You might know that the capital of South Korea, Seoul, is also the largest metropolitan area in the entire country.
You might also know that the country boasts 12 World Heritage Sites (areas that are recognized for their importance and therefore preserved and protected), or that kimchi is the national food, served at almost every meal, with almost everything.
If you are ever in South Korea and have the hankering to shop ’til you drop, not to worry, one of the citizens’ favorite past times is spending money.
In fact, it’s not a nightlife that stays open until the wee hours. While restaurants and bars are closing up around 11pm, on average, many shopping malls are still going (and seeing customers) until 4 in the morning.
They even have the biggest department store in the world. Shinsegae is over three million square feet. And don’t worry about if you have cash, or won, as currency is called in South Korea; they are also big credit card users.
2. Plastic Surgery is Very Popular
While it might not be as commonplace here in the United States, in South Korea, having plastic surgery is something a great deal of the country has done or will do when the time is right; in fact, you might be the odd one out if you haven’t had any work done on your face.
You can barely go anywhere without seeing a cosmetic clinic, or at least an advertisement for one, detailing some of the most commonly-requested procedures, like double eyelid surgery, jaw and chin reduction, and nose jobs.
Plastic surgery is for both men and women alike; really anyone who wants to enhance their looks. And it’s not just natives that flock to surgeons, many people come to South Korea from all over the world, specifically for the purpose of getting cosmetic surgery.
3. Robots everywhere!
Well, not everywhere but robots are very popular in South Korea!
They have the highest density of robots in the world. Robots are not being only used in factories but also as prison guards, waiters, or teachers.
4. Makeup for Everyone, Men Too!
In South Korea, it’s not just women or performers who generally make their faces up.
In the “Land of the Morning Calm,” almost 20% of the male population wears makeup. Monetarily, that amounts to almost $900 million spent per year.
5. They Say Kimchi not Cheese
And you might just get some cheese (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, of course).
But if you want to get everyone to smile for a photo in South Korea, you need to say “kimchi” (a pickled cabbage side dish) instead.
6. Famous & Most Dangerous Border Control in North
The border between North and South Korea, as established in 1953 as a result of the Korean War, is known as the Demilitarized Zone (or DMZ); it divides the Korean Peninsula in half.
It is also one of the most dangerous borders on the planet, as it is heavily patrolled by armed military personnel and even features live landmines.
If you were to try and cross it from either side, you’d be shot. It is over 150 miles long and two and a half miles wide.
7. Taekwondo is 100% South Korean
“The way of the fist and foot,” or taekwondo, began in Korea, close to 2000 years ago. It the first form of martial arts self-defense, and today it is the national and most popular sport in South Korea and became an official part of the Summer Olympics in 2000.
8. Red Ink
Here in the United States, we use all kinds of different colors of ink in our writing. While it is most professional to use black or blue ink, especially for formal writing, Americans are not shy with other colors, especially red.
However, this is not the case in South Korea. If you see a name written in red, it’s a pretty bad sign; it signifies that a person is dead or on the way to being dead.
9. No Beards
You may have seen pictures in history textbooks depicting individuals in South Korean history with beards, some of them very long.
But today, a man with a beard is considered dirty and unkempt, no matter how groomed his beard may look. And this isn’t just about what a potential romantic partner might think; wearing a beard might just deter you from even getting a job!
10. Parks full of Sexual Statues
A visit to Haesindang Park is certainly not for the faint of heart or skittish. The park is home to close to 50 penis statues on display, all for the ancient folklore purpose of pleasing a virgin bride.
Same goes for a visit to another sculpture park, Jeju Loveland, which goes farther than just phallic symbols by displaying more than 100 exhibits, showcasing all types of sexual organs and positions. Definitely not an excursion fit for children.
11. Love Motels
Renting a room for just one evening or even just a few hours is not something that we are accustomed to in the United States. But in South Korea, these type of love motels do exist.
For many, instead of frowning upon it, they embrace this type of “date,” as it affords couples more privacy (it is not uncommon for South Koreans to live under their family’s roofs far into their 20s), and because they have become so widely accepted, there are a now a variety of options.
There’s a place for a quick, no-frills cheap evening and then there are places oozing with luxuriousness and opulence.
12. South Korean Will Alway Be Older Than You
No matter if you were born on the same exact day, at the same exact time, in the same exact year, South Koreans will always be older than you are.
How is that possible? Well, when South Koreans are born, they are already considered one years old.
Additionally, children age one more year when the next Lunar New Year occurs. So, even though you have some of the same birth statistics, sometimes South Koreans are up to two years older than you are.
13. Adultery is Legal
Similar to China and Japan, adultery is actually legal in South Korea, and has been since 2015, as the country believes it is more of a personal matter than that of a state matter.
14. Microsoft is King
While there are host of different Internet browsers for users to choose from based on their own preferences, for banking and shopping,
You think you’re tired? Or that New York is the city that never sleeps? In Seoul, the average citizen clocks in less than six hours of sleep per night.
16. Crime Recreation
Fans of shows like Law & Order, CSI, and the rest, will love this tidbit about South Korea.
Suspects who have been accused of crimes like murder or rape can be required to publicly recreate their crime.
Not only is the public allowed to spectate at this, but so is the media, which can irreparably damage a person’s name and reputation.
17. They Work Extra Hours
A 40-hour workweek, the standard number of hours in the United States, is nothing for South Koreans, who average a whopping 55 hours per week.
18. Scissors Everywhere
While you might have a pair of scissors in your kitchen, they are probably not your most-used utensil.
But in South Korea, scissors are an integral part of every kitchen set up, as they are used to cut a variety of foods like noodles, meat, and even kimchi.
19. Hairstyles Tell A Lot
Instead of basing it on preference or what is “in style,” South Korean women only have about three different types of hairstyles to work with, and they are based upon their age and relationship status.
If you see a girl with long hair, she is unmarried; one with a short cut has recently gotten married, and older women wear perms.
20. Stay Lucky, Stay Away from 4
If you are ever visiting South Korea (or one of several other East Asian countries), you might notice that the number 4 is rarely seen.
That’s because it is known as an unlucky number, as it sounds very similar to the word for death.
So you’ll be hard-pressed to find a 4 in an elevator, and if you’re looking for a place to live that has a 4 in it, not only will you be pressing your luck, but the property value of your place might even be lower.
21. “Have You Eaten Well?” means “How are you?”
When a South Korean asks you this, they are not technically asking if you are hungry or how healthy you eat.
It’s actually more equivalent to how in the United States, we would greet someone with, “How are you?”
22. Do South Koreans eat dogs?
Yes, South Korean eat dogs! It’s been part of the culture for ages but lately, it’s becoming a more controversial and less popular option. As a fact, they actually eat around one million dogs per year (says usatoday.com)
And this is only a small sampling of interesting tidbits about South Korea. There are a ton more, like that 20% of the population is named Kim. Or that unmarried adults are nicknamed “Big Baby.” Or how once you’ve finished your food delivery meal, you can just leave the dishes outside of your house and the delivery person will come back and get it. Or that the color of your taxi cab indicates the quality of your driver. And if you want to get fruit while in South Korea, you better be prepared to spend upwards of $20 for even just one melon.
For a country that is equivalent in size to the state of Indiana, this little guy sure does provide a host of fascinating facts.