After a year and a half of teaching English in South Korea, I have come to learn some pretty interesting facts about the country. I wish I had kept a list of all the interesting facts I have learned, but even without a list, I can still come up with quite a few.
1. South Korea is technically still at war with North Korea.
North Korea and South Korea never officially signed a ceasefire and are still considered to be a in a state of conflict to this day.
2. The number '4' is considered to be unlucky.
This is actually true in many parts of Asia because the number four is a homonym with the word death in Chinese. For this reason, many countries in Asia consider the number to be extremely unlucky. So much so that many hotels skip the fourth floor.
3. Crowded, crowded, crowded....
With a population of over 48 million and a land area of 38,000 sq. miles, South Korea has one of the highest population densities in the world at over 1,200 people per sq. mile. In contrast, the United States has a population density of 79 people per sq. mile.
4. Speaking of crowded, Seoul is the second largest city in the world.
According to the World Atlas, Seoul has a population of 20,550,000, making it the world's second largest city behind Tokyo.
5. Tipping is generally not necessary in Korea.
I have definitely grown accustomed to this one and I am fearful that I won't want to start tipping again when I go back to the U.S.
6. South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
According to Wikipedia, South Korea has the second highest suicide rate behind only Lithuania. Out of 100,000 people per year, South Korea's rate was 31.2 in 2010.
7. It is legal to drink in public!
It was such a shock for me to see people carrying open containers on the street, in parks, and pretty much everywhere.
8. The South Korean belief about "Fan Death''.
This is absolutely crazy and I don't want to give it away here because I wouldn't do it justice. Check out this website for the details.
9. South Korea has one of the top economies of the world and is a member of the G-20.
What makes this fact so interesting is how quicky Korea has turned around its economy. Following the Korean war, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world Now 50 years later, it is one of the strongest.
10. Personalities based on blood type.
I can't believe how many times I have been asked my blood type in Korea. Instead of horoscopes and the Zodiac, Koreans use blood types to figure out a person's personality.
11. Age is counted differently.
In Korea, when you are born, you are considered to be one. On your first New Years, you are two years old. Then you go back to adding a year on the date of your birthday. So with this Korean style of counting, most Koreans are a year or two older than their Westerner age.
Those are some of my favorite facts I have discovered over my year and a half as an international teacher. Let me know if you have any to add to the list!