Kimchi, Koreanovelas, K-pop, unique beauty products, local festivals, and more. It doesn’t matter which aspects of the South Korean culture you’ve fallen in love with; the country remains an alluring place to visit.
But how much do you really know about this country in East Asia? Here are 18 interesting facts about South Korea that you’ll be glad to learn.
18 Facts About South Korea
Which of these facts about South Korea do you already know and which come as a surprise? Test your South Korean smarts with this list.
#1. Happy Birthday!
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Did you know that newborn South Korean babies are automatically considered a year old? This is because Koreans count the gestational period in the womb when counting the age of a child.
In addition, every January 1st, every newborn baby gets older by a year. So, if someone is born on December 31, that baby will be 2 years old by January! This can make South Korean nationals younger than their Western counterparts where age is only counted upon being born. South Koreans are actually one to two years older than someone from the West though they may be the same age.
#2. Blood Type Matters.
Every South Korean knows their blood type or 혈액형 (hyeoraekyeong). This is because Koreans believe their blood type significantly impacts their personalities. Being asked about your blood type when applying for a job and forming relationships is expected and considered a societal norm.
It is believed that considering one’s blood type can help someone find the right spouse for them. It can also dictate if men and women are a good match. For instance, women with Type B blood should find a partner with Type O blood, while males with Type AB blood are most compatible with Type O females. When dating, one of the questions you should know early on is the blood type of the person you are going out with.
#3. South Korea Is Home to 3,400 Islands.
South Korea has 3,4000 islands that can be explored. However, only 473 of these islands are inhabited by people. What’s fascinating about these impressive islands is that each has something unique to offer, making island hopping in South Korea a must-do for tourists and locals.
#4. South Koreans Drink a Lot.
South Koreans are one of the top consumers of alcohol in Asia. This is primarily due to their drinking culture where holidays are celebrated with liquor. According to the World Health Organization, Koreans drink an average of 12.3 liters of alcohol every year and rank 17th in terms of consumption.
A favorite beverage among South Koreans is soju which has around 19% alcohol content. It can be consumed during almost all main meals.
#5. South Koreans Are Tetraphobiacs.
Tetraphobia is the fear of the number four. In South Korea, four is considered an unlucky number. The number four in South Korea is 사 which signifies death. Elevators in the country skip the fourth floor. Even in apartment buildings, units with plenty of 4 are often avoided and usually have a lower property value.
#6. Many South Koreans Have the Same Surnames.
In the US, the most common surnames are Jones, Smith, and Williams. In South Korea, nearly 20% of its population (or 10 million people) carry the surname Kim. So, if you’re looking for someone named Kim and only know their last name, good luck finding them!
#7. Korea Boasts the Best and Fastest Internet Connectivity.
South Korea has one of the fastest and most reliable internet connection speeds globally. Broadband download speeds go up to 212 megabytes per second (Mbps) while mobile phones can access 202 Mbps. Ninety-three percent of South Koreans rely on local internet which can be easily accessed in public transportation, city centers, and other public areas. Plus, it’s free!
#8. Korean Music Is a Global Sensation.
Over the last few years, K-pop has infiltrated the global scene, becoming a top favorite worldwide. BTS, a South Korean boyband, is one of the most popular music groups in the world while the four-member female group Blackpink has headlined music festivals like Coachella. The influx of K-pop also paved the way for the global success of Korean movies and series like Parasite and Squid Game.
#9. Facial Hair Denotes One’s Personality and Status.
In Western countries, facial hair is part of one’s preferences and style. However, in South Korea, facial hair is a sign that a person is dirty and doesn’t care about their appearance. More often than not, facial hair also indicates that a person is struggling financially. So, if you’re thinking of visiting Korea and growing your facial hair, it may be a good idea to wait until you’re done touring the country.
#10. Electric Fans Can Cause Death.
An urban legend in South Korea believes that when electric fans are kept turned on at night with the windows and doors closed while someone is sleeping, the appliance can cause death because it lowers your body temperature and can lead to hypothermia. Older South Koreans also believe that the fast-moving air produced by fans can cause people to choke and experience breathing difficulties.
#11. South Korea Is Still at War With North Korea.
The differences between the two countries remain vast and have left families divided. Until now, many have not been able to see some of their family members who live beyond the demarcation line. Although the two countries are not actively engaged in battle, unification is still a farfetched possibility.
#12. Christmas Is for Couples While New Year Is for Families.
In most countries, Christmas is a time for families to get together. In South Korea, this holiday is usually spent with your significant other while New Year, specifically the Lunar New Year, is the time to come home and reunite with family.
The Lunar New Year is the biggest South Korean holiday. Many locals request time off and travel back to their hometowns to celebrate it.
#13. Toilet Paper and Laundry Detergent Are Traditional Housewarming Gifts.
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Though you can also give potted plants and wine, the traditional housewarming gifts (called 집들이 or jipdeuri) are toilet paper and laundry detergent. If someone is moving to a new home, either of these are appropriate and tasteful presents.
Wondering which toilet paper brand is the best? Why, Kleenex or 깨끗한나라 (kkaekkeuthannara), of course!
#14. Valentine’s Day Is for Men.
In South Korea, Valentine’s is when males receive chocolates and other gifts from females as a sign of love and appreciation. While Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14, South Koreans also have White Day which is celebrated on March 14.
White Day is intended for women. This is when they receive gifts, flowers, and sweets from men.
#15. South Koreans Rarely Use Cash.
Although many people still carry cash in South Korea, more people are dependent on swiping or tapping their cards to pay for products and services. Food deliveries, taxis, and most, if not all establishments accept cards as payments.
#16. South Korea’s Capital Is Massive.
Seoul, the country’s capital, is the heart of South Korea. It is the third largest city globally and in the country. Even if you explore it for months, there will always be something more to do in this buzzing and lively city. About 25 million people live in Seoul while hundreds of thousands more visit each year.
#17. Gangnam Style Was Named After a Real Neighborhood.
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Sung by Psy, Gangnam Style was one of the hits that defined South Korean music and got it noticed by the rest of the world. It was the first song to reach one billion views on YouTube. Everyone danced to it and found ways to embrace the song.
Although many people know it, not many are aware that South Korea has a real Gangnam District which is a neighborhood that’s home to the wealthy.
Because of its opulence, the district is locally known as the Beverly Hills of Seoul. The song pokes fun at the ostentatious wealth, narcissism, and flamboyance that is exhibited by the nouveau rich who live in Gangnam.
#18. South Korea Is Known for Its Skincare Products.
South Korean men and women take skincare and beauty seriously, so it’s no surprise that the country is brimming with makeup and skincare products that are widely purchased year-round.
Korean skincare employs different skincare products and has up to 10 steps! It also uses unique active ingredients like snail mucin, ginseng, bee propolis, and Centella Asiatica.
A Few Parting Words
Despite globalization, South Korea has found a way to let its culture thrive and remain relevant. Because of this, the country is filled with unique traditions, beliefs, and practices that make it different from the rest of the world.