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South Korea: History, Facts and Culture

South Korea is a developed country in East Asia with a population of 51 million people. It is located on the Korean Peninsula with a capital in Seoul, the 5th largest megapolis in the world. Having a rich history that has started in the 7th century, along with rapid modernization in the last few decades, the country has developed a unique culture that blends traditional and modern elements. I would like to briefly discuss South Korean history and then delve into some of the cultural features that led to South Korea being one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

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South Korea was not an independent country until the Korean War that lasted from 1950 to 1953, which resulted in the Korean Peninsula being divided into North and South Korea. Throughout its history, South Korea was a part of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which were united later and ruled by Goryeo and Joseon dynasties of emperors. In 1910 Korea was colonized by Japan and was only freed after World War II when the tension between North and South of Korea started to escalate., The end of authoritarian rule in 1987 established the country as a thriving democratic republic (Central Intelligence Agency, 2020). The economic growth of the country has been steady since then.

The Korean entertainment industry is one of the most influential ones the world. The so-called Korean Wave which has started in the 90s, after Korea became a democracy, signified the rise of Korean cinema, TV, and music. South Korea has been successfully exporting its national goods abroad and making a profit. By now, there are very few people who do not know about K-pop. The first time K-pop won over the whole world was when a Korean artist PSY released his song “Gangnam Style,” which held the first place in the charts for a long time. Now we are witnessing the second coming of K-pop, as the obsession over the groups, such as BTS and BLACKPINK takes the Western world by storm. K-pop industry is centered on making as much money as it can while producing cheap content, so the stream of new music is endless. The music business has also helped South Korea battle the stereotypes about it in recent years, further establishing it as a progressive country in the eyes of the public from around the world.

Another part of the Korean Wave is its TV shows. Even though this type of media has not gained worldwide popularity as K-pop did, Korean television defines the preferences of the whole Asian region, mainly distributing its product there (Ganghariya & Kanozia, 2020). Korean cinema, on the other hand, had a breakthrough in the last few decades, which led to Parasite becoming the first foreign film to win an Oscar. Directors such as Bong Joon-ho and Pak Chan-wook are now very well-known abroad and some Korean films, for example, Oldboy and Train to Busan, have earned cult status.

Korea is also famous for its food and especially for kimchi, a side dish of salted vegetables, that has become the country’s signature specialty. Korea was an isolated country, and it was hard to trade with it, so Koreans got their food from fishing and hunting, and preserving food was always their main priority. Isolation also caused the cuisine to be very simple, as there was no input from neighboring countries (Patra et al., 2016). Kimchi embodies just that – it is simple and can be stored for a very long time.

In conclusion, South Korea has only become independent less than a hundred years ago, but it managed to have a renaissance in the recent decades, developing new cultural staples and preserving the ones that Koreans kept for thousands of years.


Central Intelligence Agency. (2020). East Asia/Southeast Asia: Korea, South. Web.

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Ganghariya, G. & Kanozia, R. (2020). Proliferation of Hallyu wave and Korean popular culture across the world: A systematic literature review from 2000–2019. Journal of Content, Community & Communication, 11, 177–207. Web.

Patra, J. K., Das, G., Paramithiotis, S., & Shin, H. S. (2016). Kimchi and other widely consumed traditional fermented foods of Korea: A review. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, 1493.

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