Korean Culture: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Last Updated on January 6, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
Korean Culture Title Image, picture of a temple in Jongno Seoul South Korea

Are you curious about Korean culture?  Many people are since South Korean culture is becoming more popular all across the globe.

Perhaps you’ve heard about K-Pop, K-Dramas, Korean food, or Korean movies, but don’t know much about them. Or maybe you’ve just heard a lot about South Korea in general, and you’re curious what the country is all about.

Rest assured, you’ve come to the right place! This page is chock full o’ everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the culture of South Korea.

Read on to find out more!

Korean Culture Title Image, picture of a temple in Jongno Seoul South Korea

Below is a ton of fantastic resources that you can explore to find out more about Korean culture. Along with the cultural information, we’ll often teach a bit of the language, such as special words or commonly used phrases that might give more depth to what you’re learning about.

Often times you’ll automatically learn Korean just by knowing more about the culture, and vice versa. You don’t need to know any Korean to read these pages, but you may find that the more you know the language, the more you can understand the culture.

They’re very intertwined!

Follow the page in order, or use the sections below to skip directly to what part of the culture interests you most.

What is South Korean culture like?

South Korea is a unique culture with influences from China, Japan, and the West. When you first come for a visit, you will notice some things that are familiar to your home country. For example, you will likely see chain restaurants and global stores that are popular back home. At the same time, you’ll notice customs, styles, and social norms that are uniquely South Korean.

South Korea a fast-paced and well-organized country. Many people speak conversational English in the large cities (Seoul, Busan, Daegu, etc). There are a large number of Chinese, Japanese, and other foreign language speakers because of the large amount of trade and tourism in South Korea.

South Korea is strongly influenced by Confucianism.

What is the History of Korean culture?

Korea is one of the oldest cultures in the world. Koreans have passed down their traditions and stories for centuries. The country started to become split between North Korea and South Korea in 1945, and since then the two Koreas have increased cultural differences.

Some of the South Korean traditional arts are ceramics, music, crafts, dance, and paintings. You can often see these displayed if you’re visiting the cultural and tourist areas of South Korea such as 인사동 (Insadong) or 명동 (Myeongdong).

What does the dragon mean in Korean culture?

If you visit traditional buildings or look at Korean artwork, you will often see dragons. In Korean culture, the dragon has a positive meaning. It symbolizes water, rain, clouds, and farming. Therefore, Korean dragons are often said to have lived in bodies of water such as oceans, rivers, and lakes.

The word for dragon in Korean is 용 (yong).

South Korean Food & Drink

Warning: Don’t read this when you’re hungry, you might start to develop a really strong appetite!

A bowl of cold Korean noodles with gim seaweed

The food in South Korea is delicious and healthy, and there’s a massive variety to choose from. The drinks are also fantastic. Here’s what you need to know about South Korean cuisine:

  1. Delicious Korean Food You Have to Try
  2. 10 Unusual Korean Foods for the Daring
  3. Best Summer Korean Food in Korea
  4. Korean Winter Food You Must Try
  5. 7 Korean Drinks You Need To Try Immediately
  6. Korean Snacks: 24 You Must Try!
  7. Korean Alcohol: 11 Drinks You Need to Try!
  8. 7 Spicy Korean Foods That Will Turn You Red

Now that you know a bit more about the food culture in South Korea, try learning a few basic vocabulary words. That way you can order in Korean the next time you go to a restaurant!

Korean Cultural Norms & Society

Everything from jokes to proverbs to cultural norms, learn all about Korean norms and society.

  1. 55 Enlightening Proverbs and Sayings in Korea
  2. Top 35 Konglish Jokes
  3. The Meaning of Oppa, Hyung, Noona, Unnie
  4. All About Age in Korea
  5. Drinking Culture in South Korea
  6. Titles of Family and People in South Korea
  7. Ordering Food in a Korean Restaurant

Once you know about how the culture and society work for South Koreans, then you can understand a bit more about what happens in K-Dramas, Korean movies, and everyday life.

Korean Etiquette & Manners

Don’t do that!

But definitely remember to do this.

There are some simple rules to follow in Korean culture. Some aren’t as obvious as you’d think (like the chopstick rule), but really helpful to know.

Table setting at a Korean restaurant in Seoul

Learn all about how to avoid offending South Koreans, as well as how to make a great impression.

  1. Korean Table Manners You Need to Know
  2. Korean Etiquette: Don’t Do These 11 Things

Communication in Korea

Want to sound extra cool, both in text messages and in person?

Or maybe you want to know more about how the culture of Korea applies to text communication?

We’ve put it all together for you right here:

  1. How to Speak Korean
  2. Korean Slang: 101 Popular Words in 2019
  3. Korean Emoticons: The Ultimate Guide
  4. Satoori: How to Speak Like a Local in Korea
  5. Aegyo: How to be cute in Korean
  6. Introducing the KakaoTalk Friends
  7. A How-To Guide for Texting in South Korea

Korean Friends

Looking to make some Korean friends?

Awesome, because there are plenty of Koreans who want to meet you.

Spending time with Koreans is a fantastic way to learn more about South Korean culture. You can discuss things that are interesting to you, like K-Pop songs or Korean dramas. You might even want to do a language exchange if you’re trying to learn Korean.

We’ll show you how to do it, no matter where you are in the world.

  1. How To Meet Korean Friends Online
  2. How to Make Korean Friends in South Korea
  3. How to Meet Korean Friends Outside South Korea

Dating & Relationships in South Korea

Curious about what dating culture is like in South Korea?

While every person is different, there are definitely some cultural norms that you’ll want to take into account.

Locks from couples At Namsan Tower in Seoul, Korea

Read on to learn all about them.

  1. Dating in Korea: What to Expect
  2. Dating Etiquette in Korea: What You Must Know
  3. 6 Fantastic Tips for Dating a Korean Girl
  4. 5 Fantastic Tips for Dating a Korean Guy

Doing Business in South Korea

South Korea is becoming more and more global each day.

With that, companies are becoming familiar with business etiquette from different parts of the world.

But there are for sure some unique cultural aspects that are Korea-specific. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Business Etiquette and Business Practices in Korea

Korean Holidays

South Korea shares many holidays with the rest of the world but also has some holidays unique to its culture. The most popular holidays are 추석 (Chuseok | Korean Thanksgiving) and 선랄 (Seollal | Korean Lunar New Year). During these two holidays, many Koreans return to their hometowns to visit their families.

What is the most popular national holiday in Korea?

During public holidays in Korea, most offices, banks, and government buildings are closed. However, places like museums, restaurants, cafes, amusement parks, and shopping malls remain open. The night before most public holidays, it is usually very busy in Korea with people going out to celebrate and meet friends.

There are some Korean holidays that are culturally celebrated but are not public holidays. Some examples of those are Pepero Day, Valentine’s Day, and White Day. Koreans do not get a day off during these holidays.

Korean Holiday DateType of Holiday

New Year's Day
January 1Public Holiday

Lunar New Year
1st day of 1st lunar monthPublic Holiday

Valentine's Day
February 14Cultural Holiday

Independence Movement Day
March 1Public Holiday

White Day
March 14Cultural Holiday

Black Day
April 14Cultural Holiday

Buddha's Birthday
8th day of 4th lunar monthPublic Holiday

Children's Day
May 5Public Holiday

Parent's Day
May 8Cultural Holiday

Memorial Day
June 6Public Holiday

Constitution Day
July 17Public Holiday

Liberation Day
August 15Public Holiday

15th day of 8th lunar monthPublic Holiday

National Foundation Day
October 3rdPublic Holiday

Hangeul Day
October 9Public Holiday

Pepero Day
November 11Cultural Holiday

December 25Public Holiday

South Korea follows the Gregorian calendar. However, since some of the holidays follow the Lunar Calendar, the days may be different each year. That’s why some of the Korean holiday dates in the chart aren’t on a specific date. They change each year.

The public holidays typically mean that there is an official day off nationwide. The cultural holidays are observed by most Koreans but don’t result in a day off of work.

Looking for more? Head to our Korean language and culture main page for a treasure trove of info.