Korea is divided country of eastern Asia. It occupies a peninsula, about 450 miles (725 km) in length, between the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. China and a tip of the Soviet Union border Korea on the north. The nearest Japanese islands are about 30 miles (48 km) away, in the Korea Strait. Since 1945, Korea has been divided into two political units—the Democratic people’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). They are separated by a demilitarized zone, about 2 ½ miles (4km) in width, along the armistice line established in 1953 at the close of the Korean War.
The total area (including the demilitarized zone) is 85,049 square miles (20, 538 km2) and South Korea 38,025 square miles (98, 484 km2). This paper intents to: (1) know the physical geography of Korea; (2) understand the culture and customs of the country; (3) be acquainted on how basic human needs are met (types of careers, vocations, jobs, average yearly); (4) be aware of their language, religion, education, and types of food in their diets; (5) know about their television, newspapers, and other media and; (6) know its cultural differences related to the expected roles of men & women.
A. Physical Geography
In terms of land, the Korean Peninsula has rugged, mountainous terrain, with barely one-fifth of its surface in lowlands or plains. Few of the mountains are high compared to those of some other Asian countries, but they are so extensive that there are few places in Korea where mountains cannot be seen.
Rivers are generally short, winding, and fast-flowing. A few streams drain northward into the Yalu or Tumen rivers. Among the larger rivers are the Taedong, the Han, and the Kum. With some exceptions, the climate resembles that of the eastern seaboard of the United States from Maine to the Carolinas. There are sharp contrasts between the seasons, with cold winters and warm, humid summers. The climate is strongly affected by seasonal monsoons. In winter, cold dry air flows out of Siberia, dropping average temperatures over most of the peninsula (McCann, 2000).
A. Culture, Customs and Holidays of Korea
Distinct styles of living have emerged over the centuries and in much of Korea remain unchanged. The typical house in rural Korea is a two- to four- room structure with walls of clay or pounded earth and a thatched roof. Windows are small and may be of semi-transparent paper rather than glass. There is a crude outhouse but no bathing facilities. Water is obtained from a well often a village well. Most rural dwellings do not have electricity. Houses of the urban middle class and of well-to-do Koreans have walls of stucco, often with red and blue painted designs and perhaps a stone or cement foundation.
Windows are of glass, sometimes set in fancy wooden frames, and roofs are tiled. Toilet facilities may be inside, but Western-style plumbing is rare. There may be a running outlet in the courtyard, but seldom inside the house. New housing mostly deviates from this traditional pattern, in the direction of the bungalow and other Western styles (McCann, 2000). There is a considerable residue to Japanese-style homes, and many wealthier people live in essentially Western-style houses, though with some Korean or Japanese features. There are few apartment buildings.
Principal national holidays are New Year’s Day, Samil Day (March 1, the anniversary of the 1919 independence), Constitution Day (July 17), Liberation Day (August 15) and many traditional festive days are still celebrated by some Koreans, especially the older generation in the countryside. Chief of these are the birthday of Buddha on April 8 and tano on May 5 (celebrated by feasting).
B. How basic human needs are met?
South Korea’s economy was largely agricultural at the time of the Korean War, when much damage was inflicted on the nation. Reconstruction and recovery were rapid after the war, in part because of large amounts of economic aid from the United States and other nations. In the early 1960’s industry began to grow rapidly; by the mid-1980 and at present, South Korea had become one of the world’s chief exporters of manufactured goods. While on the other hand, with the division of Korea after World War II North Korea acquired most of the mineral resources, hydroelectric dams, manufacturing plants, and industrial facilities developed during the Japanese occupation. Much damage was quickly repaired with aid from the Soviet Union and other Communist nations (Yi, 2001).
Moreover, the South Korean government played a major role in directing and developing the economy, particularly through central planning and direct and indirect control of many manufacturing industries and banking. Rapid industrial development was also aided by large investments of capital and technology from the United States and Japan and by an abundance of skilled, cheap labor. Though few in number, corporate conglomerates—called chaebols— produce most of the nation’s goods and services.
At present, there are various jobs which South Korea has offered to its people especially it is an industrialized nation and many investors invested their capital aside from agriculture, fishing, lumbering and mining. While it North Korea, all industry is nationalized, agriculture is collectivized, and the entire economy is rigidly planned. North Korea’s total output of goods and services is roughly one-third to one-fourth that of South Korea’s (Yi, 2001). Soviet technical and financial aid has played a major role in the development of North Korea’s economy.
C. Its Language, Religion, Education, and Types of Food in their diets
The Korean language is believed to be unrelated to any known tongue. There is, however, a strong infusion of Chinese words in the vocabulary. A phonetic alphabet—originally 28, now 24 letters—has been in use since 1443.
Korea’s principal religions are Buddhism, Christianity, and Chondokyo (a native faith combining elements of Christianity and Buddhism). Korean ethics and morals are also shaped by Confucianism, which is not strictly a religion in the Western sense. Shamanism is strong in some rural areas. North Korea largely represses religious practices.
In South Korea, education is free and compulsory through six years of primary school, which begins at age six. It is followed by three years of middle school and then three years of high school. The chief institution of higher learning is Seoul National University. In North Korea, education is free and compulsory through five years of primary school (which begins at age six), four years of middle school, and two years of high school. The major institution of higher learning is Kim II sung University at Pyongyang. Technical education and the teaching of Communist ideology are stressed in North Korean education (Yi, 2001).
Moreover, Korean people are known to be fond of noodles, rice, meats and vegetables. Steamed rice is the main dish of any Korean meal, so much so that the word for cooked rice, pap, has come to mean “food” or “meal”. Rice is eaten together with a variety of side dishes (panchan), the most basic of which is kimchi, a fermented saladlike food prepared mostly from a white radish (mu) and Chinese cabbage (paechu). Soups are frequently served and usually contain seaweed or chunks of meat or fish. Korean dishes typically are very highly seasoned. Beef and pork are the common table meats, chickens being something of a delicacy (Caldwell, 2004).
D. Its television, newspapers, and other media.
Publishing. The daily press of South Korea is predominantly concentrated in Seoul. Leading Seoul papers are the Dong-A Ilbo, Chosan Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, and Kyunghyang Sinmun. The first two were founded in 1920 and boast proud records as voices of Korean nationalism. The Korean press is noted for detailed economic reporting, although it is often biased in favor of government policy. It is also depends on one semi-official news agency for foreign coverage. The Pusan Ilbo and the Taego Maeil Sinmun are prominent provincial papers (Schmid, 2002).
More than one thousand periodicals are published regularly in South Korea, many devoted to business topics. Popular Arts and Entertainment. Radio is dominated by the government’s Korean Broadcasting System, with three main and 39 affiliated local stations. Of 12 private stations, four are owned and operated by Christian groups (Schmid, 2002).
The native film industry is very largely a development of period since 1945. A great many foreign films, especially American, are imported, and they draw four fifths of the movie audience. Korean filmmakers contribute an annual domestic production of about 100 titles.
E. Cultural differences related to the expected roles of men & women
Marriage in the old Korea was arranged by the parents through a go-between, and the most important consideration was the social standing of the bridegroom’s family. In yangban, or upper class, families it was customary for boys to be married when they reached 12 or 13, sometimes even earlier, in many cases to girls in the late teens.
This custom has entirely changed, and men often are 30 or more before they can undertake the financial responsibilities of marriage. Social pressure still requires girls to marry relatively early. Marriage within the same clan is still forbidden by law. Concubinage is far less common today than it was in the past, but it is not rare for a man simply desert his wife for another woman (Caldwell, 2004). Women may now have recourse to the divorce court, though at the risk of social opprobrium.
Nowadays, Korea is one of the most admired countries. Its people are really working hard to make their country more progressive and developed. The sciences are still in their fancy. There is an advanced of experimental technique, and facilities for scientific education and are research are improving.
Caldwell, John C. (2004) The Korea Story. Henry Regnery. Chicago.
McCann, David R. (2000). Korea Briefing: Toward Reunification. M. E. Sharpe. Place of Armonk, NY.
Schmid, Andre. (2002). Korea between Empires, 1895-1919. Columbia University Press. Place of Publication: New York.
Yi, Chae-Hyon (2001). Korean Perspective: A Picture and Word Tour through Old and New Korea. Office of Public Information, Republic of Korea. Seoul.