10 things you did not know about South Korea. Part 2.

This is my second post with Things You Did Not Know About Korea. You can read my first one here.

11. Koreans are romantic. 

Even so romantic, that they not only celebrate Valentine’s Day on february 14th. No, they have a romantic celebration on  the 14th of each month!!! January 14th is Diary Day, March 14th is White Day and so on.

Recycle love art at Namsan Tower

Heart sculpture as base for love-locks at Namsan Tower
Propose with these pastries;-)
Around Valentine’s Day in our hotel in Seoul
Ofcourse Seoul is The Place to have a Love Museum;-)

 


I experienced these celebrations first hand. When I went to a milonga, it was announced as a white milonga. When I asked what that meant, I was told that it was a special, romantic event because it was the 14th of march.

Gift upon arrival at the white, romantic 14th of march tango milonga.



It shows that Koreans are quite emotional people with a sense for drama; see point 16 for more info about this.



12. Korean stuff is considered to be cute aka kawaii.

Koreans love everything cute. It’s probably the result of their love for all things Japanese, although their relationship with Japan is ambivalent (see point 17).

In the subway you find kawaii figurines next to you on the benches while you wait for the train to come.



They even want to look cute, not only by their fashion, but also their faces and bodies (see point 15).

They succeed so well in making cute stuff and in making stuff cute, that labeling something Korean, nowadays equals ‘cute’ and ‘wanna have’. 
In Singapore vendors sometimes emphasize that their products are Korean (even when they are not!) to justify higher prices and to make people more eager to want to buy the items.

OK, I admit, I LOVE that rabbit-hat, but man, was this an expensive shop!
They have the cutest dog-outfits everywhere. And believe me; the dogs need that, since it can be bitterly cold!
Kawaii socks everywhere
Bit too old for these hoodies, but I think they are cute!
Shops like this one…tempting!


Ofcourse I got me some kawaii-ness myself!


13. The Korean culture is one of hard work, lots of pressure and little sleep.

My husband worked with a Korean team while I was exploring Seoul. One evening we went out for dinner and drinks with his colleagues.



We were amazed and actually shocked to learn that each and every one of them comes to the office at 8 in the morning and stays there till 8pm (early day), 9 pm (still normal) and even till midnight or way after midnight!
Some have to commute 1 or 2 hours one way, leaving them with about 4 hours of sleep and no personal or family time.
Crazy!

It was both remarkable and sad that one of the first things they said to me and  Frits was how envious they were of us being together at that dinner. No chance that they would have an occasion to do that with their spouses.



Often after-work (aka late night) drinks are sort of obligatory, since Koreans consider getting drunk together as The Best Way to bond

I really feel for them and can only hope that that work ethos will change one day into a more healthy and human one!

14. Shame and suicide

High expectations and pressure are not only common practice in the workplace, but in all aspects of life. Not in the last place coming from one’s family.
Not being able to live up to these expectations regularly leads to a chain reaction of shame, depression and even suicide.
Seeking professional help for your depression in the form of therapy is considered not done and would lead to a stigma and shame, creating a vicious circle.

I found this large mural very impressive, but also shocking and  heartbreaking. It looks so tormented and sad!



Again I sincerely hope, that the taboo on depression and therapy will disappear, so that people can learn how to deal with their problems in adequate ways and that suicide numbers will lower.

15. Korea – Land of plastic surgery for everyone

Koreans are so obsessed with images, appearances and kawaii-ness, that they go for (sometimes quite invasive) plastic surgery en masse.

We all know stories about American girls who receive a nose-job from their parents for their 18th birthday. Well, in Korea plastic surgery is even more common then in the US!

People want small, heart shaped faces (double jaw surgery needed) and big doll-eyes (double-eyelid correction). And that’s just the beginning.

Although the bigger surgeries require rest and recovery time, after the ‘minor’ ones (like a nose job) people will return to their jobs (bandages and all), since no one will find it strange to see someone with plasters and bruises.

Korea is now so known for it’s plastic surgery, that people from other countries fly in to have surgery there.

Observant readers may have noticed that this topic appeared already in my first 10 things-post about Seoul. I felt the need to elaborate a bit more, especially in the context of the other points of the list in the post that you are reading now.

16. Korean Drama

We are all familiar with soap-series on TV, in South America they have their famous and popular Telenovelas and in India they have Bollywood movies.

Well, Korea has their own Drama Genre and many people (not only Koreans) are totally addicted to these series and movies. The series tend to have very dramatic story lines with lots of big emotions.

17. Koreans love/hate Japan

Many countries in Asia have very bad memories of the era in which they were conquered and dominated by Japan. The cruelty of the Japanese invaders has been widely documented.
Koreans had their bad experience with them as well.

At the same time they -nowadays- look up to Japan, loving it’s culture (J-pop, kawaii, manga) a lot. Resulting in e.g. the immensely popular and successful K-pop bands and in Korea’s overall hang for cuteness.

A complex, ambivalent relationship.

18. Korea has no official or dominant religion

I was very surprised to learn that 50% of the Koreans are irreligious. As I was also very surprised to find out that the biggest religion in Korea is Christians with 29% (followed by 22% Buddhists).

True that we saw numerous christian churches throughout Seoul.

Modern church building.



19. Huge Cafe and Coffee culture

There are cafe’s literally on every street corner! I wrote about that here.

In front of the fabulous Ho Ho Myoll Cafe



Whatever type of coffee or cafe you prefer, it is widely available. At least in Seoul that is. The number of barista’s is enormous and the creativity of the  coffee-and-latte-art is impressive.



20. ???

Good question. What to pick for number 20 on this list?

That Seoul is very ‘green’ aka ecologically and environmentally conscious?

That they love cabbages in flowerpots?



That they adore London, Paris and New York?



That you cannot pour your own drink when with others in a bar? (you pour each others drinks instead)

That Seoul has it’s own blossom season, like Japan has?

That Seoulites were extremely helpful to a damsel in distress like myself?

Take your pick….it’s all true! ;-).

So, learned anything new here? What surprised you most? Anything to add to my two lists? Please do so, in the comments!

Comments

  1. says

    These are all so interesting. I love learning about other cultures.

    That coffee art is darn impressive! The one with the bear especially.

    I’ve seen some of those cute little stickers show up on the mail you send me : ) They are super sweet.

    bisous
    Suzanne

  2. says

    Of course I was curious about the plastic surgery, so I read quite a bit. It is a controversial subject anyway, but in the context you wrote this article, I feel the pressure, not the want or like. I feel sorry for those workers. It is the life of a slave. Do they have the weekend off? Or do they work then as well?
    It sounds like a country for me with all this coffee, although I am less into cuteness. Loved the photo of Frits on the bench with the Marilyn figure beside him.
    Greetje

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