Korea is located in the mid-altitude of the Northern Hemisphere, and belongs to a cold-temperate zone. Korea is surrounded by water on three sides, where both cold and warm currents cross each other, thus making it an ideal location. Korea has four distinct seasons. The summers are very hot and humid, and the winters are cold and dry. The springs and autumns, which finish much too quickly, provide a welcome relief from the extremes of summer and winter.Over 70% of the land is mountainous with the eastern regions consisting of mainly rugged mountain ranges and deep valleys. Most of the larger rivers and forests are located in the west. The coastline is dotted with bays and it has some of the highest tides in the world. The eastern coastline has many sandy beaches, while the western side consists mainly of mud flats and rocky shores.
Religion / Society
Korea has been influenced by four major religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Shamanism. Koreans descended from the Mongolian race in prehistoric times. Periods of occupation have also added Chinese and Japanese blood to the gene pool. Although they have borrowed from other cultures, especially Chinese and Japanese, Koreans have maintained their own distinctive language, culture, and customs. It is a family-orientated society, heavily based on Confucianism, which even in modern times retains the basic patterns and manners of family-centered life. Korea’s currency is the won (W).
The Korean language belongs to the Ural-Altic family of languages which also includes Turkish and Mongolian. Although the language contains many words derived from Chinese and printed media still use Chinese ideographs to represent many of those words, structurally the two languages are very different. Korean is closer to the Japanese language linguistically.
Korea’s characteristic traditional straw- or tile-roofed houses are quickly being replaced by boxy houses and high-rise apartment buildings that all look alike. In the past, the norm was to have several generations of one family living under one roof. However, the modern generation favors a nuclear family, and the demand for new housing far exceeds the supply, driving up housing prices in the cities.
Rice is the staple of the Korean diet and appears at almost all meals. A typical meal includes rice, some type of soup, sometimes a main dish of meat or pork or poultry, and various side dishes. Korea produces several types of grain alcohol, most notably soju.
After an incident with a Japanese boat in 1872 and increased contact with other countries, the Korean government realized the need for a national symbol. The first flag was created in 1882 and over the years the design has varied. Banned during the Japanese occupation (1910-45), the present flag was created in 1948 for use by the South Korean government. The Taegeukgi depicts the balancing philosophies of Yin/Yang and the concept of Ohaengsol (five directions. Koreans have loved the rose of Sharon for centuries. As such it was a logical choice for Korea’s national flower.
Education / Culture
In Korean culture, education is the key to success in life. The school one graduates from can determine whether one will be a success or failure. To many Korean parents, the education of their children outweighs all other considerations, and they will make tremendous sacrifices to let their children get the best education possible.
Korean people generally prefer Western clothes like suits and jeans, the national costume, hanbok, is worn by many during national holidays. Traditionally, people in Korea wore white clothes, reserving colors for the upper class or during festive occassions. Rubber shoes and sandals have been replaced by designer shoes.
Credit: Aishwarya M.