South Korea: Language & People                               

Language

North and South Korean speak and write Hangul which consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The language structure, grammar and vocabulary are similar to Japanese. There are regional dialects but almost all speakers understand each other. The main differences are regional accents and are also attributed to social status.

Literacy

Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world due to the phonetic nature of the written language which was invented in the mid 15th century with the objective of creating one uniform language for Koreans.

What do you think "phonetic nature" means? (Hint: Consider the meaning of the word "phone.")

People

The South Korean people are one of the most homogeneous populations in the world. They are related to the Mongoloid racial group which (with the Chinese) make up around 70% of the world's population. Koreans have much in common with the Chinese, Mongolians and Japanese.

Names

Names in South Korea are the opposite as in Western cultures

First is the last/family name. Second is a last/family name shared by all of a given generation.Last is one's first/given name.

It can be impolite to address a Korean by his or her first/given name. People should be addressed using their title (Mr. Mrs.) until permission is given to do otherwise.

The most common family names in South Korea are Kim, Lee (also spelled Yi/Ree) and Park (also spelled Pak). More than 20% of South Koreans have the last name Kim.

Can you write your name the Korean way? 

Dress: Hanbok        

Although hanbok simply means “Korean clothing,” it has come to be the general term used for traditional South Korean dress of the Joseon period (1392 to 1897). Hanbok is still worn today by men and women during festivals and formal occasions. In 1996, the government started a “Hanbok Day” to encourage people to wear the traditional dress.

Traditional women's hanbok consists of a jeogori (a blouse shirt or a jacket) and a chima (a wrap-around skirt—which is usually worn full versus fitted). The outfit is often called chima jeogori.

Men's hanbok consists of a jeogori and a loose-fitting baji (pants).