Korean Culture and Their Traditions

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Table of Contents

  • Food/meals
  • Religion/Believes
  • Clothing/Dress code
  • Traditional Dances
  • Music
  • Painting
  • Craftwork
  • Ceramics
  • Korean martial arts
  • Housing
  • Traditional games
  • Education
  • Working culture
  • Korean language
  • Gardens

Korean way of life is dynamic and one that has stood the test of time over the years. Unlike many cultures and linguistic groups that are vanishing away with time Korean culture and lifestyle are here to stay and this is one thing the Koreans are really proud of. In this paper, I’ve explored various aspects of the Korean people and the discoveries made are amazing.


For Koreans the staple meal is rice. This is influenced mostly by the fact that this is the most common crop the Korean people grow. Rice is mostly accompanied by vegetables and soups. Proteins that accompany rice are mostly fish products. Fish is common more than other meat products because Korea is a Peninsula in that it’s surrounded by the ocean. Beef and Pork are other protein accompaniments but they are rarely consumed because they are very expensive. With time the Korean people developed other meals and they are broadly classified into two categories; ceremonial and ritual meals. Ceremonial meals include meals taken during wedding and birthday parties while ritual meals are taken during funerals, ancestral rites, and in temples. Koreans have a norm of accompanying their meals with alcohol. Tea also forms a crucial part of Korean meals though initially, it served the purpose of traditional herbal medicine.

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The first indigenous religion the Koreans had is known as Shamanism which is present up to date. With time other religions were introduced into Korea’s land. Buddhism, Confucianism Islam, and Christianity are among the religions introduced into Korean land. Buddhism and Confucianism were introduced into Korea through cultural interactions with Chinese dynasties. With time Buddhism received lots of resistance and was only found in the countryside. Confucianism which later developed into Korean Confucianism was found mostly among a certain class of people; mostly scholars, the wealthy, and people in positions of power and authority. With time Christianity and Islam were started gaining roots in Korea. Islam is not a major religion amongst the Koreans because many Koreans have a Muslim Phobia. Christianity on the other hand has superseded all other religions to become the main religion in Korea with two major Christian groups in existence; Catholics and Protestants. For Protestants, Anglicans are the most common. The fact that Christianity is the main religion here is way beyond the expectations of most people with Korea being an Asian country.

Clothing/Dress code

Koreans have a dynamic clothing culture. Initially, Korean’s clothing lifestyle was influenced a lot by social status with the most pleasing and advanced forms of clothing being associated with the ruling class and royal families/upper class. The jewelry was also worn by this class to distinguish themselves from ordinary people. The ordinary/common people were mostly dressed in plain clothes which were subdivided into two; official, for official purposes and ceremonial to be used during ceremonies such as weddings.

Korean people’s dress code is also influenced by the weather whereby during seasons like winter people wear cotton–wadded dresses. During summer they dress in lighter clothing. Their dress code is also influenced by purpose e.g. there is an everyday dress code, ceremonial dress code, and special dress code. Korean women have a form of traditional clothing known as genu and it’s special to the women in that they are dressed in it only during special occasions. The color of this dress is pink and it has multiple symbols around the neck area.

Traditional Dances

Koreans have two main forms of dance; court dance and folk dance. Court dances are subdivided into two; one, dances performed at banquets and dances performed during Korean ritual ceremonies. Dances performed at banquets are referred to as jeongjaemu and it comprises Korean native dances and dancing forms imported from other parts of the Asian continent and more so in China. The dances performed at ritual ceremonies are referred to as ilmu and they are further subdivided into civil dances for official purposes and military dances which are meant to be performed during military functions.


Koreans music genre falls into two main categories; one, folk music, and two, court music. Folk music is mostly performed by a single singer and drummer and it’s only on rare occasions where there can be dancers and narrators’.Korean court music was developed during ancient dynasties and kingdoms. It is of three main forms; one that is imported from the Chinese cultural music, two a form that is of a pure Korean form and the third form is a blend/combination of Korean and Chinese firms.


Koreans have been engaging a lot in painting over the years with the earliest forms being referred to as petroglyphs. It is believed that these forms of paintings were introduced in that they came with Buddhism’s religious form of worship. However there were also traditional forms of paintings which existed before the petroglyphs and were done even in temples and they are also a true reflection of traditional cultural ceremonies, warfare, ancient housing design, and forms of life of the Korean people.


Craft in Korea is dynamic in the sense that it is for a specific purpose and it’s done to meet a given purpose rather than for beauty purposes. Initially, the materials that were used for craftwork were metal, wood, fabric, and earthenware but with advancement in technology materials such as glass, leather, and paperwork have been introduced into craftwork. Ancient forms of craftwork include red and black pottery. With time advancements were made into the craft and we had gilt crowns, pottered pottery, pots, or ornaments. Brass which is a mixture of copper and zinc was also introduced into craftwork technology. With further advancement craft technology incorporated the use of porcelain and wood and with the introduction of the latter furniture work was steered including the making of wardrobes, chests tables, and drawers. Furniture work from Korea up to date remains to be among the most sort form of furniture work in the world.


Ceramic technology advanced from the traditional forms of pottery. Korea’s ceramic technology is much advanced compared to that of other countries e.g. that of China. Korean ceramic technology has to be of much influence even to other Asian Countries e.g. the Japanese. The Japanese can trace back their ceramic technology from Korea.

Korean martial arts

Korean traditional martial arts technique is referred to as Hangu/Haja. Koreans are known to deploy their martial arts techniques for military and non-military purposes. The Korean’s aggressiveness in martial arts dates back many years and was initially advanced for use in self-defense by the Korean people when they moved into the area they presently occupy that was under constant war threats. Originally Korean Traditional Martial Arts were subdivided into tribal martial arts, Buddhist martial arts, and royal court martial arts. Later on, the three were merged into one category. The most common Martial arts technique that has its origin in Korea is Taekwondo. Taekwondo is used for self-defense and also in sports. In self-defense the techniques used are lethal and most of them are prohibited when it comes to sports.


The traditional/original Korean housing was referred to as hanbok. In designing houses the architectural technology deployed by Koreans considers the positioning of the house about its surrounding. Interior finishing/design is done to uttermost perfection. Ancient day Koreans are believed to have lived in temporary residential houses which were later developed into dig out huts which were dug into the ground and upper construction advanced using wood and straw used for roofing. After the Korean war Koreans chose to make great advancements in building technology into more permanent residential houses. Modern-day housing greatly considers two factors; one the location/region the house is to be located. This is considered due to different weather patterns experienced in different regions of the country. Social class is the second factor that is considered before setting up a house. This is because the economic value of every house differs depending on the requirements to put up the house.

Traditional games

Koreans have traditional games that have over the years been passed over from one generation to another. These games are used for different purposes and for different reasons with the ultimate aim being building a cohesive society and also in a way bridging the age gap between the aged and young in a way to bring the two groups together and discuss issues in life and the elderly are also able to share with the young in matters national building and the way of life in the society. Some of these games are spiritual in approach also and they are performed for spiritual purposes among the different groups in the country. Examples of the games are the drumming performances that are believed to invoke ancient spirits, they are also believed to bless the harvests and also invoke the blessings of heaven. Other forms of traditional games are wrestling, arrow pitching archery, and stone fights.


Koreans value education so much and it’s considered a priority by many Korean parents to invest in the education of their children. The Korean governments also invest so much in the education of the Korean population as a whole. For parents is believed that they invest so much in the education of their children to secure the children’s future and also so that the children can in return take care of them after retirement when they are old. There is a high preference to educate the boy child more so in their teenage age than in educating the girl child. The government on the other hand aims at making great advancements in science and technology. To do this the government ensures that science-based subjects are among the key subjects explored from an early age in education. Greater investments have been made in higher education especially in technological careers. Koreans are believed to be among nations in the world that invest so, much in modern military technology. Advancements in the same are mostly done in institutions of higher learning and research areas. It is believed that schooling is done from eight in the morning to four in the evening with younger students and pupils undergoing private tutorship in their homes.

Working culture

Asian countries are believed to be among nations in the world that promote a working culture among the citizens. The Korean government is believed to be among nations in the world that steer a 24-hour economy and this implies that citizens are expected to work round the clock at all times to boost their economy. In a way, these almost broke the nation in the 1990s and the government had to go slow on this initiative. To further boost production Korea had automated most of its systems to aid in faster production processes.

Korean language

The language spoken by a majority of Koreans is the Korean language. This language is the official and national language of both North and South Korea. The Korean language shares some similarities with other Asian linguistic groups an example being the Japanese language in the sense that the two share some vocabulary and grammatical features. Even though the Korean language is the main language it has several dialects that have few clear boundaries between them.


Koreans invest so much in landscape architecture. The main reason being for aesthetic purposes. The native gardens here are grouped into two temples and private gardens. There is a great similarity between the gardens here and those that are located in the neighboring countries e.g. China and Japan. The unique feature of Korean gardens is their original traditional nature in that very few/little modifications have been made to them.

Korean culture is dynamic and unique. It befits a growing society and nation at large. The natives have also tried to preserve their culture in a changing world they strongly uphold the phrase that old is gold. 

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