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Culture of Korea

Elements of Korean Culture

  • According to legend, the first great ruler of Korea was called Dangun. Dangun was the son of Hwanung (son of the celestial Hwanin) and a bear-woman that was turned into a human after 100 days of eating mugwort and garlic in a cave. 
  • The source of the Dangun legend was a patriotic Buddhist monk named Ilyeon, who was writing in the 1280s when Mongol hordes swept into Korea.
  • The religion that kicked-off Dangun worship was Daejong-gyo, which started in 1909.


King Sejong the Great, sympathizing wih the lower class citizens who could not read or write Chinese characters, created Hangul (한글). The Hangul alphabet is based on the position of the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, and teeth when each sound is spoken.



For more information on South Korean business culture, such as gift-giving, bowing, and dress code, click here.


Educational System:

  • Basic School System
    • Elementary school (6 yrs) - Middle school (3 yrs) - High school (3 yrs) - University (4 yrs)
    • Elementary and Middle school are mandatory. 
    • Types of high schools vary from regular to specialized (vocational, special purpose, autonomous schools). 
  • Universal primary and secondary education: ensuring free quality education for all.
    • Starting with primary education in 1959, the government expanded free education step-by-step to lower secondary (1985-2005) and upper secondary (expected in 2017) education.
  • Education in Korea is highly competitive.
    • The 2012 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) ranked South Korea 1st in reading, 1st in mathematics, and 3rd in science.

Retrieved from the Ministry of Education.



The BBC documentary above depicts the experiences of 3 students from Wales in the South Korean education system. Each student quickly realizes the taxing demands for an everyday student in South Korea, such as lack of sleep, competition, and private cram schools (hagwon).


The video below depicts the traditional Korean style home called Hanok (한옥)While tile-roofed and thatch-roofed hanoks were equally common, the former were typically noblemen residences while the latter were mostly houses of the commoners in the past. These days, most traditional hanok that are still lived in have modern facilities installed within (KTO, 2018).





Traditional Clothing: