About Korea

where is Korea?

where is Korea?

The Korean peninsula is located in Northeast Asia. It is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, giving Korea its unique geographical feature.

With Seoul as its capital city, the mainland is roughly 1,030km long and 175km wide at its narrowest point. Korea's total land area is 100,033㎢, neighboring Japan to the east, China to the west, and sharing the northern border with Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Population

Population

The total population of Korea is approximately 51,164,435 (as of 2018), with most of the population residing in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Outside of Seoul, other large and economically advanced cities such as Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju and Ulsan also have higher population densities than other cities in Korea.

National Symbols

National Flag : Taegeukgi

National Flag : Taegeukgi

The current design of Taegeukgi was finalized in October of 1949. It symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang in oriental philosophy. The circle in the center is divided into two equal parts, where the upper red responds to the positive cosmic forces of the yang; conversely, the lower blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin. The flag's background is white, representing peace and purity valued by the people of Korea. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner, characterizing continual movement, balance and harmony.

National Flower : Mugunghwa

National Flower : Mugunghwa

The national flower of Korea is Mugunghwa, or rose of Sharon, which comes into bloom from July to October every year. The profusion of Mugunghwa gracefully decorates the entire nation during blooming season, providing a view that has been loved by Koreans for many years. The flower’s symbolic significance stems from the Korean word Mugung, which means immortality.

Traditional Food and Music

Traditional Food

Hansik refers to traditional Korean food, centered around rice, served alongside a bowl of soup and a variety of side dishes. Most foods use meat and vegetables as the main ingredients, and are soaked in brine or water rather than fried in oil, making hansik wonderful for one's health. More than anything else, hansik’s most outstanding feature is the amount of fermented foods, which are beneficial in improving digestion, as well as preventing cancer. The most well-known fermented foods are kimchi (fermented cabbage), ganjang (soy sauce), doenjang (soybean paste), and gochujang (Korean chili paste). Popular dishes among international visitors include bulgogi, bibimbap, and hanjeongsik (Korean table d'hote). Bulgogi is a marinated beef or sometimes pork dish that is sweet and tender in texture. In particular, the soy sauce seasoning is not spicy, thus making it a great introductory dish to hansik. Bibimbap, on the other hand, is a complete meal in and of itself, mixing rice with assorted vegetables of one's choice, topped with gochujang for that extra kick.

Hanjeongsik is served as a full table’s worth of side dishes featuring meat and vegetables along with soups, steamed foods, and hot pots. This is a popular choice for visitors looking to try a little bit of everything.

Traditional Music

Koreans have the unique characteristic of lyrical sensibility, using music to express their emotions. Traditional Korean music can be divided into music listened to by the royal family and by the commoners, each differing greatly in style.

Jongmyo Jeryeak, royal ancestral ritual music, the representative royal court music played during ancestral rites, was solumn and splendid. In contrast, the commoners who wished to overcome the difficulties of the working class usually sang folk songs and pansori, a traditional Korean music that narrates a themed story. With a distinct, inimitable sound, rhythm, and singing technique, pansori was designated as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.

Traditional Korean music has also greatly influenced Korean pop music. Recently, there is a growing trend of fusion art troupes where traditional Korean music is combined with contemporary elements. Performances such as 'Nanta' and 'Gugak B-boy', were created through the mix of traditional Korean rhythms and rock music. Such fusion music has since been receiving attention both locally and abroad, showcasing Korea's important cultural code to the world.

Korean Alphabet : Hangeul

Korean Alphabet : Hangeul

Hangeul, one of the most indigenous and unique creations of the nation, was introduced in 1443 by King Sejong(r. 1418-1450), the 4th king of the Joseon Dynasty. In order to help all commoners to easily read and write this new alphabet, unminjeongeum (meaning "Proper sounds to instruct the people" in Korean) was created. In 1910, the name of the language was changed to the current Hangeul in the 20th century.

Hangeul is a series of creative and scientifically designed characters. The alphabet is composed of basic consonants and vowels, each with a set sound, and a dot or a line added to form more sounds. The 5 main consonants (ㄱ, ㄴ, ㅅ, ㅁ, ㅇ) imitate the shape that the lips and tongue make when producing that particular sound, while the 3 main vowels (ㆍ, ㅡ, ㅣ) symbolize the sky, the earth and mankind respectively. Originally composed of 17 consonants and 11 vowels, only 14 consonants and 10 vowels are used in modern Hangeul.

Hangeul, as a written language, did not have any influence from pre-existing writing systems. The language is very easy for all to learn, evidenced by Korea's illiteracy rates being one of the lowest in the world. Of all Korea's cultural assets, the citizens are most proud of Hangeul and thus designated October 9 as Hangeul Day, to memorialize and celebrate the invention of the alphabet. In addition, UNESCO inscribed Hunminjeongeum Haerye; The Hangeul Manuscript, on the Memory of the World Register in 1997.

Housing : Hanok

Housing : Hanok

Traditional Korean Houses, Hanok, refers to houses built in the traditional Korean style. While tile-roofed and thatch-roofed hanoks were equally common, the former were typically noblemen residences while the latter were mostly houses of the commoners in the past. These days, most traditional hanok that are still lived in have modern facilities installed within. As an English teacher, your school is required by law to provide housing for you on top of your monthly salary. However, you may have to pay some form of key money as a deposit (though this is not normal). This varies from place to place, but you should expect to pay between 200,000 and 500,000 won.

The Koreans have an unusual system when it comes to renting apartments where the traditional sense is often not an option. Instead tenants pay a large deposit of between 50 to 200 million won. After this huge sum of money is paid no further monthly rent is required and after a period of two years the money is returned.

It is understood that most foreign English teachers would be unable to come up with such huge sums of money, which is why schools are required by law to provide housing for their teachers.

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