Sociology Index

Social Customs And Traditions In Korea

Social Customs And Traditions

Knowing and understanding social customs and traditions is important to visit the South Korea or study in South Korea, particularly because you must abide by tradition to their rules and social customs. Western practices can be embarrassing, because they are totally different from the customs of the Korean people. Traditional Koreans follow protocols while meeting, eating, or celebrating. Bowing is equivalent to the handshake in Korean culture. Bowing shows gratitude and respect to the person you are meeting with. Koreans take pride in their traditional culture and greatly appreciate it when foreigners show recognition of Korean national achievements.

Dining and eating habits in Korea follow a strict customary and traditional protocol. Farewells are done only outdoor, shoes are removed before entering the house or dining room, and only male hosts will serve drinks. Gifts are always given according to the capacity and affordability of the other person to reciprocate. Red, yellow and pink colors denote happiness and prosperity in the Korean culture. White, black or green colors are not used for wrapping gifts.

Social Customs And Family Customs in Korea

Korea was one country till 1948 when political differences resulted in a division into two countries with different political ideologies. Social culture and traditional values are similar in both countries binding each other like siamese twins. Korean language is spoken and a similar family system is also followed in both countries. Globalization has brought very little change to the family patterns and social structure, perticularly in South Korea because of its flexible policies. 

Both the Korean countries are deeply rooted in their social culture and traditions. The philosophical brilliance of Confucius makes Koreans believe in family, community and society, unlike western ideology of individualism. Several generations often lived together and many children were desired for future stability and security. Koreans generally lead a family oriented life, where the father is the head of the family. Hierarchical structure is evident in a conventional taditional Korean family. Families firmly believe that the father must take care of the health, shelter, food and marriage of his family members. 

The old Korean school of thaught says that womenfolk must not indulge in decision making and only males must handle the external affairs. This thinking pattern is slowly changing as women are emerging as leaders and business executives. Individual dreams and needs in Korean culture are secondary and family welfare is the foremost goal of every family member. Confucius and his teachings have a deep impact on Koreans leading to a belief in duty, loyalty, honor and sincerity.

A Korean marriage unites two families and two different lifestyles. Matchmaking with the help of matchmakers is called Eui Hon, bowing to the members of family is called Gyobaerye, couple drinking from the same cup is called Hapgeunrye and bridal procession called Wugwi are some of the trational rituals of a Korean marriage.

Clothes like Hanbok is the traditional Korean attire. It is worn in marriage ceremonies, family functions and traditional festivals. It is also the national dress in Korea. Koreans wear it with pride because it is one of the emblems of their cultural identity.

In recent years the move to urban areas and popularity of new apartments has meant that newly married couples live on their own instead of sharing quarters with other family members. This has given rise to an number of nuclear families in Korea which we call empty nesters. The eldest male of a family was regarded as the source of supreme authority. Obedience to one's superiors was deemed natural and filial piety in was viewed as the most revered of all Confucian virtues.

Korean kimchi with rice is a specialty. Bibimbap, bulgogi and dakgalbi are popular Korean dishes even in reastaurants around the world. Yungdrung is major symbol of Korean Buddhism and it can be seen outside temples and religious places in Korea.

Pottery is Korea's cultural emblem since thousands of years. Celadon, a Korean blue-glazed pottery, is liked all over the world. Celadon pottery style was also passed on to the Japanese by the Koreans.

Cultural Values and Human Rights: the Korean Perspective
Byung-Sun Oh - Sogang University, Seoul.
Confucian Tradition and Familism-directed Culture
Korean culture in general may be described as a part of East Asian culture, centered on Chinese Confucian tradition and characterized by extraordinary homogeneity. All Koreans speak one language, use a unique and indigenously developed alphabet 'hangul', and belong to the same racial stock - part of the Altaic family of races. Most young Koreans receive a virtually identical education from primary school to high school using similar textbooks and pedagogy.