DESTINATION: Korean Culture – Guide to History, Customs, People, and Modern Day


The little peninsula of Korea is situated between China and Japan. After the Allies won World War II in 1945, Korea was split into two independent nations with distinct political philosophies: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the Republic of Korea to the south. This put an end to Japan’s 35-year occupation of Korea.
Additionally, there are about 7.4 million Koreans of ethnicity who reside worldwide. You can read more about the local tongue, Korean, here. Finally, they have a republican system of government, with a president serving as the head of state.

History of Korean Culture

One of the oldest continuously existing cultures in the entire planet is Korean culture. Today’s Korea, which has been divided into North and South Korea, has even more pronounced cultural distinctions. However, at one time the entire Korean peninsula and even southern Manchuria shared this cultural and historical history in a remarkably similar manner.
The history, traditions, and beliefs of Korea are all part of its culture. It has been influenced by each of its several dynasties, wars, shifts in religious doctrine, global industrialization, and a variety of other customs and traditions that have been passed down through centuries, undergoing modest alterations with each generational pass. The ongoing hostilities between North and South Korea, which were divided into their respective nations in 1945, nevertheless influence both nations today.
Korean culture also includes its food, holidays, national sports, and cultural standards, in addition to its popular culture, which includes music, movies, dramas, and fashion on a somewhat more obvious level. And those are just a few of the little components that make up the culture.


The Korean alphabet is known as Hangul. Korean is the official language of both South Korea and North Korea, despite minor spelling, alphabet, and lexical differences. According to linguists, the Korean language is a part of the Altaic language family, which has its roots in northern Asia.
In South Korea, there are five main dialects, and in North Korea, there is one. Despite dialectal differences, speakers from various locations can communicate with one another.
The Korean script is simple to learn, and the country has one of the highest rates of literacy worldwide.


Koreans’ spiritual foundation and worldview are mostly based on Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Confucianism in particular has a long history of influence in Korea, and its political and social ideologies are still very much present there. However, Christianity and Buddhism are also quite present in South Korean society, where Buddhists make up 46% of the population and many of the locations that are classified as world heritage sites are Buddhist temples.

Korean traditions and customs

South Korea celebrates Korean Thanksgiving () in September and October and Lunar New Year’s Day (, seollal) in January and February. Both festivals are observed with family, with a focus on honoring ancestors, traditional meals, and fun family activities.
The performance of a ritual known as is one of the most significant aspects of, both historically and currently (sebae). In it, the entire family, dressed in, makes a deep ceremonial bow and asks for good fortune for the coming year. Rice cake soup, savory pancakes, and stir-fried glass noodles with veggies are also common foods.
On the other hand, the most significant aspect of the occasion is (charye), an ancestral memorial rite. It takes a lot of work to prepare a table of offerings, which will also have two candles at the sides, an incense holder in the center, and a memorial tablet in the very center, signifying the ancestors’ spiritual presence. The most typical cuisine item is packed rice cakes (known as songpyeon), while many other options are also available.


Festivals have a significant role in Korean culture. Korean festivals are celebrated all year long and are vibrant, colorful, and joyful. The majority of holidays and festivals revolve around the harvest and family.
Since farming is an important part of Korean culture, many of their festivals center on activities that ask for a successful harvest. These occasions have eventually evolved into well-liked festivals and festivities that are conducted frequently in Korea, such as the Hanshi (Cold Food Festival) celebration that ushers in the growing season. Hanshi is observed 105 days following Dongji (Winter Solstice).

Korean Ancestral Rites

On special occasions, such as holidays or the anniversary of a death, Koreans conduct their ancestral rites for their ancestors through a memorial ceremony called (jesa).
Koreans participate in several types of ancestor rites. They go by the names Gijesa, Charye, Seongmyo, and (myosa).
A “gijesa” is held on the anniversary of an ancestor’s passing. During the national holidays in Korea, each family performs (charye) in order to honor their departed loved ones. When Koreans pay their ancestors’ graves a visit as a sign of love and respect, this is known as (seongmyo). And lastly, in the lunar month of October, (myosa) is completed at the tomb site.



By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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