14 Fun Facts About South Korea in Honor of the Olympics


With the Winter Olympics off and running, Reddit decided to ask its users from South Korea to share things we may not know about the country. Sit back and be enlightened by these 14 folks sharing the best of their home country.

1. Ok, this is 10 facts on its own

Porn is blocked by the government

Compulsory military service is a big deal that most Korean males go through.

How attractive you are and where you go to university matter a lot.

People really don’t hate Japan.

Drugs are extremely rare, although you might have some luck finding marijuana near foreigner populated areas such as Itaewon and Gangnam

Hierarchy exists in pretty much every aspect of Korean life (Age, Military, University, Workplace)

People are expected to follow certain etiquettes when dealing with their superiors.

A lot of office workers are pressured into working overtime and going out for drinks after work with their superiors.

Entertainment and computer games are a huge part of Korean culture.

There are pretty cool water parks here in Korea.

2. Folk Stories

Korea has tons of folk tales that are interesting to read up on. My personal favorite is the story of the Gumiho, a mystical fox that wants to be human. In most of the stories I’ve read, the fox ends up transforming into the most beautiful woman.

3. That could get confusing…

You’re 1 year old when you are born. You become a year older on January 1st. If you are born on 11:59 PM, December 31st, you will be 2 years old despite having been born only for a minute.

4. English language

Youll find tons of americans in itaewon (seoul), parts of suwon, and songtan. If youre totally lost find those neighborhoods. We stick out like a sore thumb. Yongsan army garrison has an American embassy if you screw up royally.

Seoul has english on just about everything to help find your way around. The trains and buses have english translations on signage…taxi drivers are gonna be hit or miss.

If youre here for the Olympics then youll be surrounded by expats and us military who are there to watch an event.

5. Meerkats available

Korea is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. 96% of the population is Korean, 2% of the population is foreign and the other 2% are ethnic Koreans who were born in China and are technically Chinese.

Oh and they have meerkat/wallaby cafes you can go to. No owls though… yet.

6. Good tips

If someone is older than you, use both hands when giving or receiving anything. (generally cash, card, but literally anything).

Most Koreans don’t really care about North Korea. It’s not worth asking their opinion on it.

After school, the students go to academies (English, math, piano, taekwondo, and many, many others). Some may go to 3 or 4 academies after school and get home at 10pm (or later if they go to the library to study).

It’s legal to drink in public. Many people will go to parks and have beer and soju.

A popular alc*holic drink is 소맥, or “somaek” which is a mix of soju (소주) and maekju (beer, 맥주).

Soju is really cheap. Like, under $2 at a convenience store and it is anywhere from about 14%-19% alcohol.

Convenience stores are literally everywhere. They are quite different than western convenience stores. They have microwaves, hot water (for ramen), tables, chairs, and some delicious food!

Likewise, PC방 (PC-bang/internet cafes) are everywhere. You can play video games on high-end computers for about $1/hr.

The Korean alphabet, Hangul (한글) is super easy to learn how to read. If you plan on visiting Korea, put in a couple of hours and learn to read Hangul and it will really pay off.

Be sure to try my favorite Korean food, 갈매기살 galmaegi-sal!

I’ve only been here for about half a year, but if you have any questions, let me know!

Edit: I will continue to edit this as I think of new things.

If you come to Korea, get the transit card! It is very easy to use the subway (the bus is a little harder if you haven’t practiced listening and reading Korean). If I remember correctly, the transit card is 3,000원 (about $3) and it makes it very easy to just tap the card and use the subway. The subway costs about 1,250원 up to maybe 2,500원 for really long distances. Busses are about the same.

It’s cold right now. I’m sure many people are fine with the cold, but I’m from the deep south USA and it has been a new experience to say the least.

Public parks are very well kept and they are some of the most beautiful places in Korea. It seems like the government puts a lot of effort into creating and maintaining their parks.

A few basic phrases (using my own romanization for how it actually sounds):

안녕하세요 – ahn nyoung ha say oh – hello

감사합니다 – gamsamnida – thank you

화장실이 어디에요? – hwajangshili oh D A oh – Where is the bathroom?

네 – nay – yes

아니요 – ah knee oh – no

맛있다! – mahsh eat dah – delicious!

My own romanization isn’t perfect, but I feel that it’s easier for absolute beginners than the standard romanization. Obviously it’s best just to learn Hangul. Seriously, just learn to read and pronounce Hangul. It’s so easy.

7. Some major positives and negatives in this one

Don’t talk about doing drugs, even weed…which (if you’re American) you’ll likely be asked about in a very direct manner. Don’t admit to smoking weed, people will formulate a very poor opinion of you (despite knowing less than nothing about the subject). For Thor’s sake don’t attempt to bring any drugs, they’re REALLY good at catching people who do that. They’re totally okay with drinking to excess and smoking so go nuts.

Soju is the express train to getting black out drunk. Koreans are very big on social drinking and social pressure to get others to drink. You’ll know you’re in for a wild ride if someone suggests drinking baiju (Chinese white liquor) or whisky. Ladies, as always…be careful getting too drunk around guys you’ve just met…the police are very lax in pursuing charges against rapists and often suggest “blood money” because (I suspect) they get a cut of the money.

Koreans will likely attempt to assert you look like some celebrity…mainly if you’re attractive.

If a taxi driver is trying to negotiate a fare without turning on the meter (which was still pretty common when I lived there) they’re trying to rip you off. Pretty standard everywhere I guess. If you’re female and drunk…be very careful when you get into a taxi or are obliged to ride in one alone.

Korean food is awesome and there’s lots to like. Namdaemun market has pretty awesome mung bean pancakes (nok du jeon) and a traditional market full of cool stuff to photograph. Try Korean barbeque and make sure you get some with perilla leaf at least once…it’s awesome. Although pig feet doesn’t sound particularly awesome to everyone…it’s quite good, as is bo-ssam. This place is freekin amazing for ginseng chicken stew (samgyetang): https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/ShowUserReviews-g294197-d1174982-r419726774-Tosokchon_Samgyetang-Seoul.html There’s always a line because it’s just that good.

There are still places that serve dog stew. It’s called bo-shin-tang and although some elders still eat it…most Koreans (the ones I knew anyways) LOVED dogs and the idea of eating them was just abhorrent. It’s legal and you can try it if you care to. I’d say you’re better off just having yoo-kae-jang…which is essentially the same but with a better grade of meat that wasn’t brutally tortured before it died.

There are heaps of temples in the city limits of Seoul and if you’re spry and good at hiking…you can get some really great photos of the mountains and unique temple scenery. Very pretty most of the year…spring, summer, and fall mainly. Some parks may still have those quaint (but expensive) smoked pork belly restaurants on the way down…so great.

Insa-dong is a cool place to visit with lots of art and traditional culture, street food, and little parades. There’s a booth that sells poop-shaped bean paste bread…it’s actually really great.

Try Korean fried chicken while you’re there. It’s one of many things grafted onto Korean culture that Koreans (in many cases) do better than the original. Boor Chicken, Kyeocheon Chicken, and Von’s were my favorite. BBQ and BHC are also okay but this can get expensive…it’s really popular.

8. Runs in the family

Most Koreans have two syllable first names, for example, Won Bin, Eun Chan etc. Many Koreans share one syllable of their name with other members of the same generation of their family. It’s written down in a big book what order the names should go. Not all families follow it strictly, but many do. So you’ll often have brothers and sisters with one syllable that is the same.

So for example, my father in law and all his brothers and male cousins have ‘한’ (Han) in their name. My husband and all his cousins have the ‘찬’ (Chan) in their name. The next generation all have the name ‘수’ (Su) in their name, so if we have kids, we should give them that name too.

If I meet a kid that has the same surname and the name Su in their first name, I can be pretty sure that they are part of my husband’s extended family which is pretty cool.

9. It’s not the “N” word

Don’t be offended if you hear people on the street saying “Ni-ga, or Nae-ga” They’re not saying the N word.

Ni-ga (니가) translates to “You or Your’re” I believe.

While Nae-ga (내가) translates to “I”… Not sure my spelling is correct on the second one tho

10. Fighting for their right to party

South Korea has one of the highest alcohol consumption per capita in the world. And depending on what source you use, might be #1.

11. So, cell phones and TVs are out?

Samsung is a weapons manufacturer. They sell things like sentry guns to the military.

12. I see the loophole here

Social hierarchy is organized by age. If someone older than you asks you to get them a glass of water you have to obey them (or ask someone younger than you to get you a glass of water).

13. New dinner recipe

kim yu na sells everything in korea .. everything. also armybase stew prob the most genius of all almagamations of army surplus foods and spicy broth. try it its fantastic super easy and failry cheap to make.

14. Tourist town

public transportation within seoul is one of the best in the world, esp the subway. clean, safe and great for getting around anywhere within seoul and the nearby areas.

as olympics start, the lodgings and restaurants have started charging exorbitant prices much to the outrage of koreans. i hope ppl somehow find lodging with reasonable pricing

if you ever visit seoul, try to avoid myeongdong. it used to be a popular place with small cute interesting shops and good eateries, but now the area is overflowing with franchises that you can find practically anywhere else, incredibly overpriced and shitty food and a ton of chinese tourists.

if you ever visit seoul, try the old palaces, or Sinchon and Hongdae. the last two places are where most young koreans in their twenties hang out. fun things to do and see, tasty stuff to eat and all that.

and if you as an english speaker ever get lost, just try asking for directions and ppl will sincerely try to help you to the best that they can, though they might look embarassed cuz of their english. don’t be afraid to ask

edit: oh and online porn is banned in korea, you need vpn or whatever to get past gov restrictions.

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