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7 Facts about Korea

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South Korea is a country that has quickly become an internationally famous place known for its unique culture, music, fashion and cuisine. Its growing popularity among people around the world has of course brought with it many stereotypes about the Korean people. Some of them are true and some of them are not exactly what people are led to believe. Here we address some of the most common assumptions about Korean people and culture, and present some facts you probably didn’t know...

 

1. Plastic surgery is popular  

 

The honest answer to this question is both yes and no. Since the 2010s, plastic surgery has rapidly grown in popularity in Korea, propelling the nation onto the list of top 10 countries for numbers of people choosing to have plastic surgery. Why? Well, Korean people care a lot about their appearance and are obsessed with their image. It might seem superficial to those outside Korea, but in Korean culture looking your best is just another way to compete in life. Because of this, a large number of Korean people have had plastic surgery. While you certainly can’t generalize and say that all people do it – plenty don’t - it is a common reality for many in Korea, so it’s best not to stereotype and just accept this modern societal norm.

 

2. It is very safe

 

Many people wonder if South Korea is safe given the situation between North Korea and South Korea. As a Korean, I can safely say that yes, we are pretty safe! South and North Korea are technically still at war and have been in a truce since 1953. Even though we are in a state of truce during the war, you would never know it from being there! Generally speaking, South Korean people don’t think about the situation, because it doesn’t influence their everyday life. While it’s true that North Korea often threatens the South with their development of nuclear weapons, it is not something citizens or people visiting need to worry about - it’s something that you will only notice on the news. In terms of crime, South Korea has a very low crime rate, and people try their best to care for everybody. Despite what this situation may make you think, South Korea is a very safe and peaceful country.                                                                                                                          

 

 

3. Military service is not an option, it’s a must in Korea!                                                                                                                     

 

Korea is the only divided country in the world due to the difference between ideology. As mentioned already in the article above, South Korea and North Korea are technically still at the war and have been in a truce since 1953. Even though it’s been a long time since the ceasefire, security remains high, and there’s always a national defense military ready for war. Thus, all healthy Korean men must serve in the army for a minimum of 18 months. This used to be 2 years, but because many Korean men were complaining about the policy, the government responded by decreasing the duration. Despite this, unless the 38th parallel (the demarcation line between the two nations) disappears and the war ends, military service for Korean men will continue...

 

4. Most homes have a Kimchi refrigerator

 

A Kimchi refrigerator is literally a refrigerator to store the popular Korean food Kimchi. Kimchi is one of the side dishes that Koreans love and eat frequently. It is a traditional food that originated during the Three Kingdoms period. At that time, in order to maintain Kimchi’s flavor, people stored it in the ground in a jiangdokdae (a jar). If you bury a jar of kimchi in the ground, no matter how cold it gets in the winter, it maintains its own temperature control, so it doesn't freeze or spoil easily. As technology developed, the Kimchi refrigerator was born, using the concept of an underground jiangdokdae. While kimchi tastes great and is good for your health, when it ripens it gets a bit smelly. The kimchi refrigerator helps avoid this and maintain freshness, which is why there is a Kimchi refrigerator almost every Korean household.

 

5. Eating dog meat isn’t as common as you think

 

The answer to this common assumption is that yes, some old people still do eat dog meat, but most people do not. The Koreans began to eat dog meat during the Goryeo Dynasty period, when it was the main staple of an agricultural society. While this may seem savage and ugly to people from other cultures, it’s important you consider the environment and circumstances that people lived in at that time. Statistically, 1 in 5 Koreans today have dogs. Many people have been calling for the consumption of dog meat to be banned, but it is still a common reality among older generations. This habit is quickly disappearing however, and you won’t need to worry about consuming it unintentionally in a restaurant.

 

6. Koreans love to drink!                                                                                                                                                                    

 

It is said that South Koreans drink on average 13.7 shots of alcohol per week, making it the highest in the world. While you may not expect this to be the case, it’s true that Korean people love drinking. You might be wondering why? Firstly, Korean culture is strongly shaped by Confucianism, meaning that they are unwilling to express their emotions openly. As well as this, there is also a strict hierarchy in the workplace in Korea, depending on age and status. People hold back their emotion from work and adhere to strict societal expectations for most of their lives. Because of this, drinking alcohol is one of the ways for Korean people to let off steam, de-stress and reveal their feelings. Drinking is a huge part of modern Korean culture, though of course there are some South Koreans who don't drink.

 

7. Wearing make-up is super normal in Korea

Many think Korean people are pretty and take good care of themselves, which is very true. 80% of Korean women always put make-up on before going out. Even if they don’t put on a full face of make-up, they will at least apply foundation or BB cream to ensure they look good. This has been a common norm in Korea for the past 5-7 years.

In universities, if a girl isn’t wearing make-up, they would instead commonly wear a mask to avoid revealing their natural faces. “Lookism” is a serious problem in Korean society; people care more and more about their physical appearance than inner beauty and judge people only on what they can see. In response to this, there has been slow growth of a new opinion, that natural is beautiful. So even though Korean people care very much about how they look, this is a positive step towards putting less pressure on women to wear so much make-up in the future. If there is one benefit to the importance of make-up in Korea, it is that the South Korean make-up industry is highly developed, and it produces some of the best and healthiest products in the world.

 

As Korea becomes better known around the world, people will naturally become more curious about what it is like living there and what Korean people actually do. Koreans have already become well known for their sense of style which as we discussed has positive and negative points. Korean food too has become a trend internationally, and it has developed quickly away from some traditions that are no longer acceptable in modern society. But perhaps the most important aspect is despite it all, South Korea and its people are some of the safest, trendiest and hardest working you will ever meet. If you have the chance to visit this beautiful nation and get to know it’s colorful citizens, it will be a fantastic memory that will stay with you all your life.

If you want to experience the best that South Korea has to offer, learn more about our internship destinations, or get in touch with AIP to apply now!

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