Thanks to its rich history and dynamic lifestyle culture, South Korea is hailed as the number one tourist destination globally. Set foot into one of its famed capitals, and you’re guaranteed a travel experience of a lifetime.
From futuristic architecture lining the streets of Seoul, grand palaces that wonderfully transport you back in time, to a myriad of scrumptious local delicacies – these are just a tiny fraction of what the Land of the Morning Calm offers.
But aside from Korea’s multitude of attractions that led many to include the bustling metropolis in their travel bucket list, did you know there’s also a collection of compelling facts about the nation that attributed to its popularity?
Uncover the unique, albeit unexplored, facts of Korea yet that are bound to leave you surprised and wanting to learn more!
1. An estimated 1/3 of Korean women undergo at least one plastic surgery
With the highest rate of cosmetic procedures performed per capita, South Korea is deemed the world’s plastic surgery capital. Although considered taboo in other Asian countries, cosmetic operations are embraced in South Korea.
With a ubiquitous desire to achieve unparalleled beauty, South Koreans are constantly striving to attain flawless features. And at present, nearly one-third of Korean women between 19 and 29 have undergone at least one plastic surgery, with rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty being the top procedures of choice.
In fact, there’s even a tradition for South Korean parents to reward their children with plastic surgery upon their high school graduation!
2. There are more than 200 types of kimchi in South Korea
When it comes to Korean delicacies, kimchi is a quintessential ingredient omnipresent in every local household. It’s prized as Korea’s national dish, courtesy of its flavourful origins.
For the uninitiated, the wonders of kimchi were first discovered when Korean ancestors experienced agriculture challenges during the winter. This spurred them to experiment with preserving their vegetables alongside an assortment of spices. Thus, kimchi was created – and have since embodied the essence of Korean cuisine.
To say that Koreans are enamoured with this addictive, spicy fermented cabbage is an understatement. Their love for this tangy ingredient knows no bounds, for they’ve churned out 200 documented types of kimchi to date, each of distinctive flavours!
3. Almost 20 per cent of Koreans share the surname ‘Kim’
Did you know that an estimated 20 per cent of South Korea’s population share the same family name, ‘Kim’? That’s a whopping 10 million people! However, the reason why most natives have an identical surname is not coincidental. Rather, it’s due to its historical origins.
During the reign of the Silla kingdom from 57 BCE to 935 CE, the royal family, Kim, were the rulers for 700 years. And back then, surnames were entitled only to royals and aristocrats. This circumstance held until the granting of surnames to loyal subjects became a symbol of favour set in place by the Goryeo dynasty’s king.
Subsequently, in the late Joseon dynasty, the class system was abolished, and commoners were allowed to adopt family names for social and economic advantages. Hence, most gravitated towards surnames representative of past lofty clans and royals, with Kim being one of them. As such, Kim became one of the most dominant last names in Korea to date!
4. Writing a name in red ink alludes to death in Korea
Despite its splendid technological advancement, South Korea – a country once rooted in shamanism – is awash with superstition. For instance, writing your name in red ink is considered a death threat in Korea. This is because the colour red symbolises blood, and South Koreans associate red ink with death.
Back in the olden days, red ink was utilised to pen down the names of the deceased in the family register. It was believed that by adopting such a practice, the red ink would ward off neighbouring evil spirits. This tradition has passed down till today.
Unless it’s intended for official document purposes, remember to use a black a blue pen when travelling to Korea in the future if you don’t want to be deemed disrespectful and ignorant.
South Korea is steeped in rich history. It’s no wonder that tourists love paying a visit to this beautiful country. And with these several intriguing traits about Korea, you’ll be armed with better knowledge of the nation’s customs and traditions.
If you’re itching to explore the country’s culture without forking out the cost of a plane ticket, then signing up for a Korean language course in Singapore is an excellent choice. At Sejong Korean language school, we offer informative classes tailored to your learning needs. With guidance from our professional native teachers, learning Korean is now an easy feat!