South Korea is the southern part of the Korean peninsula. It was established after World War II, when US and Soviet forces occupied Korea and divided it into two separate nations. North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, but after a lengthy war with foreign participants (including the US and China), the border between the two countries remains. South Korea is now the fourth largest economy in Asia, and enjoys a high standard of living.
The family is the most important part of Korean life. While multigenerational households have become less common, Koreans remain in close contact with their parents and grandparents and often pay tribute to those ancestors that have passed away. The welfare of the family is generally regarded as much more important than an individual’s needs or wishes.
Education is considered crucial, and the competition for entry into prestigious high schools and universities is stiff. Korean students will often spend the majority of the day in class, and their few remaining hours studying with a tutor or taking supplementary courses, such as English, Chinese, music, and math at the local neighborhood “hogwon.” Parents often spend a significant portion of their income on these after school classes.
Many Korean teens spend most of their time studying for the exams that will determine their future. During the little free time that does exist, football, baseball and taekwondo (a Korean invention) are popular pursuits. The Korean film and music industry is thriving, so going to the cinema or concerts is also common. Many also enjoy putting on their own show via the national pastime – karaoke.
Korean cuisine tends to be spicy. Most dishes are accompanied by an array of side dishes. “Kimchi” is one of the most well known dishes, which consists of fermented vegetables seasoned with pepper, garlic, and a variety of other spices. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi.
South Korea is very homogeneous – almost 99 percent of the population have Korean ethnicity. The official South Korea language is Korean. Since Koreans have emigrated to a great degree, you may also hear Korean spoken amongst large segments of the population in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, New Zealand, and the United States. In fact, Korean is the 14th most widely spoken language of the world.
As for religion, Christianity and Buddhism are the two most followed. Confucian thought however is a fundamental aspect of Korean culture, and often coexists peacefully with the other belief systems an individual might ascribe to.