Facts you didn’t know about South Korea – South Korea is the current country. Not only is Hallyu (Korean wave) sweeping through the West, so are traditional elements of Korean culture from kimchi to, well… chances are that your smartphone (or part of it) is gaining worldwide popularity. So, what is there to know about this unique peninsula? Here’s everything you wanted to know (and didn’t know you wanted to know). From fun facts to cultural quirks: Ladies and gentlemen, here are 15 amazing facts about South Korea.
1. Korea is all about education
Korea is constantly ranked among the world’s best in terms of education system and student knowledge as suggested by studies such as PISA and the World Top 20 Poll. But not only that, of all OECD Countries, South Korea is the country with the highest tertiary university achievement for people aged between 25 and 34. 68% of Koreans have graduated from a university or similar educational institution. No wonder, then, that education is a huge industry in this Asian tiger nation and high school students spend up to 16 hours per day in school… This country is all about them learning!
2. South Korea has made one of the most impressive economic leaps in modern history
In the late 1950s, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. With a GDP per capita of $94 (compared to North Korea’s $140 at the time), it was well below the poverty line. A controversial ruler, but above all a hard worker, changed this quickly. In just about 20 years, South Korea went from one of the poorest countries to one of the richest countries in the world. While it should not be forgotten that this all took place under an accused and somewhat inhumane dictator, this economic leap was unprecedented. read also: 25 Surprising and Fascinating Facts About Japan.
3. There is a widespread belief that fans in confined spaces can kill you
Koreans are not too afraid. But if you put it in a closed room, put it to sleep, and turn on the fan, you may be causing serious anxiety. Where this belief came from, no one really knows but even today it is still widespread.
4. South Korea is an eSports mecca
You’ve always dreamed of a big room where you and all your friends can play online games together on high-end computers. Or, like the rest of us, you want to attend a massive eSports event on the beach? Well, Korea is the place. Computer rooms (PC bangs) in Korea are as normal as bakeries in Europe. And yes, the eSports event is also at Gwangalli Beach in Busan. But be warned, Koreans are world-famous for being some of the best eSports players in the world!
5. Brand soju is the most sold alcohol worldwide — by far!
Would you guess that vodka or gin would top the list? Couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the years, Jinro Soju has become the world’s best-selling alcohol! Perhaps not surprising, given that with an average of 11.2 shots, Koreans are also the world’s largest liquor consumers. Can’t try it yet? Time to visit Korea!
6. Almost half of all Koreans are called Lee, Park or Kim
A relic of the desire of Korean merchants to thrive in their position in the 18th century, several names rose to prominence on the peninsula. Especially Kim has a special position: one in five Koreans has this last name.
7. Kimchi is life – literally
In the past, when Koreans were poor and had long winters, Koreans had little choice but to ferment cabbage to survive. In essence, that’s how Kimchi was born. This tradition is so deeply rooted in Korean history and character that nowadays you will have a hard time going to a restaurant and not eating Kimchi. It’s always served as a side dish — no matter where you are. So, it’s quite logical that Koreans also say ‘Kimchi’ instead of ‘Cheese’ when taking photos.
8. Koreans will always be one year older than you
At least if you both count in your original way. The difference is that in Korea, everyone is one year old at birth. And not only that: on the New Year, everyone simultaneously becomes one year older! This means, in turn, in Korean times, you can already be two years older than the international age.
9. Koreans have had plastic surgery before
Koreans are obsessed with looks. You will see when you visit, people really care. So many, many of them consider plastic enhancements. Although the majority of them are relatively minor (double eyelid surgery), the plastic surgery business in Korea is growing rapidly. read: Unique facts about apples
10. Love motel is around
Something of a somewhat unusual concept for many Westerners, love motels are big business in Korea. What do you like? Love motels, which have rooms for a few hours or a night, are mostly designed for one reason. From budget to luxury, from basic to curly. And why all that? Most young Koreans live in dormitories or with their parents until their student time is up. So, it’s not (only) meant for hookups. Quite the opposite: many couples book great rooms for their date night in advance!
11. Korea’s entertainment industry is one of the largest in the world
K-pop, k-film, k-drama, k-beauty… K is all around! Not only do you hear Korean music even in European supermarkets these days, but also its cinemas have reached the world stage. As one of the biggest global film industries, the film is also on its way to its first Oscar: Boon’s Parasite is the hour.
12. Koreans respect the rules
In Korea, people like to have fun and they also like entertainment. But they didn’t cross the line — a pun. Even in bustling Seoul, you will rarely see non-tourists walking around or misbehaving. It’s part of identity and culture not to cause too much trouble or trouble for other people.
13. Korean president charged with non-violent mass protest
Due to many problems such as lack of responsibility for the Sewol crossing disaster as well as corruption, in 2016/2017, millions of Koreans took to the streets to protest against their president (on a side note: this president is Park Geun-Hye, quite interestingly the daughter of the dictator leader Korea in the 60s and 70s mentioned above). Their weapons? Candle! Mass protest without violence or commotion (for reasons, see 12) but with something far more important: success. They are so ubiquitous in the media that they led the tribunal to indict Park, who is now serving a 24-year sentence for a number of crimes.
14. The national hero is an ice skater
Yuna Kim is everyone’s favorite in Korea. Just look at his Wikipedia, he basically won everything and kind of brought the Olympics to Korea on his own. You’ll always see a smile on every Korean’s face mentioning Kim Yuna’s three syllabus (which is, by the way, the correct order for spelling names in Korean).
15. Food is at the heart of everything in Korea.
If there’s one thing that best describes Korea, it’s its food culture. Not only do Koreans eat a lot, eating equals well-being from Seoul to Busan. Saying ‘how are you’ can mostly be associated with ‘have you eaten’. When parents talk to their children, they are always worried about ‘eating well’. What’s more, watching people eat live is a huge thing in Korea, everything can be conveyed, and food trends are important: every season has its own magic and new food experiments. For all these reasons, Koreans are sometimes called ‘Italians of the East’. And the unique Korean cuisine is a small part of every Korean identity.