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Culture & Identity of South Korea

Introduction

South Korean Culture - Fishing in the mist
Fishing in the mist

South Korea is a modern country that is becoming more and more reliant on technology, both from the perspective of using technology to make life easier and more enjoyable to creating and developing technology. The country maintains many aspects of their traditional culture, but with the ease of modern day amenities.

Today most of the South Koreans live in cities, in fact over 80% of the people live in urban areas and only about 6% of the people still farm or have jobs in agriculture. Farming and agriculture were integral to the people and way of life in the past and for this minority this lifestyle is exists. However, this way of life dependent on the sun, weather, and seasons has been lost for most people.

Today most of the working population has jobs in the services sectors, but industry also employees a huge number of people. Both of these sectors generally have regular hours as most South Koreans today work from about 9:00 am to about 6:00 pm during the work week (Monday-Friday).

Schools also have a great deal of influence in determining a person's daily schedule. Most schools run from about 8:00 am to about 4:00 pm and have time off from about July to September. However, school work in South Korea is fairly intense as families place great importance on family, children, and their future success in the form of school. At times Saturday classes are offered and many children do school work well into the night. If school work isn't on the evening's agenda, it's likely that some other social club or activity is.

Although there's a great deal of pressure in the society to succeed, there's also a counter balance in the entertainment scene, most noticeably found in the cities. With the work of the people, the incomes in the country are quite high and there is a substantial amount of discretionary income that can be used to travel, hit the bars or clubs, eat out, and of course to find a karaoke bar.

Despite the variations in the culture and way of life in South Korea, the pressure to succeed is rooted in the pride of the people and the importance of family. While everyone respects their elders above all else, it is the children who are expected to lead the next generation and they are pushed to do so in a way to find personal success, while bringing great pride to the family.

Identity

The South Koreans view themselves and identify as "Koreans" just as the North Koreans do. The South Korean people are quite proud people and this pride is displayed when they state they are Korean. After centuries under foreign rulers, the people of the Korean Peninsula have responded with great pride in their ethnicity, language, and culture since gaining independence in the early 1950s. Like in the north, this identity is truly all encompassing of the South Korean lifestyle, from food, dress, and language to economics, education, and politics, but the South Korean definition of what it means to be "Korean" is vastly different from the North's definition of this same identity.

There is debate among the people of South Korea as to whether or not the North Koreans and other ethnic Koreans living abroad are truly "Korean." Most of the youth see South Korea as a different entity and hence exclude these "foreigners" from this identity, while much of the older generation views the people of the north as their "Korean" neighbors, who are victims of the North's government.

This page was last updated: May, 2014