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					Korea
Korea, "Land of the Morning Calm," is a land of opposites existing in conjunction with each other.
It combines ancient Oriental tradition with modern technology. In downtown Seoul, one can find
traces of its 5,000 year history in its palaces, city gates, and temples, yet the country is also a
rapidly developing nation in terms of industry, trade, and commerce.


Calendar
As in many Asian countries, Korea uses both the solar and lunar
calendars, and celebrates holidays based on both. The country uses
one time zone and is 9 hours ahead of GMT, the same as Japan. Most
Koreans work Monday through Friday and then a half day on Saturday
mornings. Usual business hours are 9:00-6:00 during the week and
9:00-1:00 on Saturday. During national holidays, government offices
and most businesses are closed, although many private store keepers
and large department stores may remain open. The major exceptions
occur during the 3-day holidays for the Lunar New Year (Seol-nal) and
Harvest Moon Festival (Chuseok) when just about everything shuts down except public
transportation. (See the Events Calendar section for upcoming holidays and events.)



Clothes
Although most people prefer Western clothes like suits and jeans,
the national costume, hanbok, is worn by many during national
holidays. Traditionally, people wore white clothes, reserving colors
for the upper class or during festive occassions. Rubber shoes and
sandals have been replaced by designer shoes and sneakers;
however, even these are removed when entering a house or other
area where shoes are not permitted. The Cultural Spotlight area
has an in-depth section on Traditional Clothing.



Education
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.

The Korean education system consists of six years of primary school,
three years of middle school, then three years of high school. Those who pass the national exam
go on to 4-year colleges or universities. Others go to 2-year junior colleges, while the rest enter
the work force. Until recently, most middle and high schools were segregated by sex. However,
because of complaints about differences in education levels between the boys and girls schools
and socialization problems later in life, most schools have gone co-ed.
                 Flag
                 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 T'aegukki depicts the balancing philosophies of
Yin/Yang and the concept of Ohaengsol (five directions). In the central circle, the red portion
represents positive Yang, while the blue portion represents negative Yin. It is an ancient symbol
representing balance and harmony. The combination of bars in each corner also symbolizes
opposites and balance. The set in the upper left corner symbolizes heaven, spring, east, and
gentility. The lower right corner symbolizes the earth, summer, west, and justice. The upper right
corner symbolizes the moon, winter, north, and wisdom. The lower left corner symbolizes the sun,
autumn, south, and courtesy.
Buy online at Flagline.com!



Food and Drink
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. Kimchi, the most
common group of side dishes, includes various vegetables (cabbage,
radishes, and various roots) fermented with spices (garlic, red pepper,
and ginger). Korea produces several types of grain alcohol, most notably
soju. Nowadays, many people eat more and more Western, Japanese,
and Chinese food, with pizza becoming more popular than kimchi among the younger generation.



Geography
Over 70% of the land is mountainous with the
eastern regions consisting of mainly rugged
mountain ranges and deep valleys. Many people
enjoy hiking in the foothills and mountains. 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.




                                                                   Maps by




History
Korea claims a 5,000+ year history, dating from the country's foundation by Tangun. Its history is
full of foreign invaders and various factions vying for power. Korean history is broken down into the
  following periods:
Three Kingdoms (57 B.C. - A.D. 668)
Silla (668 - 935)
Goryeo (918 - 1392)
Joseon (1392 - 1910)
Japanese Occupation (1910 - 1945)
Republic of Korea (1945 - present)



Housing
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. Modern housing still uses the
traditional ondol method (flat stones underneath floors that retain heat for
long periods after being heated) for keeping warm during the winter,
although nowadays water pipes are used instead of stones.



Language
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. Visit Life in Korea's
language section to learn some useful Korean vocabulary and phrases.



Money and the Economy
Korea's currency is the won (W). In some tourist areas, merchants may be willing to accept U.S.
dollars or Japanese yen, but the exchange rate will be worse than the official rate. Most banks and
hotels can exchange money, and most will also take travelers checks. Cash advances on non-
Korean credit cards can be made in most subway stations and banks. Many international banks
have offices in Seoul, and a few have branches in Pusan.



People
Population: over 46.9 million (1999 est.)
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.



Religion
Korea has been influenced by four major religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and
Shamanism. Additionally, a very large mosque in It'aewon-dong holds services for those of the
Islamic faith. Many Koreans follow more than one religion as many new Christian converts continue
to practice ancestor worship and perform Buddhist rites.



         Weather                      As all the tourist books will tell you, 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.

                                      The rainy season (changma) starts in late July and lasts
                                      through mid-August and often causes flooding of low
                                      areas. Don't go anywhere without an umbrella during this
time!
You can check the   current weather conditions in major Korean cities on our Weather page.

				
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