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South Korea

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❶Changdeokgung is also known as the "palace of illustrious virtue". Balhae kingdom, an successor state of Goguryeo, absorbed much of traditional Goguryeo elements.

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Daily life and social customs
Korean Customs and Beliefs

Moreover, it is difficult to express spoken Korean in Chinese characters. Considering the frustrating situation of mass illiteracy and troubled by the incongruity between spoken Korean and Chinese ideographs, King Sejong — , the fourth ruler — of the Choson Dynasty, commissioned a group of scholars to devise a phonetic writing system that would represent the sounds of spoken Korean and could be learned by all the people.

The system was created in and promulgated in Han'gul is easy to learn since each letter corresponds to a phoneme, and Korea now has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. The national flag, T'aegukki , is a unique symbol.

The flag of T'aeguk "Supreme Ultimate" , symbolizes the basic ideas of east Asian cosmology shared by the peoples in the Chinese culture area. In the center of a white background is a circle divided horizontally in two by an S-shaped line. The upper portion in red represents the yang , and the lower portion in blue symbolizes the um yin in Chinese , depicting the yinyang principle of a universe in perfect balance and harmony. The central symbolism in the T'aeguk form is that while there is a constant movement of opposites in the universe day and night, good and evil, masculinity and femininity , there is also balance.

The four trigrams at the corners of the flag also express the ideas of opposites and balance. The three unbroken lines in the upper left corner represent heaven while the three broken lines placed diagonally in the lower right corner represent the earth. The trigram in the upper right corner represents water, while the one placed diagonally at the lower left corner represents fire.

In contrast to the cosmological symbolism in the flag, the national anthem, Aegukka , conjures a sense of the national identity of the Taehan people by making territorial references to the East Sea Sea of Japan , Paektusan "White Head Mountain," on the northern border with China , and the beautiful land of mugunghwa the rose of Sharon, the national flower.

The phrase samch'ol-li kangsan "three-thousand-li land of range and river" , which is included in the national anthem, refers to the national territory. The phrase han p'it-chul "one bloodline" often is used by Koreans at home and abroad to symbolize their shared identity as the members of a homogeneous nation. Blood and territory thus are the most frequently invoked metaphors associated with the nation.

Kwangbokchol the Day of Recovering the Light celebrates the nation's liberation from Japanese colonial rule in Emergence of the Nation. The Korean peninsula has been inhabited for more than half a million years, and a Neolithic culture emerged around 6, B. The legendary beginning date of the Korean people is said to be B.

In the legend, Tan'gun was born of a divine father, Hwan-ung, a son of the heavenly king, and a woman who had been transformed from a bear. The bear and a tiger had pleaded with Hwan-ung to transform them into human beings. Only the bear achieved the transformation by following Hwanung's instructions, which included a hundred-day seclusion to avoid sunlight and the ingestion of a bunch of mugwort ssuk and twenty pieces of garlic.

This bear turned woman then married Hwan-ung, and their offspring was Tan'gun. A recent interpretation of the bear woman is that she came from a bear totem tribe.

Shortly after the fall of Wiman Choson in B. In , Silla unified the Three Kingdoms. Silla's decline in the late ninth century brought about the rise of Later Paekche and Later Koguryo. Wang Kon, who established the Koryo Dynasty, eventually reunified the nation. A series of Mongol invasions that began in devastated the country in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Despite invasions by Japan and Manchu Qing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, respectively, Choson continued for more than five centuries until , when Japan colonized the nation for three and a half decades.

Before the national division of the peninsula and the subsequent establishment of the two political regimes of North and South Korea in , Koreans identified themselves as the people of Choson. Tan'gun as the founding ancestor has had a symbolic meaning for Koreans throughout the nation's history. A temple erected in Tan'gun's honor in stood in P'yongyang until its destruction during the Korean War.

In , North Korea announced the discovery of Tan'gun's tomb and a few remains of his skeleton at a site close to P'yongyang. Some Korean calendars still print the Year of Tan'gun Tan'gi along with the Gregorian calendar year, which the South Korean government officially adopted in Korea is one of the few countries in which ethnicity and nationality coincide. The only immigrant ethnic minority group is a Chinese community of about 20, that is concentrated mainly in Seoul and has existed since the late nineteenth century.

Since the early s, an increasing number of foreign workers from Asian countries including Korean Chinese and Russia have entered South Korea in pursuit of the "Korean Dreams. Traditionally, dwellings with thatched roofs and houses with clay-tile roofs symbolized rural—urban as well as lower-class—upper-class distinctions. The traditional houses of yangban gentry families were divided by walls into women's quarters anch'ae , men's quarters sarangch'ae , and servants' quarters haengnangch'ae , reflecting the Confucian rules of gender segregation and status discrimination between the yangban and their servants in the social hierarchy of the Choson Dynasty.

Western architecture was introduced in the nineteenth century. The Gothic-style Myongdong Cathedral is a prominent example of the earliest Western architecture in Seoul. As part of government-sponsored rural development projects since the late s, thatched-roof houses in rural areas have mostly been replaced by concrete structures with a variety of brightly colored slate roofs.

The tile-roofed traditional urban residential houses have also become almost extinct, partly because of the ravages of the Korean War and the rush toward modernization and development. Now a wide range of architectural styles coexists. According to the national census, about 88 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Lack of land for construction and changes in people's lifestyle have combined to make condominium apartments the dominant housing type in urban areas.

Close to half the urban population consists of condominium dwellers, but the bedrooms in most condos still feature the ondol floor system. Traditional ondol floors were heated by channeling warm air and smoke through a system of under-the-floor flues from an exterior fireplace. Those floors typically were made of large pieces of flat stone tightly covered with several square-yard-size pieces of lacquered paper in light golden brown to present an aesthetically pleasing surface and prevent gas and smoke from entering the room.

Customarily, the "lower end" of the room araemmok , which is the closest to the source of heat, was reserved for honored guests and the senior members of the household, while people of lower social status occupied the "upper end" ummok , farthest from the source of heat and near the door.

This customary practice reflected the social hierarchy. This distinction does not exist in the modern apartments because the heating system is centrally controlled. Food in Daily Life. The rapid changes in lifestyles that have accompanied economic development since the s have changed the traditional pattern of eating rice at each meal. Some urbanites may eat toast, eggs, and milk for breakfast, using a fork and knife.

Nonetheless, for many people a bowl of steamed white rice, a soybean-paste vegetable soup, and a dish of kimch'I may still constitute the basic everyday meal, to which steamed or seasoned vegetables, fish, meats, and other foods may be added as side dishes panch'an. Many people eat at a low table while sitting on the ondol floor, using a spoon and chopsticks. Kimch'I is the national dish. Almost any vegetable can be fermented to make kimch'I, but Chinese cabbage and daikon radishes are the most commonly used.

As part of the national diet for centuries, it has many variations depending on the region, season, occasion, and personal taste of the cook. Kimch'I has long been the test of a housewife's culinary skills and a family tradition. A South Korean consumes an average of forty pounds eighteen kilograms of kimch'I a year. Many companies produce kimch'I for both domestic consumption and export. Meat dishes such as pulgogi barbecued meat and kalbi short ribs are popular among both Koreans and foreigners.

They are traditionally charcoal-roasted after the meat has been marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, minced garlic, and other spices. The foods available at restaurants range from sophisticated Western cuisine, to various ethnic specialty foods, to both indigenous and foreign fast foods. There are no food taboos, although Buddhist monks may practice vegetarianism and observe other food taboos.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. A variety of ttok rice cake , other traditional confectionery, and fresh fruits are served to celebrate birthdays, marriages, and the hwan'gap the sixtieth birthday. The offerings at ch'arye , memorial services for one's ancestors performed on special holidays, include rice wine, steamed white rice, soup, barbecued meats, and fresh fruits.

Their ingestion symbolizes the receiving of blessings from the ancestral spirits. South Korea transformed its traditional agrarian subsistence economy to a primarily industrialized one in little more than a generation. However, rapid increases in short-term debt precipitated by overinvestments by chaebols family-owned and -managed conglomerates and insufficient foreign exchange reserves caused the financial crisis of , which necessitated emergency financial aid from the International Monetary Fund IMF in December After a year of rising unemployment, negative economic growth, and reforms of the financial sector in , the economy began to recover.

The working-age population 15 years or above numbered More than two thirds of them were employed in the service sector in South Korea still produces most of its domestically consumed rice. Traditional cash crops such as ginseng, tobacco, tea, and silkworms remain important. The livestock industry raises beef and dairy cattle, hogs, and chickens.

Meat production has increased, largely in response increased consumption and government support. South Korea imports beef and milk, exports pork to Japan, and maintains self-sufficiency in chickens and most vegetable products.

Land Tenure and Property. Traditionally, land, especially farmland, was the main form of wealth, and tenants had customary rights that allowed them to farm the same plots year after year. The land survey and tax structure under colonial rule changed the nature and extent of land tenure, forcing many owner-farmers to sell their land to the Japanese.

Some people argue that the violation of tenants' customary rights predates the Japanese incursion. The majority of the agricultural population became impoverished, landless tenants by the end of the colonial rule.

After the liberation, redistributions of land were effected in , when former Japanese-owned agricultural lands were sold to the incumbent tenants, and in —, when the government under the Land Reform Act promulgated in acquired tenanted land owned by absentee landlords and the balance of properties larger than 7. That property was sold to tenant farmers and those with no land. The imposition of a maximum of three chongbo 7.

The land reform was a political and social success, destroying the colonial landlord class. However, it contributed to a fragmentation of the land into small holdings, making cultivation inefficient and not conducive to mechanization. Since the s, systematic efforts have been made to increase, rearrange and consolidate farmland by reclaiming mountain slopes and seashores as arable land to expand farm mechanization and increase the utility of farmland.

In , the Arable Land Preservation Law was modified to limit the use of arable land for purposes other than farms. In a country where natural resources are scarce, the efficient use of the land is essential. In addition to the development of large-scale industrial estates at Ulsan, P'ohang, and elsewhere, a superhighway linking Seoul and Pusan and large-scale water resources development projects such as the Soyang Dam were constructed.

A basic land price pattern was officially determined to allow an equitable distribution of the profits from land development. Despite a variety of regulations, however, speculation in real estate has been a major device for accumulating wealth rapidly and irregularly.

The share of primary industry in the economic structure decreased steadily from Farmwork increasingly is done by women and old men as young people leave for urban jobs. As a result of structural reforms in the economy, Korea has built a strong industrial foundation, especially in the areas of electronics, automobiles, shipbuilding, and petrochemicals.

The shipbuilding industry is second only to Japan's and has a 32 percent share of the world market. In the semiconductor industry, Korea ranks third in the world market. Three Korean companies supply more than 40 percent of the global demand for computer memory chips. The Korean automobile and petrochemicals industries rank fifth in the world in terms of production. The economy is export-oriented and at the same time heavily dependent on overseas raw materials.

Korea ranked twelfth for exports and fourteenth for imports among the countries in the world. The major trading partners are the United States and Japan.

Since the s, main export items have included computers, semiconductors, automobiles, steel, shipbuilding, electronic goods, machinery, textiles, and fishery products. Overseas construction is a critical source of foreign currency and invisible export earnings.

Major import items are steel, chemicals, timber and pulp, cereals, petroleum and petroleum products, and electronics and electrical equipment. Leading chaebol companies such as Hyundai, Samsung, and the LG Group recruit white-collar workers from among college graduates through the kongch'ae system an open competitive A farmer hauls rice on his back in Pong Hwang, Naju, South Korea. Rice is a staple of the South Korean diet.

Smaller companies often rely on social connections to hire employees. For executive and upper-level management jobs, companies may scout the desired personnel by using a variety of means, including professional headhunting services. Employment in the civil service, which is based on a grade system, reflects a strong tradition of seniority.

Positions are assigned strictly according to grade, and remuneration is based on grade and length of service. Recruitment from outside is allowed only at certain grade levels through the civil service examination system, with age limitations that favor the young. Vacant positions, except at the lowest grade level, are filled mostly by promotions based on seniority.

The tradition of seniority, however, is being challenged as part of the wide-ranging restructuring taking place in the public sector as well as in the financial and corporate sectors as a result of the economic crisis. The traditional gentry yangban status was formally abolished by the Kabo Reforms of , but the legacy of the class system is seen in social psychological and behavioral patterns.

In , 60 percent of South Koreans regarded themselves as belonging to the middle class. The subjective perception of one's class position was closely correlated with one's level of educational attainment.

Eighty-three percent of those with a college education perceived themselves as belonging to the middle class, compared with 41 percent of those with a primary school education. In general, industrialization and urbanization have contributed to a leveling of the nonkin hierarchy in social life, but the income gap between the working classes and the industrialist class as a new power elite has grown.

Family background, education, occupation, and the general acceptance of a meritocracy are major social factors that contribute to the unequal distribution of wealth by class. Symbols of Social Stratification. Major symbols of social status include the size of one's condominium or house, the location of one's residence, chauffeur-driven large automobiles, style and quality of dress, membership in a golf club, and the use of honorifics in speech.

According to the government classification, residential space between eighteen and People in the middle and upper-middle classes tend to live in apartment units of over thirty p'yong. The precise number of p'yong of one's condominium often is interpreted as a barometer of one's wealth. Academic degrees such as a doctorate and professional occupations such as medicine also symbolize higher social status.

Koreans lived under a dynastic system until After liberation from Japanese colonization in , the southern half of the peninsula was occupied by the United States and the northern half by the Soviet military until , when two Koreas emerged. Since then, South Korea has traveled a rocky road in its political development from autocratic governments to a more democratic state, amending its constitution nine times in the wake of tumultuous political events such as the Korean War, the April Revolution of , the and military coups, the Kwangju uprising, and the democracy movement.

The government has maintained a presidential system except in —, when a parliamentary system was in place. Government power is shared by three branches: The executive branch under the president as the head of state consists of the prime minister, the State Council, seventeen executive ministries, seventeen independent agencies, the Board of Inspection and Audit, and the National Intelligence Service.

The president is elected by popular vote for a single five-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly. The legislature consists of a single-house National Assembly whose members serve four-year terms. Some degree of local autonomy was restored for the first time since by the implementation of local assembly elections in and popular elections of the heads of provincial and municipal governments in The judiciary has three tiers of courts: Leadership and Political Officials.

Political parties have been organized primarily around a leader instead of a platform. The hometown and school ties of the founding leader of a party have often influenced voting patterns, contributing to emotional regionalism among voters as well as politicians. Kim win the election. The socalled DJP alliance, named for the coalition of Kim Dae-jung and Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, promised to change the executive branch into a cabinet system with the prime minister as the head of state.

The constitutional amendment for a parliamentary government thus has become a major political issue in the Kim Dae-jung administration. Social Problems and Control. According to the National Statistical Office, the number of reported major penal code offenses was per , in , and the most common crime was theft.

Since the s, sexual violence against women has drawn public concern, and legislation to deal with it was enacted in the s. Public prosecutors and the police are authorized to conduct investigations of criminal acts, but theoretically, police authority to investigate criminal acts is subject to the direction and. The National Police Agency is under the authority of the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, while the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office, the penal administration, and other legal affairs are supervised by the Ministry of Justice.

The supreme prosecutor general is appointed by the president. Historically, the executive branch exercised great influence on judicial decisions. There is no jury system. Cases that involve offenses punishable by the death penalty, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for more than one year are tried by three judges of a district or branch court; other cases are heard by a single judge. Since then, the armed forces have grown to be the largest and most influential government organization.

According to the Defense White Paper, the nation has , troops. The defense expenditure accounted for about 15 percent of the national government budget. Weapons and equipment modernization and the operational costs of the three armed services and the armed forces reserves are the main items in the defense budget. Based on the Korean-American Mutual Defense Treaty, the two countries hold the joint exercise Team Spirit every spring to promote military cooperation and readiness.

The Korean peninsula is the world's most densely armed zone with over 1. Much progress has been made in the area of social welfare since the s, especially in the health care system. The National Health Insurance Program, which started in with coverage of less than 10 percent of the population, covered the entire population by The government also enacted the National Health Program Law and the Mental Health Law in to promote health education, antismoking campaigns, and the improvement of the civil rights of the mentally ill.

The budget of the Ministry of Health and Welfare has been growing rapidly. Until the late s, civil organizations generally developed in opposition to the government and contributed to democratization.

In the past decade, nongovernmental organizations NGOs have increased in numbers and services. Since its formation in , Chongdaehyop has achieved remarkable success in bringing to the attention of the world community the "comfort women" who served Japanese troops before and during World War II. Its activities have improved the living conditions of the surviving victims and strengthened feminist human rights movement. Many Christian church supported NGOs send missionaries and provide on-site aid in Africa and other regions.

Division of Labor by Gender. Gender and age have been the two fundamental influences in patterns of social organization. Korea is greatly influenced by the Chinese and Japanese cultures. This influence can be seen by Confucianism, which established many traditions that can be seen in modern Korea today. These traditions include the ethical code of conduct in social life and showing respect to the elders and family. Koreans also believe in sincerity and loyalty and follow certain codes of conduct while meeting, eating, praying and even celebrating.

At times when many other cultures would shake hands, Koreans bow. They bow as a sign of gratitude and respect to the person they are meeting. Family is the most important part of Korean society and the father is the leader of the family. They also believe in a hierarchical structure and children help their parents and must obey them and show respect to the elders.

As Confucius teachings have a deep influence on Koreans lives, they believe in duty, loyalty, honor and sincerity. That's why children live with their parents after they became adults as they believe it is their duty to take care of their parents. Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity are the main religions.

Buddhism is the religion in Korea with the most followers and its teachings have a great impact on Korean lifestyle, culture and art. Yungdrung is a main symbol of Korean Buddhism and can be found in all temples and religious places in Korea.

The division of Korea has also caused a divergence in religious life in the two countries due to the different political structures. South Korea has been characterized by a rise of Christianity and Buddhism, while North Korea is considered a secular state.

Festivals have great importance in Korean life. Confrontation is to be avoided at all cost as once Kibun is lost it cannot be regained. In South Korea, good relationships are crucial to success both in personal and business circles, and these are assimilated within the business world. To make the most of your business acumen you must also appear trustworthy, honourable and respectable in a social and business setting.

Korean business is founded upon relationships; even large corporations are often family managed with members still acting in executive positions. The Confucian principles regarding respect for age, family, rank and tradition have ensured the continuance of this system.

There have been recent calls for reforms, due to economic downturns, in Korea but this will take time due to the entrenched systems in place. Alongside the formal power structures in place within a company one must learn to recognise, and assess, the informal structures which may be based on long-standing family ties, personal relationships and allegiances. Insight into these practises will ensure a greater comprehension of Korean business etiquette.

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Homogenous except for small percentage of the population who are from elsewhere but reside in the country permanently.

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10 Korean customs to know before you visit Korea. Photo: Korean culture has survived for 5, years, despite the best efforts by hostile neighbors to stomp it out. If you know and respect Korean culture you will get much more out of your time in Korea. It’s definitely one of the top food experiences you need to have in South.

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Korea is an Asian country deeply rooted in its culture, values and beliefs. The customs of the Korean people make them humble, honest and loyal. They believe in the teachings of Buddha and Confucius and it reflects in their daily life and lifestyle. They give importance to work and education and consider family welfare as motto of their lives.

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South Korea - Daily life and social customs: The once-dominant Confucian culture—with its emphasis on respect for ancestors, age, and seniority—continues to influence Korean family, work, and social life, albeit to a lesser degree than in the past. In addition to other factors, such as economic status and position in a business hierarchy, . Koreans are reserved and well-mannered people. Learn about the full country etiquette, the customs, their culture and how to be professional in business.

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Guide to South Korea and Korean culture, society, language, etiquette, manners, customs and protocol. Korea is a small peninsula located between China and Japan. As a result of the Allied victory in World War II in , Korea was divided into two sovereign states with different political ideologies: the Republic of Korea to the south and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the north. This ended Japan's 35 year rule of Korea.