very
popular snack.
Korean Food 35
A Culinary Tradition from Ancient Times
About 200 kinds of ddeok
are available today in assorted shapes and colors. The
principle ingredient, shape,
stuffing, and color may vary
by region.
This popular snack has
probably been around in
some form on the Korean
Peninsula for close to 3,000
Modern-style ddeok
years. Grindstones and stone
mortars for pounding grain have been found dating from as early as the 7th and
8th centuries BCE, showing that agriculture was already established. Bronze Age
implements with several holes at the bottom on each side appear to have been
used for steaming grains.
From ancient times, the Korean people have made ddeok for sad occasions such
as funerals such as happy moments such as weddings. Sharing rice cakes among
neighbors and friends was a way to foster a community spirit. Even today, families
who move into a new neighborhood typically prepare ddeok to pass around as a
way to greet the new neighbors.
Occasions for Ddeok
Ddeok has been so closely related to all walks of life that it would be difficult to
understand Korean people's lives without understanding the symbolic significance. Rice cakes are served at weddings, birthdays and other family events as
well as on seasonal holidays. The type depends on the occasion and/or season.
Different grains and other ingredients, including flowers and fruits, can be used.
In traditional times, the royal family had luxurious ddeok prepared according to a
unique recipe.
36 Passport to Korean Culture
Taking Ddeok to the World
Korean ddeok continues to evolve with changing tastes, providing a
healthier alternative to
Part I
sweets and fast food.
Korea Today
Today, rice cakes are
sometimes served the
way sandwiches are.
Some are pre-made for
instant cooking in a
microwave oven. Now
packaged and preserved,
ddeok is also exported.
Ddeokbokki : a popular Korean snack
Ddeokbokki is a popular Korean snack that was once restricted to royal court
cuisine. The original ddeokbokki was seasoned with soy sauce. Today's spicy version appeared in 1950, when the Korean War broke out, and is now enjoyed by
everyone. The dish now includes ddeok, sliced and broiled; meat and eggs. It is
seasoned with hot bean paste and some sugar instead of the soy sauce. Some like
it with cheese.
A variation called "rabokki" (for "ramyeon + ddeokbokki") may come with cream
sauce or chili sauce instead of hot bean paste, catering to foreigners' tastes. hese
days, the Ddeokbokki Festival is helping to further promote the dish among nonKoreans. (For more information, visit www.topokki.com.)
Learn How to Make Ddeok
The Ddeok Museum exhibits some 200 different varieties of Korean-style rice
cakes along with instruments for shaping them. You can learn ddeok-related customs, participate in ddeok-making, and enjoy eating some of the delicious rice
cakes, too. (For more information, visit www.tkmuseum.or.kr.)
Korean Food 37
Table Manners
Sometimes we experience embarrassment when we do not know the proper
table manners when drinking or dining with people in foreign countries. Of course
Koreans have their own sets of rules, which are particularly important when we
are eating or drinking with the elderly.
Dining with Elders
In traditional times, upper-class people were served at individual tables, beginning with the eldest. Now, however, Koreans share the same side dishes on the
same table together.
The senior-most position at the middle of the table, on the side farthest from the
room entrance. The eldest person is always allowed to sit down first and start eating first. As a guest, etiquette dictates that you thank the host before starting and
after finishing. As a junior, you are expected to keep your posture correct and
should not place your spoon and chopsticks on the table (indicating that you have
finished eating) until the eldest done so. The eldest is also first to leave the table.
Do not use a spoon to take from the side dishes (which are shared by all), and do
Family dining together
38 Passport to Korean Culture
Part I
Korea Today
Traditional table-setting
not hog the side dishes you like most. In the past, keeping silence at the table was
considered a virtue, but now polite conversation is normal. Try to use your spoon
and chopsticks quietly and do not hold both in your hand at the same time. Of
course you should avoid eating noisily or blowing noisily on your soup to cool it off.
The rice bowl goes on the left side of the diner, and the soup is on the right. The
spoon is placed to the immediate right of the soup bowl, followed by the chopsticks. Any dish containing fluid is placed nearer to the diner, while the other dishes are farther away. Dishes with food cut in smaller sizes are nearer than the
dishes with larger pieces are.
Drinking Etiquette
Traditionally, the junior was expected to offer a drink to the senior, holding the
cup with both hands and on knees before filling his/her own cup. Today, the ritual
has been simplified simply using both hands. The cup is held with the right hand,
Korean Food 39
while the left is placed underneath the
cup. You should receive a drink from a
senior with both hands and then turn
your head a little to the side before
drinking. Never refill another's cup
before it is completely empty.
Tea Etiquette
Clinking the glasses and Cheers
The teacup should be placed on a tray
that is then put on a tea table before
being filled and served on a saucer. The
cup handle should be toward the tea
drinker's right, and the teaspoon is to
the immediate right of the cup. As soon
as the cup is empty, it should be
removed from the table.
Tea should be drunk in silence; the
cup is held in the right hand, while the
left hand supports it underneath. If the
tea is too hot, simply allow it to cool,
instead of blowing on it; do not sip the
tea with the spoon. Once finished, put
Tea ceremony
40 Passport to Korean Culture
the cup aside and thank the hostess.
Five Dishes Non-Koreans Like Best
A survey by Korean Traditional Food Research Institute concluded that the top
favorite Korean dishes among non-Koreans are (in descending order): bibim-bap
(vegetables & beef on rice), samgye-tang (boiled chicken stuffed with rice & ginseng), galbi-gui (grilled beef ribs), gimbap (rice wrapped in dried laver) and sun-
Part I
dubu-jjige (spicy stew of soft tofu & shellfish). Other favorites on the survey are
Korea Today
hobak-juk (pumpkin or squash porridge), naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles
with vegetables, egg & beef), japche (potato noodles with beef & vegetables), bul-
gogi (thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce & grilled), haemul pajeon (pancake
with green onion, shellfish & other seafoods),
baechu kimchi (picked &
spiced Chinese cabbage),
and hobak ddeok (pumpkin or squash cake).
Bibim-bap (mixed rice)
has long been popular in
Korea because it is simple
yet nutritious, and is now
a popular in-flight meal
for international travelers.
Various vegetables are
steamed rice. The diner
then mixes the ingredients all together and adds
red pepper paste and
Jeonju bibim-bap
Korean Food 41
Ingredients: 200g of rice, 50g of
bean sprouts, 50g of squash, 50g of
cucumbers, 40g of carrots, 30g of
balloon flower root, 30g of bracken,
1 mushroom, 20g of shredded
radish, salt, soy sauce, vegetable oil,
sesame oil, salted sesame powder
and garlic
Steaming the Rice
Let the rice soak in water for 30 minutes before heating. Put in the bean
sprouts and place the lid on just
before cooking is finished. When
ready, stir the rice well before
scooping it into bowls.
Namul is a general term for greens,
herbs and wild vegetables seasoned
with salt, vinegar and sesame oil.
The name of the dish may vary
slightly depending on what vegetables are used and how they are prepared. Virtually any type of vegetable, herb, or green can be used,
and the parts can include the roots,
leaves, stems, seeds, sprouts,
petals, and fruits. They can be prepared as an individual namul or
sesame oil to taste. Often, a stone bowl (dolsot)
is used because it helps to keep the ingredients
warm until one finishes eating.
Bibim-bap has many variations, depending on the
region of Korea where it is served. Jeonju is famous
for bibim-bap featuring fat soybean sprouts.
Recently, a huge bowl of bibim-bap was served to a
crowd in New York City at an event attended by the
Mayor. The scene of New Yorkers enjoying the
Korean dish was televised.
Samgye-tang (ginseng-chicken soup)
Samgye-tang (ginseng-chicken soup) is especially popular for energizing the
body the hottest days of summer. A Cornish hen is stuffed with glutinous rice and
boiled in a broth of Korean ginseng, dried jujubes, garlic, and ginger. The dish is
particularly good for the stomach and liver.
Galbi-gui (grilled beef ribs) is one of the most popular Korean meat dishes.
42 Passport to Korean Culture
Part I
Korea Today
Galbi-gui (grilled beef ribs)
(Pork ribs, both marinated and fresh, are also popular and cost less than beef
ribs.) The key to delicious beef ribs lies in tenderizing the meat and removing the
Therefore, the ribs are marinated in soy sauce mixed with rice wine, garlic and
pepper for about 30 minutes. They are grilled at high heat, as cooking them slowly
will making the meat tougher and harder to digest.
Gimbap is a handy snack to take along on picnics, hikes and other outings.
Steamed rice is lightly salted and mixed with other ingredients and rolled in gim
(thin sheets of dried laver). The rolls are then sliced. Gimbap looks similar to
Japanese sushi but the taste and ingredients are different.
The basic ingredients are rice, meat or some other protein source (fish cakes,
crab meat or eggs) and various vegetables (cucumbers, spinach, carrots, pickled
Korean Food 43
radish). Personal taste will
determine the recipe. After
rolling and slicing, the gimbap
is typically served with a pickled radish known as danmuji.
Traditional gimbap comes in
round slices, but nowadays it
may be wrapped into triangles
or squares. Other variations
include mini-gimbap, "naked"
gimbap (rice is on the outside)
and chungmu gimbap (rice
only--to be eaten with kimchi).
Sundubu-jjige is a stew with
soft bean curd ( dubu in
Korean, tofu in Japanese). The
soft bean curd may be less
nourishing than the regular
one, but its texture is popular
with older people, and the flavor is widely liked.
The stew (jjige) of soft bean
curd, clams, mushrooms, soy
sauce, salt and pickled
shrimp is cooked in an earthenware bowl. For variety,
Sundubu-jjige with mixed seafoods
other ingredients may be
added such as kimchi, mixed seafoods, or short-necked clams.
44 Passport to Korean Culture
Popular Culture and Hallyu
The "Korean Wave" and Pop Stars
Popular Korean culture has gained global attention. Generally called Hallyu
("Korean Wave") its popularity has been spreading in an increasing number of
countries. Naturally, more people in these countries want to know about the
Korean language and Korean culture.
Hallyu : Global Interest in Korean Culture
Interest in popular Korean culture began to surge in Southeast Asia in the late
1990s, driving foreign interest in things Korean. Momentum grew after the release
of a hit album by the Korean pop group HOT and the term Hallyu was widely
adopted by the Chinese media. Korean TV dramas began to be exported to China
in 1996, followed by Korean pop songs two years later. The Korean Wave has continued to spread to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines,
Japan, the US, Latin America and
even Arab countries. Today, Hallyu
has come to include global interest in
Korean food, electronics, dramas,
music and movies. This phenomenon
has helped to promote the Korean
language and culture around the
world, and many more students are
learning Korean as a second language.
Introduction of Hallyu
Korean singers as well as actors
and actresses have become popular
Hallyu stars in most Southeast Asian
“My Sassy Girl” poster
46 Passport to Korean Culture
countries as well as in China.
Movie and TV Stars
A Japanese survey on Korean stars ranked (in descending order) the most popular actresses Choi Ji-wu ("Jiuhime" in Japan), Jeon Ji-hyeon, and Lee Young-ae;
and actors as Bae Yong-jun, Lee Byung-heon, Kwon Sang-wu, Chang Dong-keon
and Hyun Bin. Japanese interest in Bae Yong-jun and Choi Ji-wu was sparked by
Part I
the TV drama "Winter Sonata," the biggest hit overseas for any Korean TV series.
Korea Today
The success of "Winter Sonata" was due to the poetic nature of the script as
well as the music and scenes on the theme "first love." Bae became so popular
that his Japanese fans nicknamed him Yonsama and remained devoted to him.
The film was shot on Nami Island, near Chuncheon, and the set became a very
popular destination for Japanese visitors to Korea.
Bae Yong-jun Bae debuted with the TV drama "Salut D' Amour" in 1994, and
became popular in his role as a student of a future movie director in "A Sunny
Place of the Young." His popularity continued in both Korean and Japan with "First
Love," "Did We Really Love," "Winter Sonata" and "The Story of the Great King and
the Four Gods." He has also starred in the full-length movies "Untold Scandal"
and "April Snow."
Choi Ji-wu Choi made her debut as an MBC TV actress in 1994 and gained popularity from her work in the movies "Everybody Has Secrets," "The Romantic
President" and "Nowhere to Hide" in 2002. Her leading role in the TV dramas
"Stairway to Heaven" and "Winter Sonata," catapulted to the greatest fame. She
also starred in the TV dramas "Beautiful Days" and "Truth."
Lee Byung-heon Dramas and movies starred in by Lee have achieved great
popularity in Asia, and recently he received attention worldwide with his appearance in the American movie "GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra." His most important
movies to date include "Bungee Jumping of Their Own," "Joint Security Area," "A
Popular Culture and Hallyu 47
Bittersweet Life" and "The Good, the Bad,
and the Weird."
Lee Jun-ki Chosen as the top Hallyu star
in China recently, Lee is also gaining strong
Bae Yong-jun
Choi Ji-wu
popularity in Japan with the movie "King and
the Clown." His other major works include
"Virgin Snow," a joint Korean and Japanese
movie, and "Iljimae."
Jang Nara Jang started out as a singer
Lee Byung-heon
Lee Jun-ki
and has become a popular TV and movie
actress in Korea, Taiwan and China In China
she was awarded a top prize as a singer and
appeared in the Chinese TV drama "The
Mischievous Princess" with other top
Chinese stars.
Lee Young-ae
Jang Nara
Lee Young-ae Lee starred in the TV drama
"Dae Jang Geum" and is now one of the most
popular actresses in Asia and Middle East.
She has also starred in "Joint Security Area,"
"Last Present," "One Fine Spring Day" and
"Sympathy for Lady Vengeance."
Rain The singer Rain has been chosen as one of the 100 most influential persons
in the United States. He gained his popularity not only as a singer but also from
his work in TV dramas. He appeared in "Sangdoo! Let's Go to School" in 2003,
"Full House" in 2004 and "A Love to Kill" in 2005, of which "Full House" won great
popularity in China.
48 Passport to Korean Culture
TV Dramas
Koreans love watching TV dramas, seeing movies and listening to music. Of the
three TV dramas probably take up the largest part of their time. Korean TV companies now spend a hefty budget on dramas. Some of more successful ones are
exported, helped by the influence of Hallyu.
Part I
Chinese dramas tend to focus more on the stories and Japanese dramas
emphasize the inner workings of the characters. On the other hand, Korean dramas are more about the personalities involved than the story. For instance, "Dae
Jang Geum" received overwhelming popularity from viewers for its detailed
expression of a woman trying to do her best in her specialty. People seem to draw
satisfaction from such dramas as "Dae Jang Geum" and "Winter Sonata" by identifying themselves with the stars and sharing feelings with them. Perhaps the
biggest reason Korean dramas are popular in China and Japan is that the audience can relate to the character of, for example, someone who can overcome various hardships in the pursuit of a dream for herself and her family. Korean productions are also highly rated for their sophistication in expressing human emotions.
The Top 5 Hallyu Dramas
The five most popular Korean-made dramas in Japan are "Winter Sonata," "Dae
Jang Geum," "Stairway to Heaven," "Beautiful Days" and "Hotelier."
"Winter Sonata," Starring Bae
Yong-jun and Choi Ji-wu This is a
tale of three persons bound together in
the name of "first love." They met, separated and were re-entangled by the net
called "family." The story unfolds
Popular Culture and Hallyu 49
Korea Today
Characteristics of Korean Dramas
through a mysterious interweaving of relationships surrounding them: Junsang;
Yujin; Sanghyuk; and Minhyung, who resembles Junsang. Besides the romantic
aspects, the drama captured fans' hearts with its memorable scenery and music.
"Dae Jang Geum," Starring Lee Youngae This fictional story is based on the life of a
woman during the reign of Jungjong (15061544) in Joseon, a male-dominated traditional
society. Jang Geum becomes the top royal chef
through her strong willpower and drive. She
then learns medicine after overcoming various
hardships and finally is appointed the first
female royal physician. "Dae Jang Geum"
means "Chief Female Royal Physician," the
title bestowed upon her. It tells, for the first
time, the story of a significant woman's success. Many people also loved the drama for its
detailed coverage of royal cuisine in Joseon.
"Stairway to Heaven," Starring
Kwon Sang-wu and Choi Ji-wu
This drama was purportedly made to
give meaning to "loving someone
fully, overcoming antagonistic social
customs and taboos." It is a tragic
story of hopeless, forbidden love
between a man and woman. Their
love is pure, hardly imaginable, yet
surely such a love can exist somewhere. The drama awakens the viewers to their
own feelings, never revealed to another.
50 Passport to Korean Culture
Korean TV Dramas Going Global
The popularity of the Korean dramas has spread to the Middle East, where "First
Love," introduced in 1997 and starring Bae Yong-jun, was a big hit.
ore recently,
"Taejo Wang Geon" has become popular in China, Japan and the Middle East.
"Dae Jang Geum" Popular in UAE and Iran
Part I
TV, the state-run broadcaster in the UAE, has been televising "Dae Jang Geum,"
"My Name is Kim Sam Soon" and "I'm Sorry, I
Love You" since 2005. "Emperor of the Sea" and
"I'm Sorry, I Love You" are particularly popular
among young people. In Iran, "Dae Jang Geum"
received a rating of over 90%, sparking greater
interest in Korea and the Korean language.
Middle Eastern viewers prefer family-based stories, as they usually watch TV as an entire family.
That is one reason Korean TV dramas are so well
A scene from "My Name is Kim Sam Soon"
received in this region.
"The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince"
"Princess Hours" and "The 1st Shop of Coffee
Prince" have become very popular in Southeast
Asia because these dramas and the stars' fash-
A scene from "Princess Hours
ion styles show how Korean youth now live. "The
1st Shop of Coffee Prince" has been exported to
Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines,
Malaysia and Thailand. In addition, the Hongdae
branch of 'The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince," where
the drama was filmed, is drawing crowds from
inside and outside Korea.
A scene from "The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince"
Popular Culture and Hallyu 51
Korea Today
People in the Middle East have been also caught onto the Hallyu craze. Dubai
Chungmu-ro and the Film Industry
Korean movies are now shown both domestically and overseas. Korea is exceptional in that over 50% of the domestic film market is made up of home-made
productions. Korean films, along with TV dramas and pop songs, are at the heart
of Hallyu, enjoying great popularity in China, Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere.
Chungmu-ro: Birthplace of Korean Film-making
Hollywood was the base for most of the American film industry for many
decades. The Korean film industry was primarily based in Seoul's Chungmu-ro
area, adjacent to Myeong-dong, from the late 50s through the 1980s, Here, film
directors, actors and actresses worked with a cluster of film companies and cinemas. In the 1990s, film companies began moving to southern Seoul (Gangnam),
but many still remain around Chungmu-ro.
Films in Hallyu
Until the late 1990s, few Korean films were successful outside the country.
"Christmas in August", directed by Huh Jin-ho and released in 1999, was the first
to receive significant attention in Hong Kong. The next year, "Swiri" sold well in
Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2002, "My Sassy Girl" obtained excellent
results in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore, and Korean film
had firmly joined the Korean Wave.
Hallyu and Korean Films
Hong Kong-made films once dominated the Asian market, but Koreanmade films have made significant
inroads, riding the Hallyu wave along
with TV dramas and pop songs. The
"Swiri" poster
52 Passport to Korean Culture
"Christmas in August" poster
Korean movies are popular for their
solid story lines and diverse genres, appealing
to a wide audience. Bolstering their success
has been the international interest in Korean
TV dramas in many Asian countries since the
late 1990s. Korean TV actors and actresses
Part I
also appeared in the movies, and their fame
Korea Today
has boosted box office sales in several Asian
countries. One good example is "April Snow",
starring Bae Yong-jun. The film was produced
with Japanese viewers in mind; it was sold to
Japan even before completion and then went
on to perform well in Hong Kong, Taiwan,
Malaysia and Singapore.
"April Snow" poster
Hallyu Films in Different Countries
Exports to Japan, now the largest market for Korean film, started with "Swiri,"
followed by "My Sassy Girl," "Joint Security Area," "Too Beautiful," "Old Boy,"
"Everybody Has Secrets," "TaeGukGi: Brotherhood of War," "Windstruck," "Untold
Scandal," "King and the Clown," "The Most" and "April Snow." "A Moment to
Remember," starring Sohn Ye-jin and Jeong Wu-seong, is the most successful
Korean film in Japan to date.
Exporting films to China is restricted by law, but pirated DVDs of "My Sassy Girl"
were a big hit. Formal film exports to China have not been successful but Koreanmade movies are second only to American movies in pirated editions. Meanwhile,
Korean films remain popular in Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.
Excellent Directors and Genre Diversity
The popularity won by Hallyu and Hallyu stars since the 1990s undoubtedly
played a key role in giving the Korean film industry its current global success.
More importantly, however, many creative and competitive film directors began to
Popular Culture and Hallyu 53
come onto the scene from the mid1990s. They have ensured successful
production, diversified the film genres,
brought a better balance to the mix, and
elevated the overall quality of Korean
The remarkable growth attained by the
industry in the new millennium has been
Film director
Pak Chan-wook
Film director
Im Kwon-taek
recognized with awards to Korean film
directors Pak Chan-wook, Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-duk and Lee Chang-dong at
such major festivals as Cannes, Venice and Berlin, elevating the global stature of
Korean-made films.
Director Kim Ki-duk became known to American and European audiences with
his "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring," while director Hong Sang-soo is
noted for his excellent ability to express desire, discomfort and other aspects of the
human psyche in this works. Director Im Kwon-taek, who was awarded at Cannes
for "Painted Fire," also directed "Seopyonje" and "Chun Hyang," works that have
made him known as the best director for expressing the Korean culture and spirit
in film. Meanwhile, director Kang Jae-gyu, who
began as a top screenwriter in Chungmu-ro,
brought a boom to Hallyu
films with "Swiri," followed by such blockbusters as "Silmido" and
"TaeGukGi: Brotherhood
of War." He is the most
successful director in
"Old Boy" poster
54 Passport to Korean Culture
"Chun Hyang" poster
terms of production and
box-office sales.
Another young but prominent film director is
Bong Jun-ho, who directed "The Host," which
became a world hit outside Asia. Director Pak
Chan-wook followed up his acclaimed "Joint
Security Area" with a fresh and unique series
Boy" and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance." Since
then, he also clinched the Jury prize at the 62nd
Cannes Film Festival. His "Old Boy" has been
sold to about 60 countries, solidifying world
recognition of the Korean film industry.
Korea to Asia & Beyond
International Film Festivals in
The Pusan International Film
Festival, now considered one of the
world's top 10 international film festivals, is one of several such events
held in Korea.
Pusan International Film Festival
Chungmuro International Film
Festival in Seoul (www.chiffs.kr)
Puchon International Fantastic
Film Festival (www.pifan.com)
Jeonju International Film Festival
Gwangju International Film Festival
Korean films bring a new
dimension to Hallyu beyond
TV dramas and pop songs,
expanding the market in
Asia. Korean movies are, on
their own strengths, now
making rapid progress in
markets outside Asia. "Il
Mare," "The Host," "Old Boy"
and "A Tale of Two Sisters"
received Hollywood recognition
Posters of award-winning films at film festivals
and are now being remade. Korean movie stars Lee Byung-heon, Jeon Ji-hyun
and Rain are active in Hollywood, and Korean film directors have been invited to
Hollywood to make films. Korea has become an important player in the global
film industry and holds international film festivals for everyone from the world to
Popular Culture and Hallyu 55
Part I
Korea Today
that includes "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," "Old
Korean Pop Songs outside Korea
The news of Dongbangshinki's possible breakup dismayed fans in
Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. All of Asia is now the stage
for Korean pop songs and pop singers. Hallyu started out
focused on TV dramas, then expanded to movies.
Korean pop songs are now the main driver of the
Korean Wave.
Korean pop songs have evolved for nearly a century.
"Trot (from "foxtrot," which influenced its simple beat)
is the oldest form of Korean pop music. It developed in
the years before and during the Japanese occupation.
The genre helped to comfort the sorrow of an oppressed
people. In the 1970s, Korea was hit by a wave of
songs sung by long-haired folk singers playing
acoustic guitars and wearing blue jeans. Various
new genres (rock, ballads, hip-hop) came and
went through the 1980s and 1990s. In the new
millennium, Korean pop songs became Asian
pop songs and the world pop songs.
Korean songstress BoA released her first single
in Japan in 2001 and has subsequently been the
top artist on the Oricon chart countless times
with sale of more than 10 million discs in
Japan alone. "Tell Me Your Wish," the second album
released by the all-girl band Girls' Generation, topped the Thai pop charts for four
weeks. Meanwhile, SS501, a Korean boy band, released three albums in Taiwan, and
they all topped one of the famous charts there. Songster Rain and Wonder Girls, a
pop diva group, have advanced into the United States, while f(x), a 5-girl group,
received mass media attention from many Asian countries even before its debut.
56 Passport to Korean Culture
General Trend of Idol Groups
The leaders in Hallyu pop songs are idol groups, which mainly perform hip-hop
and dance music. They focus more on rhythms and unique dance moves than
lyrics and melodies. Despite their adolescent appearance, the members emphasize sex appear with unconventional costumes, makeup and dance. Many of the
bands are multi-national. Hangkyeong, a member of the 13-member boy-group
Part I
"Super Junior," is Chinese and Victoria of "f(x)" is also Chinese. They are emerg-
Korea Today
ing not only as singers but as part of the popular culture. Sidelines such as fashion, games, books and TV program are being produced in tandem with these
Idol Group Singers
This 5-member boygroup ("Asian Popularity"
in Korean) made its
debut in 2003. Not only
tall and good-looking,
the members have been
evaluated highly for
their singing and dancing. The name varies
from country to country:
in Japan, Tohoshinki; in
Chinese region, Tong Vfang Xien Qi; in the English-speaking region, TVXQ.
The group has released 8 singles and 4 albums in Korea, 28 singles and 4
albums in Japan, and 1 single in the US and China--all in their respective languages.
Popular Culture and Hallyu 57
Big Bang This 5-member boy-group debuted in
2006. The members' song-writing, singing,
choreography and stage performance have all
been rated very highly. Albums "Always," "Stand
Up" and "Remember" have been hits. The group
went to Japan in 2008 and is active there, with
new albums and live concerts.
Girls' Generation This 9member girl-group debuted
in 2007 with the release of
the album "Into the New
World." Called "SNSD" in
English-speaking countries, the group is composed of teenaged girls who are also
talented actresses and dancers. They received the top prize at the 5th Asia Song
Festival in 2008 and released a mini album "Gee" in 2009, which stayed on the
major charts for two weeks.
Wonder Girls This 5-member girl-group made
its debut with the release of a single "The
Wonder Begins" in 2007. "Tell Me," with its
unique choreography, brought the "Tell Me"
craze. In late 2008, "Nobody" was a hit, expanding the group's popularity to China, Thailand and
the US.
58 Passport to Korean Culture
Taekwondo has long
helped to make Korea
better known to the
Part I
world. This Korean mar-
Korea Today
tial art form uses fast
kicking and punching
techniques. The origins
were developed as selfdefense against wild animals,
movements to be instant
A kicking form
and fast. Over time,
blocking, kicking and punching evolved to create the Taekwondo of today.
Taekwondo Elements
Taekwondo practice encompasses forms (pum-
sae), sparring (gyeorugi) and breaking (gyeokpa).
Pumsae are series of moves that are practiced
alone to improve attack and defense. The forms
start out as being very simple, but they progressively become more complex and difficult.
Gyeorugi is the way to apply pumsae skills in
attack and defense. Taekwondo competitions bit
athletes against one another according to preset
rules to decide the winner. Only punches and
kicks are allowed, and attacks are limited to the
front of the opponent. Strikes to the face are only
Ranks & Belts
A standard Taekwondo ranking system (dan and geup) is applied worldwide. Beginners wear white belts
and are called mugeup (without any
rank). Next is yugeup (with rank),
which covers ten different ranks
(indicated by yellow, green, blue,
purple and red belts). This is followed by yudan (with black belt
ranks), which comprises another 9
ranks, from first to ninth degree.
Black belt holders aged 15 or older
are given dan, while those 14 or
younger wear pum belts with red
and black colors evenly divided horizontally.
allowed with the feet and attacking the lower
Popular Culture and Hallyu 59
body is against the rules.
Gyeokpa is a way to measure the degree of one's Taekwondo
skills. The practitioner breaks boards, bricks, roof tiles and so on
to test concentration, accuracy, mental strength and striking
Fostering Respect through Martial Art
Taekwondo does not condone aggressive violence; self-defense
is the purpose. People practice the art to prevent violence, exercising patience and control gained after long and hard training.
The practitioners wear white uniforms and colored belts; each
color represents a different rank (geup). Low-ranking practitioners are expected to show respect to their seniors. The instructor
Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo
The Federation was founded in 1972
to develop and propagate Taekwondo.
It conducts tests for dan and pum promotion, holds domestic and international competitions, and offers special
classes for foreigners.
is called " sabu-nim " (teacherfather). Taekwondo is not just for
physical training but also promotes etiquette, respect and
humility. This is one good reason
why Korean parents send their
children to Taekwondo class
even before they are old enough
to starting primary school.
Taekwondo Experiential
Gyeonghi-gung (a palace in Seoul)
holds "Human Power Taekwondo," a
program designed for foreigners to
experience Taekwondo. Interested
persons may apply via the homepage.
It also holds a versatile performance on
regular basis, "Power Art Taekwondo,"
a combination of Taekwondo, Korean
traditional music and dance.
60 Passport to Korean Culture
Globalization of Taekwondo
Around 70 million people now practice
Taekwondo worldwide, learning about Korea and
its culture at 500,000 gyms in 188 countries. The
pioneer Korean Taekwondo instructors working
abroad were essential for Taekwondo's achieving
its present global status. They have served as
Part I
Korea Today
Taekwondo demonstration
civilian diplomats, introducing Korean culture as well as Taekwondo to the world.
These days, Taekwondo has inspired modernized Taekwon dance and Taekwon
exercises in Korea to provide easier access to the martial art.
An Internationally-recognized Sport
Taekwondo was adopted as an official event at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Thanks to efforts made home and abroad and adoption by the IOC, Taekwondo has
become a global sport.
Popular Culture and Hallyu 61
Football and the Red Devils
Football is special to Koreans. Of course, many other countries may have better
players and teams, but few exhibit the emotion Koreans do when their team competes internationally. Koreans come together to back their team, making it a
major festival.
Massive rallies in the street during the 2002 FIFA World Cup
62 Passport to Korean Culture
Korean Football Yesterday & Today
Football came to Korea about 120 years ago, and Koreans remained excited
about the sport despite many difficult historical and economic times. In the 1970s,
Korean football underwent a Renaissance with the help of the government. Every
village began to have its own early-morning football team. In 1983, the first professional league was formed, quickly making football Koreans' favorite spectator
Cup in the 1990s, to the dismay of all Koreans.
Then the 2002 FIFA World Cup was co-hosted by Korea
and Japan. To the world's great surprise, Korea became
the first Asian country to reach the semifinals. There are
now 15 professional football teams in the K-league, raising Korean football to the next level and providing Korean
football fans with much to cheer about.
A Giant Step with 2002 FIFA World Cup
Korean football took a big step forward when the nation
co-hosted the FIFA World Cup in June 2002. The Korean
team was led by Dutchman Guus Hiddink and reached
the semifinals for the first time ever, defeating one football powerhouse after another. No doubt, Koreans' great
love of football and their support for the national team
helped the players perform so well. The team was lifted
by the massive rallies in
the streets and the "Red
Devils," the cheerleader
group that urged their
countrymen to share in
Chiwu cheonwang :
"Red Devils" Logo
As the god of war and
a soldier, the logo
symbolizes victory.
the nation-loving spirit.
Popular Culture and Hallyu 63
Korea Today
sport. Nevertheless, the national team failed at the World
Part I
“Red Devils”
Birth of the "Red Devils"
A group of Korean football lovers formed in 1995 and they decided to adopt the
name "Red Devils" in 1997. Their organized activities began from the preliminaries
for the FIFA World Cup in France in 1998. The world took notice of their activities in
Korea during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The rhythmic shout " De~han min kuk
(Republic of Korea)" resounded throughout the country and is now heard wherever
a sports competition is held in Korea. The official support group for the Korean
national football team has been leading the public cheering since that time.
Membership was informal through the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, but
now members are formally enrolled.
Red Brings Koreans Together
Many people identify Koreans as red-hot passionate people, perhaps because
they still remember the massive crowds wearing red shirts during the 2002 World
Cup. The "Red Devils" led a nation in support of their national team, changing
64 Passport to Korean Culture
Korean football, Koreans' perception about the
red color, and Korea's image abroad.
Korea is a divided country, and red represents
the Communist North, so the color was avoided
in the South. However, the Korean national team
began to wear red uniforms, and their supports
cause for celebration in the minds of South
Koreans today. Red expresses joy and enthusiasm and now prompts Koreans to focus their
New Fashions on the Street
The Gwanghwa-mun intersection in downtown
Seoul and City Hall Plaza turned into a sea of red
while the FIFA 2002 World Cup was being held in
Football Star Pak Ji-seong
The most revered
Korean football
star is Pak Jiseong. He is particularly loved for
his ability to overcome physical
(small stature and flat feet) through
hard work and constant self-improvement. At 19, Pak was already a brilliant
national player. He was the top in the
Korean Premier League before joining
Manchester United FC in July 2005.
He shot the decisive goal against
Portuguese team in the 2002 World
Cup tournament, and he scored the
tying goal against France during the
2006 World Cup in Germany.
Korea. Swarms of enthusiastic supporters appeared in the streets
wearing headbands decorated with a
national flag motif, red scarves on
their arms, red shirts, and red knickers. Such instantaneous outpourings
were unprecedented.
Every plaza in the country became
a gala display of national unity, irre-
Young “Red Devils”
spective of age group or economic
status. They were just the same people, participating in a celebration meant for
them all. Every society needs an emotional outlet, and Koreans, especially so. The
2002 World Cup gave them such an opportunity in the form of on-the-street
cheering for the national team.
Popular Culture and Hallyu 65
Part I
Korea Today
turned out clad in red, turning the color into a
B-boys and Namsadang
The ecstatic moves of Korean dance express Korean heung, a mixture of joy,
pleasure, mirth and excitement. At a glance, Korean break dancers, or B-boys,
don't seem to have anything in common with the itinerant entertainers (nam-
sadang) of traditional times, but they share the unique Korean heung in their
magnificent rhythm and performances.
Korean B-boys Capture World Attention
The name "B-boy" comes from the American hip-hop culture of the 1970s,
referring to professional male break dancer; the female counterpart is called "Bgirl." The B-boys brought a new culture genre, and many excellent performers
have emerged. Late comers they may be, but Korean B-boys have made an impact
on the global stage.
B-boys performance
66 Passport to Korean Culture
B-boys Join Hallyu
Korean break dancers have won many
world-class competitions, providing a
new dimension to the Korean Wave.
Break dancers the world over watch
Part I
videos of Korean B-boys and emulate
Pungmul and B-boys
invited to the opening ceremony of 2008
Beijing Olympic Games for an exclusive
performance and now many who are
fascinated by the B-boy phenomenon
visit Korea to watch local performances.
Koreans' Great Rhythm & Passion
Gaya-gum and B-boys
The global success of Korean B-boys
was not easily won; they worked exceedingly hard to achieve world-class status.
Nevertheless, their accomplishment may have never been possible without their
passion, sense of rhythm and natural bodily movements.
Exclusive B-boy only Theater
It is easy to find B-boy performances in Korea. Just go to the "Bboys-only" theater in front of Hongik
University; performances are held
regularly. (www.sjbboys.com)
Information on B-boy
"Ballerina Who Fell in Love with
B-boy" (www.showbboy.com)
B-boy and Ballerina
Breakout (www.breakout.co.kr)
Popular Culture and Hallyu 67
Korea Today
their moves. A Korean B-boy team was
New Culture from Street Dance
Scene of "Ballerina Who Fell in Love with B-boy"
Korean B-boys are no longer confined to street dancing; they are now contributing to the creation of a new culture of musicals and dramas. They
continuously develop by engaging themselves in joint performances
with various forms of Korean traditional music as well as
classical or pop music. Thus, Korean B-boys are now
embedded in the culture, and are not just a passing fad.
Versatile B-boy Performances
The December 2005 "Ballerina Who Fell in Love with Bboy" took Korean break dancing to new heights at the
unique "B-boys only" theater near Hongik University in
Seoul. More versatile dance routines have been introduced
here. In Korea, many new B-boy musicals are being created and
performed, continuing the development of this art form.
Big Fun with Namsadang
The original namsadang were men who belonged to troupes of itinerant performers through the end of the Joseon period (1392-1910).
Each troupe would have 40-50 members, mostly of commoner back-
68 Passport to Korean Culture
Part I
Korea Today
Namsadang performance (percussion instruments and tightrope walking)
ground, entertaining the masses with their animated music and circus-like tricks
(tightrope walking, dish-spinning, etc.). Since the 1920s, these traveling bands
became smaller and their repertoires evolved.
Namsadang Plays
Extant are six different namsadang nori (performance categories), including
percussion playing (pungmul ). Pungmul includes the traditional kwenggwari
(small gong), buk (barrel drum), jing (large gong), sogo (small hand-drum) and
nallari (small conical fife). The players wear white headbands and produce light
and cheerful music, while dancing and making comic gestures. Other nori types
involve dish-spinning, tightrope walking, tumbling (ddangjeju or salpan), mask
dances and puppet plays.
Namsadang and B-boys
Salpan, one of the namsadang performance categories, resembles break danc-
Popular Culture and Hallyu 69
Namsadang performance (salpan)
Experiencing Namsadang Nori
Namsadang nori keeps an exciting
part of traditional culture alive through
performances and classes. You can
have more fun by comparing the
modern B-boy break dancing to the
namsadang performances. You can
discover how the
excellent Korean
break dancing is
linked to tradition.
Anseong Namsadang Baugeogi
Pungmul Troupe
Anseong Namsadang Baugeogi
Namsadang and B-boys
ing in many respects. The performers exhibit
exquisite skills on the floor, one after another,
similar to the way B-boys compete.
Originally, the namsadang performed nori from
9 in the evening till 3-4 in the following morning,
but nowadays performances are just 2-3 hours.
70 Passport to Korean Culture
Samullori and Nanta
The delightful samullori (4 traditional percussion instruments) performances
will captivate you, and you will unconsciously be following the exciting rhythm. On
the other hand, Nanta is a modern reinterpretation that helps people unfamiliar
Part I
with Korean culture appreciate Korean rhythms easily.
Samullori was inspired by traditional percussion playing (pungmul); the first
performance was held in 1978 at a small theater by Kim Yong-bae, Kim Deok-su,
Lee Gwang-su and Choi Jong-sil, who were namsadang troupe members. Since
then, this style has gained great popularity and is performed often.
Samullori Features
Samullori originated from outdoor percussion playing and dancing, and the
musical characteristics were refined for the stage. In other words, a kind of
The four samullori instruments
Popular Culture and Hallyu 71
Korea Today
Samullori Rhythms Origin
unstructured theatrical performance was developed into a musical genre.
Pungmul performers have no set number and play on their feet, moving with the
rhythm. By contrast, samullori consists of four performers only, who sit on the
stage and play one different instrument each--the small gong, barrel drum, hourglass drum and large gong.
Development of Samullori
Samullori continues to evolve. The four sounds are now being integrated with
other experimental and creative performing arts. Originally samullori was simply
an expression of traditional Korean percussion music, but then piano or orchestra
accompaniments were added, followed by the inclusion of jazz and rock musicians. The direction of diversification has also gone into traditional Korean dance.
Nanta: Aesthetics of the Beat
Nanta ("reckless striking") is a non-vocal musical performance consisting entirely of rhythm and beat. This unique genre delights audiences through bodily movement alone. The instruments are simple kitchenware such as chopping boards,
Nanta performance
72 Passport to Korean Culture
Nanta Performances
beat them in a samullori-like fashion, transform-
Experiencing Samullori
ing something ordinary into a new art form.
Samullori is performed at many
museums and there are also places
where you can learn to play the
instruments first-hand.
Culture Art Center Keun Deul
Hanul-sori Beat Company
Gwanghwa-mun Art Hall
Academy of Korean Music
Nanta Now a Standout Production
First performed in October 1997, Nanta drew
the biggest audience ever in the history of Korean
performance and was chosen as one of the Top
10 Things to See in Seoul by the Korea Tourism
Organization. Traditional samullori rhythms have
been integrated into a theatrical performance
featuring comic kitchen scenes that amuse audiences of all ages.
To Broadway and the World
Nanta was designed with the world market in mind and has been enthusiastically
received for its quality of composition and performance. A Nanta performance won
the highest accolades at the 1999 Edinburgh Festival, and subsequently the act has
remained a very successful in Japan, the UK, Germany, the US, Austria, Italy,
Taiwan, Australia, Russia, China and the Netherlands. In February 2004, Nanta
opened a long-running performance on Broadway, an Asian first.
Popular Culture and Hallyu 73
Part I
Korea Today
kitchen knives, pots, pans and dishes. The players
In 2000 Nanta became the first
Korean performing arts group to get
its own theater, a venue of about
300 seats in Jeong-dong, Seoul. A
second of similar size opened in
Cheongdam-dong (southern Seoul)
of similar size as the first one in
2002. The Jeong-dong facility was
expanded in 2003 to 500 seats.
Performances are held year around
at each theater.
Koreans at Leisure
Economic advancement and social stability have allowed Koreans to devote
more time to leisure. With greater disposable income, more and more Koreans
want to do more than just rest; they want to enjoy a leisure lifestyle. The working
population has received much more time off since when 5-day workweek went
Part I
into lay in July 2004. The ways in which this newfound leisure is spent differs, of
Korea Today
course, from person to person. Generalizations are risky, but some typical examples can be identified.
Hobby Clubs
Leisure activities are diversifying in Korea and becoming a greater part of everyday life. People who share the same hobby or interest now organize clubs, including sports clubs (bowling, hiking, inline skating, snowboarding, mountain biking,
marathon running, ping pong and baseball, to name a few) as well as photography
clubs, dance clubs and movie-watching clubs. Koreans who own the same model
automobile may form a club to exchange information related to their cars;
Inline skating club members
Leisure 75
gourmet club members seek out fancy restaurants together, while environmentalists and legal specialists band together to provide voluntary services.
Watching TV or Surfing the Web
A good many Koreans spend their
leisure time watching TV or sitting at
the computer. Each household has at
least one TV set and PC and, with the
availability of broadband, Koreans
have easy access to online games
and the worldwide web. In the past
only certain entertainers had their
own homepage, but now many peoWeb surfing
ple operate their own homepage or
blog, sharing their personal life and communicating with friends. Social network
services and blogging have become a popular means of passing time.
Hiking: an Activity for All Ages
Mountains have always been close
to the lives of Koreans. Older people
often go to mountains near their
homes each morning to draw fresh
spring water. Some do light exercises while there. People from their 20s
to their 70s go hiking on weekends,
sometimes alone, at other times in
groups. An estimated 15 million
Hikers enjoying the autumn scenery
Koreans hike today, including men
and women of all ages. Some are hard-core rock climbers, but most simply enjoy
the exercise and fresh air as a way to relieve stress.
76 Passport to Korean Culture
"Leports" (Leisure + Sports) Activities
The number of so-called "leports" enthusiasts continues to
grow. In summer, they go to
rivers for rafting, water skiing or
Part I
wind-surfing, while in winter,
tion the more venturesome
young people may try bungeejumping, survival games or inline
skating. Bicycle riding is gaining
popularity today as well. Many
people cycle along riverside
paths or country roads in stylish
wear, either alone or in groups.
Families at Parks
on Weekends
Many Korean families visit public parks or amusement parks on
weekends, trying out the rides and
eating a picnic lunch. The best
known destinations are Yongin
Everland Resort, Gwacheon Seoul
Land Amusement Park and Lotte
World, while smaller ones can be
found around the country. The
amusement parks often operate
art galleries or other family-type
programs nearby.
Everland Resort
Leisure 77
Korea Today
they ski or snowboard. In addi-
Norae-bang and Jjimjil-bang
Singing rooms (norae-bang) and dry saunas (jjimjil-bang) are good inexpensive
places to go with friends, colleagues or relatives. The norae-bang is an especially
popular place to go after dinner and drinks. The jjimjil-bang is favored by young
couples and families.
Norae-bang: For Men & Women of All Ages
The singing room (often called karaoke in
the West) is equipped with a large screen
that displays the lyrics as the song melody
plays. Microphones are attached for the
singers to use, and many of the people will
also dance. The charge varies by the time
of day and region of the country, but you
can expect to pay around
7,000 won for
each 30- minute increment.
The norae-bang machines have more than 1,000 different songs in various genres, including children's songs, pop songs old and new and traditional folk songs.
Japanese, Chinese and Western pop songs are also available.
The low cost, wide variety and easy accessibility make the norae-bang a popular
activity for people of all ages, from young children to the elderly. Businessmen
often take advantage of norae-bang as a way to entertain partners, helping to
build rapport and trust.
Norae-bang Services
The singing rooms charge a basic hourly (or half-hourly) rate. In the daytime, or
at other times when business is slow, the proprietor may offer a reduced rate or
extend of usage time without any additional charge. In principle, only nonalcoholic
beverages and snacks can be ordered at a norae-bang. The customer can request
78 Passport to Korean Culture
a CD recording of his/her singing to take home and use as a ringtone for a cell
phone or upload on a homepage.
The types of norae-bang has diversified of late, with private rooms for couples,
nightclub-type rooms with mirror balls and other lighting effects, and music video
game machines for dancing along.
Part I
A new trend is to post singing room activities online. Singing and dancing at an
offline norae-bang are recorded with a digital camera and uploaded for online
evaluation and comparison. The person who gets the highest score is named
"norae-bang jjang" ("champion of the singing room"). The highest marks are not
for singing ability but for the ability to rearrange a song most interestingly. The
first "norae-bang jjang" title was awarded to the "Dongseong-no Sisters," three
college women who appeared on the SBS TV program "Choi Su-jong Show" in
2004. Those crowned singing room champions are often treated like stars.
Jjimjil-bang: a Home away from Home
The jjimjil-bang, which began to appear in the mid-1990s, are large establishments that combine the gender-segregated public bathhouse with an area for
everyone to enjoy together. The separate rooms for men and women are equipped
with restrooms, hot tubs, showers, a sauna, a steam room and massage tables.
The term jjimjil-bang (the large dry sauna) refers to the common area, which will
also include a public sleep area, lounge with TV, PC room, restaurant serving
snacks and simple meals, large sauna, and ice room. Shirts, shorts, gowns and
towels are provided for all guests.
Here you can sleep and bathe outside your home. It is a great place for young
couples or families to spend quality time together, as well as club members to
relax after an outing. The jjimjil-bang is opened 24 hours a day, making it ideal for
night workers to relax after they get off. It is also an inexpensive accommodation
for travelers on a limited budget.
Leisure 79
Korea Today
Online Norae-bang
Inside a jjimjil-bang
Evolving Jjimjil-bang
The jjimjil-bang establishments continue to develop, getting larger, more luxurious and more diverse in their offerings. As such, they are no longer a simple space
for bathing only, a complex that includes a singing room, small movie theater, beau-
Significance of the Room
Koreans like rooms. On the street,
you will find singing rooms, game
rooms, DVD rooms, laundry rooms
and others. The rooms in the traditional Korean home(hanok) served
multiple functions: sleeping, eating,
receiving guests and doing work.
The bang concept is associated with
the closeness and warmth shared in
traditional Korean life. Today, however, the bang has become a place
for entertainment.
80 Passport to Korean Culture
ty parlor, skin-care salon, PC lounge and even
stage for live performances. These features make
them especially popular for people on dates.
Various search portals on the Internet allow
exchanges among people sharing the same
hobby, including lists of the most recommended
jjimjil-bang. The fanciest ones now have an "oxygen cave," DVD room, playroom for children, doctor fish spa, activated charcoal room, salt room,
and jade room. For the time and price, they provide excellent access to a sauna and many other
enjoyable facilities.
Tourist Attractions
There are many tourist attractions in Korea, popular with domestic and foreign
travelers alike. Highlights include scenic Jeju-do, the largest island in Korea, the
port city of Busan, historic sites and Buddhist temples. Visits to these places will
Part I
provide greater insight into Korean tradition and history.
Korea Today
Jeju Island
Aerial view of Halla-san
Leisure 81
Meaning of Oreum
The Jeju dialect includes the term
oreum, which refers to the small cinder cones with their own crater.
Jeju-do (Island) is pristine volcanic island and
world-class tourist destination. The island is
renowned for its natural environment, open
fields, beaches and mountains. UNESCO designated Jeju-do a world natural heritage. It is a
popular place among Koreans for honeymoons
and family trips, offering visitors a wide range of
Information on
Jeju Festivals and Tourism
Rape Flower Festival
Date: April 9~10
Place: Gyori-ri, Bukjeju-gun
things to see and do such as eco-tours and water
Jeju Scenery and Cuisine Halla-san (Mt.
Halla) is a 1,950-meter dormant volcano created
in the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic era in an eruption that covered the island
with basalt and lava. The name "Halla" means a height that reaches the stars."
The lake in the crater is called Baengnok-dam as well as some 1,800 plant
Jeju “Olle” tracking
82 Passport to Korean Culture
species that grow at different altitudes on the mountainsides. Also, more than 380
cinder cones (oreum) are disbursed about the island.
Udo Udo ("Cow Island"), with a shape reminiscent of a cow lying down, is in
Bukjeju-gun (North Jeju County). This beautiful islet is a great place for marine
fishing, bicycling and hiking. A submarine ride and cruise tour are available. Some
Part I
of the Korean movies filmed at this location include "Il Mare" and "My Mother the
Korea Today
Mermaid." Many tourists also come just to see the beautiful scenery and beaches.
Pony Rides There are many places for riding ponies on Jeju-do. Jeju ponies,
which have been designated as a "natural treasure," are much smaller than most
other breeds and look rather wild. Yet they are mild-natured and quick with their
feet. Most pony-riding venues are open fields that provide excellent views of Mt.
Halla and the beautiful seascape.
Gyeongju has been around for at least 1,000 years, serving as the capital of the Silla
Kingdom (57BCE-935AD). Many
important historical sites and
UNESCO designated the area as
a World Heritage Site in
December 2000. The city has
been divided into five districts
based on the nature of the sites
located in each: Buddhist fine
art, ancient ruins of royal
Hwangnyong-sa (Temple) ruins;
and defense works. A total 52
Gyeongju Nam-san
Leisure 83
Temple Stay Program
- Regular program: Experience the
tea ceremony with the monk in
charge of Seon (Zen) meditation.
Free program
- Offering with evening worship: A
brief retreat from busy everyday
life for personal reflection
An overnight program
- Seated meditation (Chamseon)
Cultural program
- Arts of making hanji, traditional
tea-ceremony, making materials
for natural dying, strolling along
the wooded trails
designated cultural heritages are included in the
World Heritage area.
The Nam-san ("South Mountain") District is
like an outdoor museum with hundreds of mostly
Buddhist relics disbursed throughout. Relics of
note include Na-jeong a well related to the foundation myth of Silla; Poseok-jeong, a pleasure
pavilion that played a part in Silla's demise, stone
images of the reclining Buddha at Mireuk-gol
(Maitreya Valley), stone images of the standing
Buddha at Beri and Buddha images carved on a
cliff face at Chilbul-am (Hermitage). Gyeongju
was the capital of Silla, a kingdom that lasted a
thousand years and reigned over the entire
Korean Peninsula for some 250 years. This part
of the old city boasts important architectural structures, Buddhist relics and monuments.
Haein-sa Haein-sa is a major
Buddhist temple built on Mt. Gaya, in
South Gyeongsang Province in 802.
The area is sufficiently remote to
avoid the onslaught of invading
armies over the centuries. Haein-sa
preserves the 80,000+ woodblocks for
printing the world's most complete
edition of the Buddhist Canon
Tripitaka Koreana
(Tripitaka Koreana). The name Haein-
sa (Ocean Symbol Temple) comes from the phrase "ocean symbol samadhi" (a state
of deep meditation) in the Avatamsaka-sutra, referring to the Buddha's state of
84 Passport to Korean Culture
mind when preaching the first sermons after his enlightenment. Haein-sa, keeper
of the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks, is a Buddhist treasure for the entire world.
Part I
Korea Today
Night view of Busan
Busan is Korea's second largest city and the world's fifth largest port--an
important international logistics center with beautiful coastline and mountains. In
addition, the areas offer many sights worth seeing and festivals of all kinds.
Haeundae Beach Busan's Haeundae district is famous for its long stretch of
beach and beautiful coastline. This is one of the most popular summer destina-
Leisure 85
Haeundae beach
tions for Koreans and foreign visitors alike. Indeed, the name "Haeundae" is
almost synonymous with Busan for most Koreans. Every year, more tourists visit
Haeundae than any other place in the country.
High-rise buildings and hotels along the shoreline offer convenient shopping
and great sightseeing. Annual events here include celebrations of the first full
moon in the lunar new year (January or February), "Polar Bear" swimming competition (winter), sand sculptures (June) and the Busan Sea Festival (August). In
the vicinity are Dongbaek Island, the Oryukdo Islands, a major aquarium, a yachtracing marina, the Busan Exhibition & Convention Center (BEXCO), and various
scenic drives.
Jagalchi Seafood Market This is where you can really meet the dynamic people of Busan. Jagalchi is one the most famous fisheries markets in Korea and a
Busan landmark. Here you can buy all kinds of fish freshly caught and enjoy raw
fish served right at the market shops. The atmosphere of the bustling market is a
treat in itself.
86 Passport to Korean Culture
Seorak Cultural Festival
This event is hosted by the city of
Seokcho every autumn (Oct. 1-3),
celebrating the beautiful autumn colors along with many other events in
the Seorak area.
Online Information on
Traveling in Korea
Seorak-san National Park
Seorak-san National Park Seorak-san (Mt.
Seorak) has 1,708m Daecheong-bong, the highest
peak in the Taebaek Mountain Range, considered
the backbone of the Korean Peninsula. UNESCO
designated the entire Seorak-san area as a
Biosphere Reserve in 1982 (Korea's first), for its
many rare species. Royal azaleas and other flowers
in spring, valleys with clean and fresh water in summer and magnificent autumn colors capture the
hearts of tourists, while the winter snow scenes are
also magnificent. On the east side is "Outer Seorak,"
which features Cheonbuldong-gyegok (valley),
Geumgang-gul (cave), Gwimyeon-am (rock),
Biryeong-pokpo (waterfall), Ulsan-bawi (rock),
Gweonggeum-seong (fortress wall), Oryeon-pokpo
(waterfall) and Towangseong-pokpo (waterfall).
Korea Tourism Organization:
Busan homepage
(English, Japanese, Chinese):
Nature and ecology tours:
Seoraksan National Park:
Korea Forest Service:
National Recreation Forest
Office: http://www.huyang.go.kr
KORAIL: http://www.korail.com
Seoul Express Bus Terminal:
Dong Seoul Terminal:
Seoul Nambu Terminal:
KAL: http://kr.koreanair.com
Jeju Air: http://www.jejuair.net
Leisure 87
Korea Today
Part I
Seoul City Tour
Seoul has been Korea's capital for more than 600 years, starting from the beginning of Joseon in 1392. Tradition and modernity exist side by side, offering a
diverse range of things to see and do. Visitors to Korea generally rate Seoul as
their primary destination for all that it offers.
88 Passport to Korean Culture
Traditional Culture in Seoul
Old Palaces Seoul is Korea's political, economic, cultural and educational captial,
with a forest of ultra-modern high-rises and crowds of bustling people. In stark contrast
to this are five elegant old palaces, offering people a moment of rest in peace. They are:
Gyeongbok-gung, the main palace; Changdeok-gung; Deoksu-gung; Gyeonghi-gung
Part I
and Changgyeong-gung. Each has its own story corresponding to its long history.
Korea Today
Seoul City Tour 89
Bukchon Hanok Village
Insa-dong & Bukchon Hanok Village
Insa-dong, near Gyeongbok-gung, is a traditional area bustling with shoppers (or
window-shoppers) for antiques, ceramics or souvenirs. Many come just to watch
the street performances or look at paintings on display at many art galleries.
Between Gyeongbok-gung and Changdeok-gung is Bukchon Hanok Maul
(Village), with many traditional tea houses. "Bukchon" (North Village) is so named
for its location north of Cheonggye-cheon (stream) and Chongno (street). This was
where the highest ranking government officials and royal family members lived in
Information on Seoul Palaces
& Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Maul
90 Passport to Korean Culture
traditional times. Some of the
old homes of nobility remain.
Unlike other residential areas
where high-rise apartments
are common, the narrow alleys
Part I
of Bukchon showe glimpses of
Korea Today
Seoul at an earlier time.
Various hanok guesthouses are
here for you to experience life
in a traditional Korean-style
The Dynamic City of Seoul
Beautiful Night Scenes
from Cheonggye-cheon &
Seoul Tower Cheonggyecheon (stream) has always
been an important part of
Seoul's history. The stream
Seoul Tower
symbolized the extreme poverty
in the city in the 1950s abd successful industrialization and
modernization in the 1960s and
1970s. Recently, it was reborn
as a public recreation area. The
concrete that once covered the
stream were removed in a
major project between 2003
and 2005, giving new life to the
Seoul City Tour 91
Information on Cheonggyecheon & Seoul Tower
Seoul Tower
Night at the Cheonggye-cheon
waterway. Now 22 bridges cross the stream, each in a unique style and illuminated brightly at night to provide a balance of water and light.
Meanwhile, Seoul Tower (or "Namsan Tower") commands a beautiful panoramic
view of Seoul. The view is especially striking at night, when the city is brighter
than the starry sky.
Shopping streets Shopping in Seoul is fun and easy. Myeong-dong is the most
Busy Myeong-dong street
92 Passport to Korean Culture
famous shopping area, where locals and foreign visitors alike fill department
stores, arcades and diverse restaurants.
Namdaemun Market Namdaemun Market is the biggest open market in
Korea, where clothes, food and other everyday items are sold. The style is both
traditional and modern, with plenty of goods available at low prices. By contrast,
Part I
Dongdaemun Market is a place to buy fashionable clothes at low prices, making it
Korea Today
especially popular among young shoppers. Itaewon is still another excellent shopping destination in Seoul, and the merchants there cater to foreigners. The
Itaewon area is home to many different nationalities of people,
and the cuisines of different countries are available
Seoul Parks Not every place in Seoul is
busy and congested; ample outdoor space is
available for relaxation. One such place is
along the Han River (Hangang). Here people
Olympic Park and Seoul Forest
Seoul City Tour 93
come to jog, riding bicycles or inline skate, and you can also see families, lovers
and friends just engaging in friendly conversation. The Han River flows east to
west through Seoul, and twelve different parks are along either side. They have
outdoor swimming pools, various exercise facilities, motorboat and canoe rentals,
fishing spots, windsurfing areas and places for sunbathing. Besides the Han
River, you can visit Olympic Park, World Cup Park, Seoul Forest and other spots to
get some relaxation in nature.
Han River Parks
The Han River is a very popular place
to go for Seoulites to get some fresh
air and relaxation. Twelve parks are
located along the river, including
those at Yeouido, Ddukseom, Banpo
and Jamsil. You can board sightseeing boats at eight different locations,
and the night scenery from the river
is especially enjoyable. Today 22
bridges cross the Han. Various cultural events and festivals are held at
the riverside, including the Hangang
Rainbow Festival and Seoul
International Fireworks Festival (end
of September or early October).
Information on Han River parks
Hangang Rainbow Festival
Seoul International Fireworks
Festival (www.bulnori.com/)
Hangang Renaissance Project The Seoul City
government has been working to improve the Han
River parks through the "Hangang Renaissance
Project," which was launched in 2007 and will be
completed in 2030. Each location is being developed with a separate theme, providing residents
with a wide range of cultural activities.
Hot Spots for Young People A passionate
city like Seoul has many bustling places for
young people. One of the most popular today is
the area called Hongdae-ap, near Hongik
University. This is famous for its clubs with live
bands, and unique cafes. The clubs are packed
with dancers, especially on weekends.
Daehang-no is well known for small theaters
where dramas, musicals and concerts are staged.
Marronnier Park, in the center of the Daehang-no
area, is a favorite spot for young street performers. COEX in Gangnam is always filled with young
people who come to enjoy exhibitions, fairs, the
aquarium, movies and shopping.
94 Passport to Korean Culture
Part I
Korea Today
Youthful band in front of Hongdae
Dynamic, passionate
‘Hi Seoul Festival’
The Hi Seoul Festival is held each
season, organizing various events
and performances to spice up people's daily routines.
Sinchon has many of Korea's leading universities and is naturally another popular place for
students and other young people who want to
eat, drink or shop. Trendy Apgujeong-dong in
Gangnam has emerged as the place to go for the
latest in fashion and also has many excellent
Seoul City Tour Bus
Package Tour
Operated day and night, the Seoul
City Tour Bus offers tours to famous
tourist attractions in Seoul at your
convenience. This package tour covers all the main sights and is very
popular among both Koreans and
shops and restaurants.
Seoul City Tour 95
Korea has many museums, each with its own type of displays. In recent years,
theme museums have been attracting many visitors.
National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea is the largest museum in Seoul, exhibiting a vast
collection of world-class artifacts. In addition to the quality exhibits are cultural
programs and performances. The 1st floor has 10 halls that focus on prehistory
and early history. On display are artifacts from the Paleolithic Age as well as
Goguryeo, Balhae, Baekjae and Silla kingdoms. On the 2nd floor you can appreciate the best of Korean fine art, including many important works in calligraphy and
painting in various genres. The 3rd floor is devoted to Buddhist texts; metal and
ceramic articles; and cultural artifacts from China, Japan, India and Central Asia,
helping you understand, experience and compare the various cultural legacies of
Front view of the National Museum of Korea
96 Passport to Korean Culture
Asia. The outdoor exhibition features two important pagodas, Yeomgeo hwasangtap (National Treasure No. 104) and Jingyeongdaesa boweol neunggong-tap of
Bongnim-sa (Treasure No. 362).
National Folk Museum of Korea
The National Folk Museum of Korea is on the grounds of Gyeongbok-gung
from traditional times to the present. Here you can get a better idea of how
lifestyles have evolved on the Korean Peninsula.
Each museum building has features borrowed from some of Korea's most
important Buddhist architecture. The front of the main building resembles
Cheongun-gyo and Baekun-gyo, the two "bridges" (stairways) leading into
Bulguk-sa, and the building is topped by a five-story pagoda modeled after
Palsang-jeon (hall) at Beopju-sa. The three-story east wing resembles Mireukjeon (hall) at Geumsan-sa, and the architecture of the two-story west wing is
inspired by Gakhwang-jeon (hall) at Hwaeom-sa. There are three standing exhibits
as well as an outdoor exhibit, children's museum, and special exhibition hall. The
main hall has models of the nine-story pagoda of Hwangnyong-sa (Silla kingdom),
Mireuk-sa (Baekjae kingdom), and Geunjeong-jeon and Dongsipja-gak (Joseon
Seoul Museum of History
The Seoul Museum of History
opened in May 2002 to show the history and traditional culture of the
Korean capital. The museum has
special exhibits, standing exhibits,
donated collections, theme exhibits,
a hall of fame for special donations,
online exhibits and designated cul-
Seoul Museum of History
Seoul City Tour 97
Korea Today
(palace) and has a collection of 2,240 artifacts related to the daily lives of Koreans
Part I
tural heritages. Various events are offered on weekdays, including the free
"Wednesday Movie," and "Gallery Talk" on Thursdays (twice a month) to provide
in-depth information of the exhibits. The monthly "Music Night at the Museum"
concert is held on a Friday.
National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts
The National Center for
Korean Traditional Performing
Arts (NCKTPA) is the only
museum dedicated to traditional music. The collection
includes some 3,000 items,
including books and other documents as well as various
musical instruments. YeakNCKTPA
dang, a hall opened in 1996, is
used solely for traditional music performances and features a traditional stage
and adobe-plastered walls to complete the mood. Wumyeondang is a small theater (seats 300) that brings the audience close to the performers in an intimate
atmosphere. Performances here include traditional music, dance and plays.
Kimchi Museum
The Kimchi Museum studies
and researches the pickled vegetables that are such an integral
part of Korean cuisine. Kimchi
is becoming more popular
worldwide as a health food, and
today, the museum draws about
Kimchi Museum
98 Passport to Korean Culture
100,000 visitors a year. The exhi-
bitions cover the history and
many varieties of kimchi, providing a wealth of information. The
museum collects kimchi-related
studies, statistics, theses, and
Part I
reference books, while publish-
Korea Today
ing its own brochures and performing research projects of its
Ddeok Museum
The Ddeok Museum displays
some 2,000 items related to traditional Korean culinary arts,
focusing on the rice cake, or
ddeok. This nourishing food has
been with Koreans for millennia
and comes in various types with
different tastes. The rice cake
tradition has developed over a long time and
evolved with changing lifestyles. Songpyeon
(pine-flavored rice cake) is prepared for Chuseok
(Harvest Moon), and rice cake soup (ddeokguk)
from sliced rice cake bars (garaetteok) is a must
on Lunar New Year's (Seol). Deok is also traditionally handed out to guests who have come to
celebrate a child's first birthday. The Ddeok
Museum also has a program that allows you to
make traditional rice cake yourself, providing
Ddeok Museum
National Folk Museum of Korea:
National Museum of Korea:
Kimchi Museum:
Ddeok Museum:
Seoul Museum of History:
insight into traditional Korean life.
Seoul City Tour 99
Part 2
Korea in History
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage
1. Hanbok
2. Major Holidays
3. Traditional Life Experience
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People
4. Classical Music
5. Traditional Dance
6. Graceful Pottery
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage
Traditional Korean attire, hanbok, is an important cultural symbol. Hanbok
styles are distinctive, depending on gender and social status, and hanbok was
worn on formal occasions as a form of etiquette. Hanbok has evolved over time
and is worn much less frequently today, but Koreans, especially the women, still
like to wear it on holidays and special occasions such as weddings. The hanbok
Part 2
designs have been simplified in modern times for greater convenience.
Korea in History
Woman in beautiful hanbok
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage 103
Hanbok Styles & Colors
A set of hanbok includes the jeogori (jacket),
for both men and women, and chima (skirt) for
women and baji (trousers) for men. The duru-
magi (overcoat) is worn over the jeogori not only
for warmth but also for formality. The beauty of
hanbok comes from the harmony of graceful
Eaves of a Korean house
lines. For instance, the women's jeogori blends
straight lines with the soft, curved lines reminiscent of the eaves on a traditional building.
Western clothes are designed to fit tightly, but
the chima is square shaped and wrapped
around the wearer. It drapes down naturally,
almost touching the ground, to create elegant
and graceful lines. The wrap-around skirt provides the wearer with flexibility and
room, regardless of body type. The
short jeogori combines with the
long, graceful chima to provide balance and elegance.
In traditional times, Korean commoners usually wore white clothes,
while the hanbok was normally
reserved for members of the royal
Rainbow-striped hanbok
family or noble class. Commoners
were permitted to wear hanbok on their wedding day.
The materials and colors allowed would differ according to the occasion and
status of the wearer. For example, a bride would wear a colorful combination (for
example red chima with green or yellow jeogori) for her wedding. Probably, the
best color harmony is found in the rainbow-striped hanbok for children.
104 Passport to Korean Culture
Part 2
Modern Hanbok
Modern Koreans prefer wearing Western-style
clothes, which are more comfortable and convenient than the traditional one. However, hanbok is
still worn on special days such as Lunar New Year's
(Seol) and the Harvest Moon (Chuseok). The traditional clothes provide the proper
formality for offering sacrifices to deceased ancestors and visit one's elderly parents. Other special occasions that warrant hanbok include a child's first birthday
or pyebaek, the bride's formal greeting to her in-laws immediately after the wedding ceremony.
In recent years, modified hanbok outfits have
been designed for everyday use. The style is convenient to wear but retains the basic traditional
look. Buttons are used, and the sleeves and
trouser legs are narrower than with the tradition-
Buying a Hanbok
The price of a hanbok outfit can vary
widely depending on the materials
and workmanship. Low priced hanbok is available at Namdaemun,
Dongdaemun or Gwangjang Markets.
al hanbok. The colors are also less garish.
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage 105
Korea in History
Family in hanbok
Major Holidays
As in any culture, Koreans have seasonal days for celebration. The most important of these traditionally were Seol (Lunar New Year's Day), Daeboreum (1st full
moon of lunar year), Hansik (2nd lunar month), Buddha's birthday (4th lunar
month), Dano (5th lunar month), Yudu (6th lunar month), Baekjung (7th lunar
month), Chuseok (8th lunar month and Dongji (winter solstice, 11th lunar month).
Today, Koreans mainly celebrate Seol, Daeboreum, and Chuseok.
Seol, Lunar New Year's Day, has long been one of the two most important seasonal holidays for Koreans. (The other is Chuseok.) On Seol, family and close relatives get together in the morning to offer a sacrifice to their ancestors called
charye. Items on the carefully prepared sacrificial table will include fish and meat
Charye table
106 Passport to Korean Culture
dishes, fruit and rice cakes. After the charye, the younger members of the family
perform saebae, a ritual bowing to their elders, wishing them good health and
luck. In return, the children are given money, called saebae-don.
Seol Customs & Games
Part 2
Ddeokguk (beef soup with thin
on Lunar New Year's Day. The significance of this custom has several
According to one theory, Seol, the
first day of the new year, means
"brightness," and the white color
of the rice cake is bright, while its
round shape represents the sun.
Another theorypostulates that the
long and white rice cake rolls
( garaet-ddeok ) is symbolic of a
pure and long life. The rice cake
shapes and other ingredients in
the soup sometimes differ by
region. In Gaeseong, for instance,
they formerly used rice cake
shaped like a bottle gourd (joraen-
gi ddeok-guk).
Traditional pastimes associated with Seol are yut (a traditional board game),
kite-flying, see-sawing and shuttlecock kicking. Kites flown on this day are said to
carry away bad influences for the coming year. Yut, or yut-nori is played between
two or more teams. The origin of this traditional board game was divination to
determine the harvest in the upcoming year.
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage 107
Korea in History
slices of rolled rice cake) is a must
Chuseok, the Harvest Moon, is the full moon in the 8th lunar month. Other
names for this important holiday are Hangawi and Jungchu-jeol. A table laden
with newly harvested rice and fruits is reverently offered to deceased ancestors,
followed by visits to ancestral graves. The weeds and grass on the graves is either
removed in advance or during the Chuseok visit. People relax during the Chuseok
holidays (3-4 days), as they have lots to eat and time on their hands. Koreans thus
have a saying: "Things should always be like they are on Chuseok, no more, no
Chuseok Customs & Games
Chuseok is a celebration of an
abundant harvest of grains, fruit and
other things. Pine-flavored rice cake
(songpyeon) is an indispensable part
of Chuseok fare. The rice cakes are
first molded into half-moon shapes,
then stuffed with filling (beans, red
beans, chestnuts or jujubes) and
steamed. Traditionally, the whole
Making songpyeon
family would get together on
Chuseok eve to make songpyeon
under the moonlit sky. The person
who crafted the most beautiful song-
pyeon was supposed to find a good
spouse or have beautiful children, so
everyone would work hard at the
task. Nowadays, people usually just
buy premade songpyeon from shops.
108 Passport to Korean Culture
Many forms of traditional enter-
tainment and games were enjoyed during
the Chuseok season. Farmers' music and
dance added gaiety while villagers competed in games such as tug-of-war. Koreanstyle wrestling (ssireum) competitions were
Part 2
held to determine the strongest man.
women would join hands to dance a circle
dance called Ganggangsullae. These activities used to be carried out in each village,
but now people just watching them on TV or
attend live performances at palaces or the-
Modern Scenes
Traditionally, seasonal holidays were a time for the extended family to get
together. Those who live far away would return to their birth home. Most Koreans
today still take time out from their busy lives to visit their parents or kin back in
the hometown on Seol or Chuseok. The mass exodus to the countryside from
urban centers like Seoul causes severe traffic congestion, and seats on public
transportation are hard to get.
Not everyone is idle during the holidays. The women usually remain very busy
preparing food for the sacrificial ceremonies and serving family members and
guests. Thus, these occasions are not always welcomed by the women, even
though families prepare less than they used to. Much more of the food is simply
bought instead of being made from scratch.
When a special holiday approaches, traditional markets and department stores
bustle with people buying food and gifts. The markets seem to exude a festive
mood. On Seol and Chuseok, people exchange many gifts such as traditional confectionery (han-gwa), health food and boxes of fruit.
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage 109
Korea in History
People would supplicate the full moon, and
Traditional Life Experience
Many places in Korea offer a chance to experience the Korean traditional way of
living. Some offer participatory programs related to special holidays. If you are
interested, you may want to visit one of the regional folk villages (minsok-chon).
Yong-in Minsok-chon
The Korean Folk Village near Yong-in, about an hour south of Seoul, is an outdoor folk museum where the Korean traditional way of living is reenacted. This is
the largest establishment of the kind in Korea, and you will need a full day to see
everything sufficiently. The Korean Folk Village has a vast collection on display,
including about 270 traditional buildings and more than 16,000 tools and household implements used some 150 years ago. Everything was relocated here from
Snow-covered Yong-in Minsok-chon
110 Passport to Korean Culture
Part 2
Korea in History
New layer of straw for roof
Greeting a new year
around the country.
The buildings include the homes of commoners and upper-class people, government offices,
schools, herbal medicine clinic, Buddhist temple
and shrine to local deities. Each house contains
daily-used utensils and shows how the people of
different classes lived in the old days.
Koreans and foreign visitors can experience the
traditional lifestyle at a number of different
places. Minsok-chon performs a traditional wedding ceremony twice a day beginning from March
11 through November. Farmers' music and
tightrope walking are also performed.
The Korean Folk Village at Yong-in attracts
some 1.7 million visitors a year, of which about
30% are foreign. This is a good place for families to go, as facilities are also provided for children to have fun. Regular events held here
include sauce making and folk customs. Special
programs are also organized for specific holidays.
Table for Traditional wedding ceremony
Information on Korean
Folk Village
Transportation: Buses run from
Seoul (Gangnam, Yeouido,
Chongno) and Suweon.
Admission: 12,000 (adults) for
Folk Village only. Package coupons
are available for additional facilities.
Experience programs are offered
monthly. For further details, visit
the homepage.
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage 111
Andong Hahwe-maul
Andong Hahwe-maul:
a Living Confucian Tradition
An overnight trip to Hahwe-maul
(village) in Andong, North Gyeongsang
Province is recommended for those
who want to know how Korean gentry
lived in Joseon and learn more about
Korea's Confucian tradition. The village received media attention when
British Queen Elizabeth II at the Hahwe-maul
British Queen Elizabeth II visited
there, and more recently it was the
setting for the historicaldramas "Hwangjini," "Scandal," and "Singijeon."
A tributary of the Nakdong River encloses this village in an 'S' shape. This is the
ancestral home of the Pungsan Yu clan and an excellent example of a single-clan
112 Passport to Korean Culture
Food in Andong
village. The entire community, with its well-preserved cultural artifacts, has been designated as
a major folklore resource. There are 130 homes
between 300 and 500 years old, providing a
glimpse of how people of various classes lived in
Joseon. They also serve as valuable resource for
studying traditional gentry lifestyles and the
architectural development of Joseon homes.
Hahwe byeolsin-gut tal-nori is an annual competition among commoners and seonyujul bul-
nori is a unique game for gentry. Both have been
preserved here. The masks worn for the byolsin-
gut (a shaman dance to the village god) are
believed to have originated during Goryeo (9181392) and have been designated as "national
treasures," evidence of thelong history of this village. The mask dance is still performed once or
twice a week.
How to Get to Andong
Transportation: Take the express
bus from Seoul (Dong Seoul
Terminal) to Andong, then transfer
to buses for Hahwe-maul.
Lodging: Some 30 home-stay
establishments are available. For
reservations call the Hahwe-maul
Preservation Assn.
(054- 853-0109)
For more details, visit the Andong
Hahwemaul homepage:
In Pursuit of the Korean Heritage 113
Part 2
Korea in History
A Hahwe mask
Andong Hahwe-maul is famous for
its salted mackerel, jjimdak (steamed
chicken) and soju (clear liquor).
Another favorite is heotjesa-bab (literally "food offered in a false ritual").
This dish does not use the spicy
bean paste found in bibim-bab, and
is prepared and served simply.
Steamed rice is covered with various
vegetables, sliced roast beef and
jeon (vegetable panc a k e ) .
A n d o n g
soju, designated as a
local intangible cultural
property, is
symbolic of
the Andong culinary tradition.
Korean soju dates back to Goryeo,
and the best-known local soju types
are from Andong, Gaeseong and Jeju.
Andong soju is also used for medicinal purposes.
Elegant Tastes of
the Korean People
Classical Music
"Korean classical music" refers to a special genre of traditional music, not to be
confused with Western classical music. The tunes include those handed down
from the past and those recently composed.
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Korea in History
Korean Musical Instruments
indigenous geomun-go
zither) and gaya-geum
(half tube, 12-stringed
zither) date back to antiquity, while various flutes
and the lute ( bipa ) were
first brought in from
Central Asia and China.
Over the centuries, dis-
tinctively Korean styles of playing have evolved for even the imported instrument
The National Center for Korean
Traditional Performing Arts (NCKTPA)
keeps 64 different kinds of instruments,
which are classified either by the material used to make them or by the kind of
music they are used to play. Recently,
they have also been classified according
to performance technique, in the same
way Western musical instruments are
classified. For example, the dae-geum
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People 115
(large horizontal flute), jung-geum (medium-sized flute) and tongso (long notched
vertical bamboo flute) are classified as wind instruments. The gaya-geum, geo-
mun-go, hae-geum (2-stringed fiddle), and ajeng (7-stringed zither, bowed with a
rosined stick) are refreed to as stringed instruments, while the buk (barrel drum),
jing (large gong), janggo (hour-glass drum) are in the percussion category.
Jongmyo Jerye-ak (music for royal ancestral rite)
with 600-years of history
One category of traditional Korean music is Jongmyo Jerye-ak, a combination of
music, lyric songs and dances performed during ceremonies to deceased kings
and queens at the Royal Ancestral Shrine (Jongmyo). The solemn rites praise the
meritorious achievements of past kings and offer prayers for the welfare of the
descendents before the altars of the state deities. The tradition has survived
intact, and the ceremonies are observed on the first Sunday of May each year.
Jongmyo Jerye-ak is also performed at the National Center for Korean Traditional
Jongmyo Jerye
It is performed each May
and open to the public.
Jongmyo Jerye-ak
116 Passport to Korean Culture
Performing Arts. Discs of the music are available.
Pansori (an oral narrative sung by a
professional singer accompanied by a
Part 2
single drummer) was developed from
Korean Peninsula. This important genre
of Korean traditional music was designated by UNESCO as a World Intangible
Heritage in 2003.
The singer's lyrics (aniri) tell a story to
A pansori scene
the drum beat and his gestures (balim) add dramatic effect. The performance lasts
two to three hours, and seven different tempos are employed, from slow to fast.
Originally 12 full-length stories (madang) were performed, but only five remain today:
Heungbu-ga, Simcheong-ga, Chunhyang-ga, Jeokbyeok-ga and Sugung-ga.
Korean Folk Songs
Arirang is the most well-known of the Korean folk song genre (minyo), and is
familiar to people in many countries. Simple songs expressing the thoughts, lives
and sentiments of common folk have been loved from time immemorial. Starting
out as work songs, they have been handed down orally, but their composers are
unknown. Most minyo songs use the same melody for each verse, which is followed by a refrain. They are divided into two main categories: folk songs native to
certain regions and the chang (ballad) type. The former are simple and of local
color, while the latter are beautiful and refined. The more famous chang folk
songs are Arirang, Yukja-baegi, and Susimga. Melodies vary by region. Those
sung in Gyeonggi Province are called Gyeonggi-minyo; those in the western region
are Seodo-minyo; those in the south are called Namdo-minyo and those on Jeju
Island are Jeju-minyo.
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People 117
Korea in History
mid-Joseon in the southern part of the
Rearranging Traditional Music
Traditional Korean music today is often being rearranged into a modern style.
Young musicians especially like to take traditional forms in new directions, performing modern music with traditional instruments to make them more appealing
to the general public. Original interpretations of traditional music are easier for
young people to appreciate, while more bands play a fusion style that combines
traditional Korean instruments with modern Western ones such as the piano.
Where to Experience & Learn
Traditional Instruments
The NCKTPA holds diverse performances and classes for foreigners
to learn how to play the janggu,
danso, gaya-geum, hae-geum and
samullori. (www.gugak.go.kr)
Chongdong Theatre
Traditional Korean music and fusion
gukak are performed here.
Fusion band with traditional instruments
Fusion Gukak on the Rise
Gukak (traditional court, folk and religious music collectively) has
been reinterpreted in fusion forms, adding modern, youthful sentiments to familiar themes and sounds. Gukak seasoned with jazz is
becoming popular, and Korean parents like for their younger children to be exposed to fusion gukak to develop their sentimentality.
Cumbaya, a fusion gukak band, played Cuban musical instruments
and rhythms on the outdoor stage at the National Center for
Korean Traditional Performing Arts (NCKTPA), and received an
enthusiastic response. The NCKTPA program "Bringing Gukak to People" offers a repertory of familiar
and modern works reinterpreted from heavy court music. NCKTPA's "Tradition and Rule-Breaking" program presents the scores from "Titanic," "Cinema Paradiso," and "Comrades: Almost a Love Story"
played in gukak style. Meanwhile, the Traditional Music Orchestra of Seoul recently performed
Gukakjjang, Jaemijjang ("Great Gukak, Great Fun"), bringing together pansori and Andes music. The audience loved it.
118 Passport to Korean Culture
Traditional Dance
Koreans have long been known for their love of singing and dancing. Traditional
dances genres are classified as either folk or court, the former being the most
popular and diverse.
Part 2
Ancient dances in Korea and elsewhere often begin as rites to Nature. Korean
dances can be powerful, dreamlike, sorrowful or elegant. They express spirit (sin)
and excitement (heung). Koreans have long been avid dancers, and historical
records document dancing and singing sprees lasting several days and nights as
part of ceremonies to the spirits.
Bongsan Tal-chum
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People 119
Korea in History
Features of Korean Dance
Folk Dances
Korean folk dances were handed
down by the common people rather
than being developed in the court.
There are three categories (1) group
dances such as Ganggangsullae
and the farmers' dance; (2)those
performed by professionals (mask
dance, Buddhist dance and spiritual
cleansing solo); and (3) Buddhist or
shamanist ritual dances (butterfly
dance and cymbal dance). The folk
dances express the emotion and
Buddhist dance
spirit of an entire people, while the
court dances were meant for a
select few.
Buchae-chum ("fan dance"), performed by a group of women with
feathered fans in both hands, was
introduced as a part of the Kim
Baek-bong Performing Arts Program
in November 1954 at Sigonggwan
theater in Seoul. The origins are presumed to be shamanist. The dancers
wear either hanbok or dangui (a kind
of court dress) and use the fans to
create circles, waves or floral patBuchae-chum
120 Passport to Korean Culture
terns. The effect is stunning.
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Korea in History
Mask Dance Drama
Mask Dance Drama
The mask dance drama originated from village-level shamanist rituals (burak-
gut) to pray for a good harvest and the prosperity of the villagers. The tradition has
been handed down in the form of folk plays and reflects a range of emotions such
as sorrow, happiness and scorn of the powers that be. Themes include ceremonial rites; depraved monks; poverty-stricken yangban (nobles); love triangles
between a man, his wife and concubine; and the daily lives of common folk.
Korean mask dances have different names by region: tal-chum in the north,
sandae-nori in the central region and ogwangdae in the south. Best known today
are the tal-chum from Gangnyeong and Bongsan; sandae-nori from Yangju and
Songpa; ogwangdae from Tongyeong, Goseong and Gasan; and deul-noreum from
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People 121
Major mask dance dramas by
region Mask Dance Types
The Bongsan Mask Dance ( tal-
chum) Drama emerged as the leading style in Hwanghae Province (present-day North Korea) by the late
18th century. It continued to develop,
influenced by other styles around the
country and reached its peak around
the turn of the 20th century. The
Bongsan tal-chum began to be performed in Sariwon in 1915, when the
township administration office
moved there and the Seoul-Shinuiju
Railway opened. Around that time,
the lion dance ( saja-chum ) was
incorporated into the Bongsan acts.
The Bongsan Mask Dance Drama
was regularly held on Dano Day (5th
Bongsan Tal-chum
day of 5th lunar month) and was also
performed at important events such as the birthday or inauguration of the county
magistrate, or visits by foreign envoys.
The Bongsan Tal-chum Masks
The Bongsan Mask Dance Drama is divided into seven acts and has 34 different
roles but only 26 different masks, meaning some masks are used for more than
one role. The Bongsan masks are more colorful than those used in other regions,
using mainly blue, red, white, black and yellow. The colors are used to indicate the
gender and age of the character, for example black for an old person and red for a
young person. A whit mask would represent a young woman.
122 Passport to Korean Culture
Graceful Pottery
Korean potters were influenced by China but developed their own unique, beautiful forms. In traditional
times, pottery was close the lives of all people, and
Part 2
today remains an extremely important part of Korea's
Korea in History
heritage. Studies of pottery provide insights into how
life was like during each historical era.
Korean Pottery Origins
Pottery consists of two major categories: earthenware (or clayware) and porcelain (or ceramic ware).
Earthenware was developed first and is baked at relatively low temperature. The first earthenware on the
Korean Peninsula dates back to between 6000 and
Earthenware figurine of
horse and rider
5000 BCE. Porcelain, on the other hand, is kaolin (a
fine white clay) glazed and baked at high temperature (1,300 C). During the 9th
century (Unified Silla), porcelain was introduced to the Peninsula from China.
A Unique Ceramic Art
Although influenced by and closely related to Chinese pottery, Koreans developed a pottery-making tradition that rivaled and at times surpassed what was
being produced in China.
Delicate & Refined Goryeo Celadon
Goryeo developed a unique pottery tradition in the late 10th century, producing
the finest works of celadon (cheongja). Celadon is porcelain noted for its greygreen (or grey-blue) glaze, a technique originally imported from China. However,
the Goryeo potters distinguished themselves with an unsurpassed beauty in terms
of both color and form. The excellence of the mysteriously subtle and almost trans-
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People 123
Pottery in Modern Life
Koreans use pottery every day, as
rice or soup bowls or cups. Massproduced pottery is readily available
at conventional markets, department
stores and so on. At Insa-dong,
hand-made pottery is also available.
parent color is recognized even by the Chinese.
Uniquely Beautiful
Inlaid Celadon
Goryeo potters began
applying the sanggam
method (intricate designs
carved into the vase, and
other materials added to
the forms) with kaolin around
the 12th century. The patterns
(notably clouds and cranes)
are heavily influenced by
Buddhism and indicate how
Information on Pottery Making
and Exhibits
National Museum of Korea
Haegang Goryo Celadon
Icheon Ceramic Festival:
Adventure of the Fire is held every
year, from the end of April to the
end of May.
the Goryeo people put greater
Goryeo cheongja
emphasis on future life than on
their present existence. The
inlaid pieces are especially
prized for their artistry
and beauty, the pinnacle
of porcelain making.
Rustic & Comfortable
Buncheong Ware
Buncheong-sagi refers to
a particular type of ceramic
ware decorated with a white
slip coating under the glaze.
Introduced in early Joseon,
Pottery of the sanggam
124 Passport to Korean Culture
this style has a grayish green
Part 2
Korea in History
body with painted designs or designs carved in after the
body was covered with white clay. It lacks the refined
form and surface decoration of Goryeo celadon, but is
friendly and comfortable in mood.
Joseon was strongly influenced by Neo-Confucianism,
and the present world had more meaning than life after
death. Reflecting this change in priorities, the pottery
was designed for practicality with simple expression
and bold patterns. The patterns reflect the prototype of
native Korean aesthetics.
Buncheong wine bottle with fish
Simple & Clean White Porcelain
White porcelain (baekja) is made by painting clear glaze over ceramic made from
white clay. It was first developed in China and appeared on the Korean Peninsula in
early Goryeo, along with celadon. However, baekja did not come into its own until
early Joseon, completely replacing buncheong ware by the 17th century.
Korean baekja is usually pure white, but sometimes green or milk color is added
to the clay to create a paler effect. Joseon Confucianism emphasized frugality and
integrity, and the white porcelain reflected that sentiment with simple, clean-looking patterns, distinguishing itself from the bright colored ceramics of contemporary China and Japan. Common motifs on Joseon baekja are bamboo, pine trees,
plum blossoms, dragons, cranes, and peonies.
Elegant Tastes of the Korean People 125
Part 3
Korea and
Its People
Korea in the World
1. Geography, Climate and Population
2. The People
3. Spoken and Written Language
4. Emerging Multicultural Society
5. Korean Enterprises and Economy
A Glimpse of Korea
6. UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in Korea
Korea in the World
Geography, Climate and Population
The Korea Peninsula is situated on the eastern end of the Asian continent, bordering China and Russia in the north. The Japanese islands are to the east. The
peninsula is about 1,000km north to south with a total area of 223,273km (South
Korea: 100,140km , North Korea: 123,133km ), about the same size as the UK,
Part 3
New Zealand or Italy.
Korea and Its People
Of the world's significantly sized countries, the Republic of Korea (or South
Korea) has the third highest population density (behind Bangladesh and Taiwan).
Yet 70% of the territory is mountainous. Few of the mountains are higher than
1,000m above sea level, however, and most are in the east. The west and south
coastlines are rugged and have many islands, but the east coast is relatively
smooth and has plenty of beautiful beaches.
Seoul is the capital of the Republic of Korea and administratively designated as
a "special city." Six other cities (Incheon, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju, Ulsan and
Korea in the World 129
Spring in Korea
Busan) are referred to administratively
as "metropolitan cities," meaning they
have the same status as a province,
while there are 9 provinces (Gyeonggi,
Gangweon, North Chungcheong, South
Chungcheong, North Gyeongsang,
South Gyeongsang, North Jeolla,
South Jeolla and Jeju.
Climate & Seasons
Korea is a peninsular country, but its
climate differs greatly between winter
and summer because of its location on
the east coast of the Asian continent.
Winter temperatures in most regions
130 Passport to Korean Culture
Beautiful Autumn
Part 3
Korea and Its People
Snowy winter
can fall between 0 C and minus 15 C in some regions, while summer temperao
tures will exceed 30 C for many days in some regions.
The climate is generally humid and annual precipitation ranges between 800
and 1,500mm. About half of the rain falls between June and August (30% of the
total in July alone).
Korea has four distinct seasons. Spring is from March to May; summer, from
June to August; autumn, from September to November, and winter, from
December to February. Spring is windy but mild, and azaleas and forsythias begin
to bloom in the southern part of the country from late March. In late June, the
rainy season sets in and lasts until late July, after which the hottest summer days
are experienced. This is the time for people to head for the mountains or beaches;
Korea in the World 131
however, typhoons also occur between July and September.
Autumn offers many fine clear days with balmy temperatures. In late October,
the leaves begin to turn color, starting from the north. Many people like to go to
the mountains to enjoy the scenery. Snow can be heavy in the mountains during
winter, and many Koreans like to go skiing or sledding.
As of 2009, the South Korean population is over 48.8 million, ranking 26th in the
world. Annual population is currently increasing by 200,000 to 300,000, but Korean
society is aging at one of the world's fastest rates. People aged 65 or older are
expected to account for 11% of the total population in 2010 and 38.2% of all
Koreans by 2050.
High population density was a constant
Projection of Korean Population Pyramid, 2010
birth rate today is among the world's low-
World : 6,909million
bination of reasons: the transition from an
replacement of extended families with
nuclear families, increased participation
of women in the workforce, and skyrocketing costs for children's education. The
Korean government is now offering incen-
132 Passport to Korean Culture
est. The birth rate has slowed for a comagrarian to an industrialized society,
Korea : 49million
problem for Korean in the past, but the
tives to families to have more children.
Korean demographics are changing in
another important way as well. The
number of foreign residents in Korea
reached 1.2 million as of June 2009, of
which 150,000 were immigrant women
married to Korean men.
The People
Who are Koreans? What are the characteristics of the Korean people?
Korean Origins
Several theories have been proposed as to the origin of the Korean people, but
Racially, Koreans belong to the same group as the Han Chinese, Mongolians,
Manchurians, and Japanese, while linguistically they are part of the Ural-Altaicspeaking peoples, along with the Mongolians, Manchurians and Turks.
Ethnic Koreans and Korean Nationals
By law, Koreans are defined as the nationals of the Republic of Korea (ROK)
those who belong the Korean ethnic group. As of 2009, that number was about 50
million. Originally, Koreans are the ethnic group living on the Korean Peninsula,
Manchuria and the Maritime Province of Siberia, speaking the Korean language.
They now live in the Republic of Korea, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
United States, Japan
and elsewhere, totaling some 80 million
people worldwide.
Koreans in the ROK
are reaching out to
other members of
their ethnic group
around the world.
Under discussion is
the formation of a
Korean cultural belt
Large Korean family
Korea in the World 133
Korea and Its People
many agree they are part of a northern race that migrated east from Central Asia.
Part 3
linking Manchuria, the Maritime Province of Siberia and Central Asia, all areas geographically close to the peninsula. Of course there is interest in forging and maintaining ties with ethnic Koreans living farther away as well. The development of global
communication enables Koreans to access one another easily via the Internet.
Emotional Characteristics
The three words that best describe Korean emotion are probably jeong (affection), han (bitterness) and heung (excitement).
Jeong: Strong Bonds
Relationships are very important in Korean society, and jeong develops as the
bonds of a relationship grow stronger over time. This is a special kind of affection
that makes even unrelated people close like family. Once jeong has been established between two Koreans, their mutual involvement becomes close and they
suffer great difficulty when apart. On the one hand, such a state of mind can seem
burdensome to non-Koreans, who value their privacy, while on the other hand, the
degree of caring can come as a pleasant surprise. Jeong is probably the product
of a group-oriented society.
Han: Lasting Mental Scar
Koreans often express han to describe repressed anguish or bitterness from
suffering a wrong and having no way to redress it. That feeling can remain as a
mental wound. One source of han has been the many foreign invasions that devastated the country. The women tend to feel han the most, for their lives were
more restricted in the male-dominated Confucian society. Korean women were
expected to endure hardships unduly imposed on them; hiding ones talents and
emotions was considered feminine virtue. Married life for a Korean woman in traditional times was described as being "deaf for three years," dumb for three
years," and "blind for three years."
Of course, much of the women's han has disappeared in recent years. Young
134 Passport to Korean Culture
people of both genders express
themselves more openly today and
do what they want to do rather
than what their parents or others
expect them to do. Likewise,
Part 3
Korean women are increasingly
their social status has been elevated greatly.
Koreans in Heung
Heung: to Erase the Han
Traditionally, Koreans would
often relieve their deep-seated bitterness by playing hard. For
instance, they would become carried away when singing or dancing
to traditional percussion music.
The same goes for modern
Koreans. When they play, they
enjoy themselves boisterously to
Amused spectators
the full. Perhaps this need for
excitement (heung) explains the passion shown on the streets during the 2002
World Cup.
The Korean way of supporting their team so whole-heartedly captured the attention of the world.
Heung often coincides with sinbaram (literally "spiritual wind"), when quiet and
seemingly passive people suddenly become loud and active when the opportunity
arrives. Some scholars analyze the New Village Movement of the 1970s as a part
of the sinbaram phenomenon. Many Koreans participated in this movement tirelessly because it promised to help them escape poverty.
Korea in the World 135
Korea and Its People
engaged in satisfying careers, and
Spoken and Written Language
Language is a key factor when discussing any aspect of Korean culture. Koreans
use a native alphabet called hangeul, a very scientific writing system. In recent
years, the number of people learning Korean as a second language has been
growing, mainly because of the country's enhanced global status.
The Korean Language
More than 80 million people speak the Korean language: 74 million in the two
Koreas and 7 million Korean expatriates and non-Koreans. Thus, among some
3,000 languages worldwide, Korean has the 13th highest number of speakers. The
publication Hangeul, Korean Language, National Language, Today and Tomorrow
from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) states 2,177 organizations were disseminating the Korean language outside the country in 2008. Of
these, 1,072 were in North America, 506 in the former CIS, 225 were in Asia not
Foreigners in Korean class
136 Passport to Korean Culture
counting Japan, 142 in Japan, 115 in
Europe, 75 in Latin America and 42 in
the Middle East. Meanwhile, 628 elementary and middle schools in 15
countries teach Korean as a second
Part 3
language, while 642 colleges and unilanguage courses or classes. In 2009,
Hunmin jeong-eum Haeryebon
a total of 189,320 foreigners and
Korean expatriates applied to take the
annual Test of Proficiency in Korean
(TOPIK), revealing the rising global
status of the language.
Korean is part of the Altaic language family, which includes the
Mongolian, Turkish and TungusManchurian. The Korean language is
agglutinative in morphology and subject-object-verb (SOV) in syntax. A key
feature is the highly developed system of honorifics.
Bronze statue of Sejong the Great at Gwanghwamun Plaza
Hangeul is a unique alphabet invented specifically for the Korean language in a
project led by Kin Sejong, the 4th monarch of Joseon. The project was completed
in 1443 and the new alphabet was officially promulgated in 1446. King Sejong
called it Hunmin jeong-eum ("Correct Sounds to Enlighten the People").
The consonant symbols were modeled after the shapes of the human speech
organs, while the vowels were made based on the three elements that form the
universe, namely, heaven, earth and humankind. The present Korean alphabet
Korea in the World 137
Korea and Its People
versities in 54 countries have Korean
Designs with Hangeul
consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels.
The basic letters are monosyllabic, and an
additional stroke or strokes are used to create
diphthongs. The consonants and vowels are
combined into blocks to create syllables.
Propagation of Hangeul
Every year the Korean government holds
Hangeul Week around October 9, Hangeul Day.
Related events include the Hangeul Calligraphy
Contest for Foreigners and selection of
the Hunmin jeong-eum Goodwill
Ambassador. Meanwhile, Design
Contest of Stylish Hangeul Letters
Dress with Hangeul pattern & business card holder
138 Passport to Korean Culture
(or fonts) and Love of Hangeul UCC
Part 3
Sandoll tium
Contest are held to disseminate
Hangeul around the world. The
Hangeul Cultural Center, a
unique museum dedicated to
alphabets, is under construction
and scheduled for completion in
2012. The facilities will include
the Hangeul Hall, World Hall of
Installation art designed with Hangeul
Letters, and Hall of Hangeul-related
The value of Hangeul is not limited to its use as
an alphabet but also as a design motif such as in
the neckties, shirts and other fashion items produced by designer Lee Sang-bong, as well as on
bags, sundries and electronics.
Digital Hangeul Museum
Presents the history of Hangeul, literature related to Hangeul, Hangeul
font, video material on Hangeul, etc.
Hangeul games are also available.
Korea in the World 139
Korea and Its People
Hangeul T-shirts, Neck tie, Cup mats
Emerging Multicultural Society
Generally speaking, Korea has been known to the rest of the world as a homogeneous country using the same language and living in the same culture, but this is now
changing. Koreans are moving throughout the world, while the number of non-Koreans
living in Korea continues to increase, rapidly creating a multicultural country. Most
noteworthy is the growing number of aliens with Korean spouses and foreigners with
long-term work visas.
Strictly speaking, a society is "multicultural" when at least 20% of the population is
other than the predominant group. For Korea, however, the figure is still only about 2%.
Nevertheless, "multicultural society" is now a hot topic among Koreans, reflecting their
surprise at the mere possibility of such a social transformation.
A 2009 survey shows that the alien population in Korea has exceeded one million and
that the number of multicultural families has greatly increased. And this trend is likely
to continue. Traditionally, individual peoples or nations were expected to have their
unique cultures, but cultural diversity is emerging with globalization and advances in
communication. On the other hand, a society with multiple cultures can be vulnerable
to unrest, and Koreans, who are so proud of their homogeneous heritage, are no
exception. The rapid changes and influx of foreigners are raising concerns.
Multicultural festival
140 Passport to Korean Culture
The increase in multi-cultural families is
the focus of special attention because they
form basic units in Korean society but differ from traditional Korean families. As of
August 2009, more than 150,000 immigrant women were married to Korean
Koreans and non-Koreans as well as
between South Koreans and North Korean
refugees. Naturally these families have a
heterogeneous character in their way of
thinking, customs and language. Their
children will also differ from those born
from two native Korean parents in terms of
cultural identity, language and lifestyle.
With the increasing multiculturalism,
immigrants must no longer be considered
outsiders. Accordingly, both the govern-
Institutes for Multicultural Families
These institutes operate counseling centers for
migrant workers, where migrant workers may
receive assistance related to their living in
Korea prior to obtaining their Korean citizenship.
Catholic Migrant Worker Center:
Seoul Foreign Worker Center:
Solidarity for Asian Human Rights
and Culture:
Ansan Women Migrant Worker
Counseling Center ‘Blink’:
Migrant Workers' House:
Human Rights League of Migrant Workers:
Kosian House
Women Migrants Human Rights Center:
ment and private groups are undertaking
various programs to help multicultural
families overcome cultural clashes.
Institutes have been established to teach
immigrant wives the Korean language and
Extracurricular classes are provided for
their children to learn the language and
other subjects as well as to help them
adapt themselves better to their school life.
Fortunately, Koreans' understanding of
multicultural families is increasing rapidly.
Educational institutes for education of
children of immigrant workers
These institutes educate immigrant children,
providing preschool language courses, counseling on entering schools and after-school
Global House of Seongdong Migrant:
Workers Center:
Jeongdong Church Hangeul Class:
Janghanpyeong School for Foreign Youth:
Mongolian School in Korea:
Korea in the World 141
Part 3
Korea and Its People
men. Marriages are taking place between
Korean Enterprises and Economy
During the past half century, Korea achieved one of the world's fastest economic
growth rates. Many foreigners visit Korea to learn about it and to benchmark
Koreans' economic success. Korean enterprises are playing an ever-larger role in
the global marketplace, and the future potential of the Korean economy remains
the focus of world attention.
Miracle on the Han River
The Korean Peninsula was divided north and south in 1945, and the Republic of
Korea (ROK) was established in 1948. A devastating civil war was waged between
1950 and 1953, but the ROK managed to rise from the ashes and overcame severe
economic hardship thanks to a vigorous government-led economic development
program and to strenuous efforts by the Korean people. Key industries and highways began to be built in the 1960s, and foreign capital was brought in, resulting
in a dramatic success dubbed the "Miracle on the Han River."
The agricultural nation was rapidly industrialized and economic growth was led
Korean-made mobile phones
142 Passport to Korean Culture
Part 3
Korea and Its People
by exports, achieving a trade surplus. Realization of the "economic
miracle” would not have been possible without the sacrifices and hard
work of all Koreans. Other factors
include low-cost labor, a favorable
international political climate, the
emergence of new markets in the
1960s, technical innovations, discovery of new resources, changes in the
Semi-conductor factory and Robots at auto assembly line
aid policies, and the development of
highly competitive human resources.
Import/Export Trends by Commodity, 2009
(Unit: US$ million, %)
Korean Industries &
The world's knowledge-based
society has influenced the Korean
economy greatly, and Korea now
Export Increase Import Increase
$ %&'
boasts a world-renowned IT industry
of its own. This was made possible by state-of-art technology and world recognition of the high- capacity semiconductors and personal computers that have
become major export items. Korea has some of the world's most advanced mobile
phone technology with a 40% share of the world mobile phone market. Korea is
Korea in the World 143
also a powerhouse in the
production of memory chips.
The notable development
of Korea's IT industry has
been driven by major R&D
investment that allowed
local companies to dominate
the domestic market and
compete successfully overseas. Samsung Electronics,
one of Korea's largest companies, is the world's leadKorea’s shipbuilding industry
ing maker of memory chips
and second-largest maker of mobile phones. Samsung was founded in 1938, during the Japanese colonial period, and grew steadily after the Korean War to be a
major contributor to Korea's high economic growth. The group is especially well
known for its outstanding human resources management, which has been
rewarded by strong employee loyalty. LG, another Korean electronics giant, rivals
Samsung with its state-of-the-art LCD, PDP and LED TVs as well as superb
mobile phones.
Hyundai is another major Korean conglomerate and, like Samsung, a global
symbol of Korean economic success. Hyundai produced Korea's first automobiles
and has continued to lead the domestic auto industry while making steady inroads
In addition, Hyundai Heavy Industries is the world's leading shipbuilder, while
Hyundai Engineering & Construction performs projects in Europe, the Americas,
Africa and Asia. Hyundai has also made headlines for its economic projects in
North Korea, started during the Kim Dae-jung administration (1998-2002).
Korea is also ranked fifth in the world for steel production and has the world's
third-largest Internet-using population.
144 Passport to Korean Culture
A Glimpse of Korea
UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in Korea
UNESCO designates important cultural and natural heritages around the world
for protection and preservation. As of 2009, eight sites in Korea are on UNESCO
Cultural Heritage list, along with one Natural Heritage, seven entries in
UNESCO's Memory of the World program, and another three on the Intangible
Heritage of Humanity list.
Jongno-gu, Seoul
Jongmyo is the Royal Ancestral Shrine, where the spirit tablets of past kings and
queens are enshrined. Since the 16th century, its original shape has been well preserved with its unique architectural style. Ancestral memorial rites are still held
here in the traditional form, with court music and dance.
Janggyeong-panjeon at Haein-sa
Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province
Haein-sa, one of the three leading temples in
Korea, houses more than 80,000 woodblocks for
printing the Tripitaka Koreana, (the Buddhist
canon). Special buildings were constructed in the
15th century to preserve the blocks.
146 Passport to Korean Culture
Seokgul-am & Bulguk-sa
Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province
Seokgul-am (grotto) was built during Silla and
is regognized for the exquisite blend of architecture, religion and art. Bulguk-sa depicts Buddhist
Part 3
beliefs in a form of architectural beauty found
Korea and Its People
nowhere else in Asia.
Hwaseong, Suweon
Suweon, Gyeonggi Province
Built in the late 18th century, this
fortress was designed with knowledge of both Oriental and Western
military theories. The 6km walls
have 4 gates and various buildings
are inside.
A Glimpse of Korea 147
Jongno-gu, Seoul
The main royal palace of Joseon blends perfectly with its surroundings.
Gyeongju Historic Heritage District.
Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province
Gyeongju was the capital of Silla for 1,000
years. The city has numerous buildings and
works of art from Silla, earning the area the
designation of Gyeongju Historic Heritage
Dolmen Remains
Gochang, Hwasun, Ganghwa
The dolmen is a megalithic tomb, with a horizontal capstone supported by two
148 Passport to Korean Culture
or more upright stones. They are
thought to have been erected 2,0003,000 years ago and serve as important prehistoric relics.
Joseon Royal Tombs
Part 3
The Joseon royal tombs are supported by well-preserved records
showing funeral services, rituals and
Dolmen Remains
other ceremonies related to the kings and queens of Joseon.
UNESCO World Cultural Heritage
Gyeongju Historic Heritage
District Gyeongju was added to the
list of UNESCO World Cultural
Heritage in 2000. The city was the
capital of Silla for 992 years, from
the Three Kingdoms period through
the end of Unified Silla. The area
boasts numerous Buddhist relics
and other well-preserved cultural
assets. Gyeongju is divided into five
districts according to the nature of
relics and a total designated cultural
assets number 52. In essence the
city itself is virtually a cultural asset.
Foremost among the many treasures are Bulguk-sa (temple) and Seokgul-am
(stone grotto), both of which are on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.
A Glimpse of Korea 149
Korea and Its People
Seoul & vicinity
Bulguk-sa & Seokgul-am Bulguk-sa is a Buddhist temple on the west slope
of Toham-san in Gyeongju. Construction began in 751, during the reign of King
Gyeongdeok, and was completed in 774, together with Seokgul-am, by Kim Daeseong during the reign of King Hyegong. "Bulguk" means the "Buddha Realm."
The people of Silla wanted to re-create a
utopian world in the real world.
The temple entrance features two
stone staircases built in the 8th century.
The well trimmed stone supports and
rounded handrails, so delicate and magnificent, are sure to impress even the
most critical eye.
These staircases lead to a courtyard
where a pair of stone pagodas, Seokgatap and Dabo-tap, stand. Both are registered national treasures. Other historic
150 Passport to Korean Culture
relics, national treasures and cultural
Part 3
foreign visitors to Bulguk-sa each year. The temple also serves as venue for the world to view and
better understand Korea's Buddhist culture.
The manmade stone grotto called Seokgul-am is
on the side of Mt. Toham. Enshrined there is a statue of Sakyamuni surrounded by 38 (originally 40)
Value of UNESCO World
Cultural Heritage
Gyeongju Historic Heritage District
The capital of the Silla Kingdom
that dominated the Korean
Peninsula over a thousand years,
Gyeongju, including its vicinity and
the Namsan area, boasts numerous relics and monuments important to the study of Korean archi-
other Buddhist images, including bodhisattvas, dis-
tecture and the development of
ciples, arhats and devas. The front section at the
Buddhism in Korea.
Seokgul-am and Bulguk-sa
entrance is connected to the main section, while
Seokgul-am is a masterpiece of
360 broad stone pieces exquisitely constitute the
its comprehensive design, combining architecture, hydraulics,
vault, a technique found nowhere else in the world.
art from Silla, noted especially for
geometry, religion and art. Bulguk-
The full-length statue of Sakyamuni is sculp-
sa boasts a unique architectural
beauty and distinct method of
tured in a highly realistic way, along with a dozen
teaching Buddhism through temple architecture.
magnificently and uniquely sculptured Buddhist
statues. This statuary is famous and considered
Related Websites:
UNESCO: www.portal.unesco.org
Korean National Commission for
among the pinnacle of East Asian Buddhist art.
UNESCO: www.unesco.or.kr
The calm visage on the Sakyamuni statue in the
Cultural Heritage Administration of
Korea: www.cha.go.kr
main section seems to smile mysteriously within
Gyeongju City Hall:
the muted grotto atmosphere, bringing warmth
Bulguk-sa Temple:
to the minds of viewers.
Sukgul-am: www.sukgulam.org
A Glimpse of Korea 151
Korea and Its People
assets abound, drawing millions of domestic and
Passport to
Korean Culture
2009 Edition
Copyright 2009
Published by Korean Culture and Information Service
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
15, Hyojaro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Tel : 82-2-398-1911~20
Fax : 82-2-398-1882
All rights reserved Korean Culture and Information Service
Printed in Seoul
ISBN 978-89-7375-153-2 03910
For further information about Korea,
please visit: www.korea.net

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