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A Beginner’s Guide to South Korean Culture

The Hallyu is a global phenomenon that is sending the millennials into a frenzy. Hallyu or a South Korean wave is taking over the world and how! With Kpop (Korean pop music) and Kdrama (Korean drama) luring music and tv enthusiasts by the millions, the ever-expanding fanbase for all things Korean is only increasing.

But there is a lack of awareness of the greater South Korean culture. We decided to dig a little deeper and find out what the South Korean culture has an offer for culture vultures like ourselves. 

Read on to find out more about the culture of South Korea.

A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Culture

Language 

The Korean language shares roots with the Japanese language. Similarities can be seen in the structure of sentences, the grammar and punctuation used, as well as the vocabulary that is shared between the two languages. Despite the presence of various dialects across the country, they are mutually intelligible. The difference in dialects is thought to have developed due to social classes and hierarchies rather than external influence.

Korean is written in the manner it’s spoken, meaning it’s a phonetical language. This enabled the widespread use and comprehension of the language, making South Korea a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world. The idea was to have one language for all Koreans.

A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Culture

Food

Traditional South Korean cuisine is based on three staples: rice, vegetables and meat. Modern trends have infused Japanese ramen into the mix, with steamboats or hot pots gaining popularity. Kimchi is a traditional side dish that is based on fermented vegetables and seasonings. Old fashioned Kimchi is made from fermented cabbage or radish with garlic, ginger or spring onions used for seasoning. A traditional South Korean table will have a main dish and Banchan, or side dishes, with Kimchi.

Celebrations

South Korean festivals are filled with colors, music and life. Korean culture is family-centric and so there are many festivals celebrating family and harmony. Given farming and agriculture has great importance in Korean society, there are certain festivals that are associated with harvests. Some well-known festivals include Jeju Fire Festival, Seoul Lantern Festival and Lighting festival amongst others 

A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Culture

Kpop and Kdrama

When you think of South Korean music, you wouldn’t be blamed for hearing the catchy ‘Gangnam Style’ play in your head. This was the biggest hit the Korean music industry has ever produced, it took YouTube (and the world) by storm. Sang by a Korean musician, referring to a polished neighborhood of Gangnam in South Korea, it put Korea on the world music map.

Korean Pop music (Kpop) has gained popularity amongst the international audiences, with several Korean bands and musicians leading global music charts in the last few years or so. BTS, a South Korean band, held top position in the Billboard global charts in early 2019, a first from a non-English band or musician. Kpop is now popular across the globe with a growing fandom. Similarly, Korean drama is gaining an international fan base as well. Various streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have added numerous sitcoms and period dramas from South Korea to its viewing library. They even come with subtitles, so will be able to follow your characters easily.

We know, subtitles can be annoying. And it does kill the viewing pleasure when you are constantly switching between the characters and the text at the bottom. Why not take a Korean Online Course to help you keep up with the stories of Kdrama or sing along to Kpop?

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