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South Korea

Korean

 

 

 

 

Geography & Topography

Capital: Seoul

Population: 49 779 000

Area: 100,210 km2

Language: Korean, English (widely taught)

Religion: Christian, Buddhist

Currency: South Korean won

 

History

The republic of Korea or South Korea consists of the southern half of the Korea peninsula in East Asia and many islands lying off the western and southern coasts. Koreans are one ethnic community speaking mostly in one language. They share certain distinct physical characteristics which differentiate them from other Asian people including the Chinese and the Japanese and have a strong cultural identity as one ethnic community.

The Korean language is spoken by more than 65 million living on the peninsula islands as well as 5.5 million Koreans living in the other parts of the world. The fact that all Koreans speak and write the same language has been an essential factor in their strong national identity.

Koreans believe that family is the most important part of life. As the teaching of Confucianism is still widely practised in Korea, they often stress upon the importance of duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect towards the seniors and sincerity.

Performing Arts

Music

Traditional Korean music was known for its distinctive characteristics. However, with the passage of time, Korean music itself became influenced by the likes of Central Asian music and Western-style music. Some of the traits attributed to Korean music are its slow tempo, giving it a very peaceful and pensive character. This type of music is referred to as Chong-ak music in South Korea which carries a literal meaning of “music for the noble classes”. This differs from Sogak music which literally means, “music for the general public” and more vibrant and energetic.

Traditional Korean musical instruments can be classified into eight groups based on their materials: metal, string, bamboo, animal skin, wood clay, gourd and stone.

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Korean music are:

ajaeng

Ajaeng

Ajaeng: The Ajaeng has 7 strings with different thickness. Sound is produced by using a stick. The stick is made of a peeled branch with pine resin. It produces a low sound.

haegeum

Haegeum

Hae-Geum: A traditional Korean string instrument, resembling a fiddle. It has a rod-like neck, a hollow wooden soundbox, and two strings. It is held vertically on the knee of the musician and played with a bow. The Hae-Geum is one of the most widely used instruments in Korean music. It is used in both Chong-ak and Sogak music.

Jang-gu

Jang-gu

Jang-gu: The Jang-gu or also known as seyogo (slim waist drum) is the most widely used drum in Korean music. It has an hourglass-shaped body with the left being covered with cow skin and the right with horse skin. Because of its difference in material for each side of the drum, the left side produces low tones while the right produces high tones.

 

Dance

Traditional Korean dance can be divided into four general categories which are the court dance, folk dance, ritual dance and the dance of professional entertainers. Court dances are slow, graceful and elegant with the movements being balanced and restrained. Folk dances include mask-dance dramas and various other group dances. Ritual dances appears in Confucian, Shamanistic and Buddhist ceremonies while professional entertainers perform both court and folk dances often combining features of the two.

Examples of traditional Korean dances are:

Mask Dance

Mask-dance drama

Mask-Dance Dramas: A folk art developed by the common classes during the Chosun dynasty. Although there are slight variations based on the region and performer, all of them share a fundamental characteristic, portraying the unfairness of their lives and parodying on social evils and the privileged class. This dance is traditionally performed outdoors and is accompanied by music from string, wind and percussion instruments.

kanggangsuwolae

Kanggangsuwolae

Kanggangsuwolae: Kanggangsuwolae is accompanied by a folk song with the same title, originating from the southwest part of Korea. Maidens in the village gather in an open field to join hands, sing and dance on the night of the full moon of the first and eighth of the lunar months. The women wear a skirt and a blouse with their long hair tied with a ribbon to symbolize womanhood. As the dance progresses, its pace quicken and end with a climatic whirl. This dance celebrates the woman’s role in Korean culture and historically on pre-1950s when women were called by the Korean chief of soldiers to protect the country from being invaded by the Japanese.

Some interesting facts:

  • Most homes in Korea are equipped with heated floors known as ondol. The ondol, in traditional Korean architecture is an underfloor heating system that uses direct heat transfer from wood smoke to the underside of a thick masonry floor. Today, ondol floors are heated by circulating hot water from water heaters, through an electrical heating system or induction.
  • South Korea’s education system is technologically advanced and it is the world’s first country to bring high-speed fiber-optic broadband internet access to every primary and secondary school nationwide.
  • The game “rock, scissors, paper” originated in Korea where it was called, “kawi, bawi, bo.”

Korean Community in Australia:

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