Koreans have been called he Irish of Asia for their love of singing, drinking and having a good time. They have a reputation for being rowdy, boisterous, outgoing, friendly and emotional. According to some surveys, they drink more hard liquor than any other people in the world. In their home country, anyway, Koreans are not shy about speaking English with strangers and they enjoy going out.

Chunghee Sarah Soh wrote in “Countries and Their Cultures”: “Koreans are very status conscious, and their speech behavior reflects the hierarchical relationship between social actors. Except among former classmates and other very close friends, adults do not use first names to address each other. Position titles such as "professor," "manager," "director," and "president" are used in combination with the honorific suffix nim to address a social superior. [Source: Chunghee Sarah Soh, “Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

It is considered bad manners in Korea to lift rice bowls, like Chinese often do, to eat, or smoke in front of the elderly. Japanese are taken aback by the way that South Koreans talk loudly on their cell phones in trains and buses. Among Koreans body contact is an acceptable form of communication. It is not unusual for elderly Korean men to run the thigh of the person they are talking as a way to express their friendliness. Middle-aged women sometimes affectionately pick up and hug toddlers of strangers they encounter in public places. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2010]

▪Min Byoung-chul, a professor at Konkuk University, wrote "Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans," and co-wrote "Ugly Japanese, Ugly Americans" and "Ugly Chinese, Ugly Americans," which examines the differences between the customs and habits of Americans and those of Koreans. Chinese and Japanese. He told the Los Angeles Times that what Koreans do not customarily is apologize for bumping into someone or hold open a door for a person in a crowd. Rarely will they even acknowledge strangers in public. Koreans, in turn, are taken baffled by the behavior of Americans and other Westerners. Why do many stick their hands in their pockets while talking, blast their car radios or refuse to stand when a boss approaches? they ask. Koreans consider direct eye contact with a superior disrespectful, whereas Americans view it as a form of sincerity. Most Americans prefer hearty handshakes and often consider less-gregarious Korean greetings as weak and effeminate.

Partying, Singing and Photos in Korea

Koreans like to do things in groups. They feel comfortable doing things with their friends and get a certain sense of security and reassurance from being with people like themselves. They tend to be absorbed in the group and their activities and could care less about what people outside their group think of them.

Koreans generally don't invite people to their house, which is regarded as private place just or family members. According to a survey among expatriates in 10 Asian countries, South Koreans were judged the hardest to get along with. Some of this may be based on misunderstandings as Koreans are sometimes misjudged as unfriendly because they were too timid to speak English or smile when they accidently do something perceived as off-putting. That isbecause Koreans often smile when they are embarrassed.

Koreans generally are shyer about dancing than singing, whereas the reverse is true with many Westerners. Korean children generally have few opportunities to dance when they grow up and feel awkward doing it, but they do a lot of singing in school and tend to regard it as a fun activity like recess or sports. As adults in a karaoke, Korean singers with good voices of course are admired more than those with bad voices but even bad singers are applauded for their effort.

Koreans are also fond of having photographs taken of themselves with their friends. Teenagers form long lines behind photo machines and adults on hiking trips seem to do more photo-taking than hiking. This is because Koreans treasure their friends and the memory of good times, and the value of an activity is often measured more in the bonding that takes place than with the activity itself, plus they get enjoyment from posing and looking at the photos later on. Photos without people in them are considered boring.

Earthy, Blunt Koreans and Females in the Men’s Room

Koreans ca be brutally honest and self deprecating. If they are bored or can't get a boyfriend because they pimples all over their face or are ugly they will say so. Koreans are not as shy about talking about their feces and urine as Americans. They often excuse themselves from a social gathering by saying the equivalent of "I have to take a shit" or "I have to take a piss" when they have to go the bathroom.

Koreans are often very direct. They asking people, who they just met, their age, marital status, and whether or not they have a boyfriend or girlfriend — questions that Westerners regards as personal and prying. Koreans of this for a couple of reasons. First all they are curious and direct. Second, they want know a person's age and marital status so they know what titles and speech to use when they are addressing a person.

Although less common than it once was, public urination for men is no big deal. Sometimes urinals in public bathrooms are situated where women passers-by can see men using them. Cleaning women going about their chores and little girls with their fathers are common sights among the naked men in men's dressing rooms in gyms, public swimming pools and public baths.

Shame, Embarrassment and Losing Face

Maintaining dignity and avoiding embarrassment in some kinds of situations are very important in Korea. Some people describe the West as a guilt-based society where people's behavior is dictated by their personal hang-ups. Korea, on the other hand, is often described as shame-based society, in which people's worst fear is losing face.

Kim Son Poong of Chungang University told the Los Angeles Times, “Koreans are very concerned about saving face and will try to be proper.” If they do something bad they like to do in some remote place. So don’t have to worry about being seen.” Whenever someone is convicted of a crime they go through extraordinary lengths to make sure no one sees their face.

Korean children are taught at an early age that their actions affect other people. In school, often an entire group is punished for the actions of one of the group's members. Some people claim Koreans are very moralistic but secretive or at least claim to be moral but secretly do bad stuff.
Min Byoung-chul, the professor at Konkuk University and author of "Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans" and "Ugly Japanese, Ugly Americans, told the Los Angeles Times : "Asians even eat at restaurants in different ways," he said. "While a Korean will loudly complain about poor service or a hair in his soup, many Japanese would never dream of making such an outburst. They'll just quietly endure, and never come back again."

Nunchi: the Korean Way of Sizing Someone Up

Nunchi is an important concept in Korean social relationships. It describes the social ‘art of understanding’ — a type of interpersonal understanding of yourself versus your peers. "If you have a fancy car, it has to [be] a fancier car than your neighbor, so you can tell them how much money you make," the owner of a small clothing shop in Seoul told NPR. Koreans don’t say someone has ‘good’ nunchi, but ather they have ‘quick’ nunchi – the ability to rapidly process changing social information and size up yourself in relationship to someone else. [Source: Elise Hu, NPR, August 5, 2015]

On the book “The Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” by Korean American journalist and author Euny Hong, Adrienne Matei wrote in The Guardian: “According to Hong, nunchi is the “art of understanding what people are thinking and feeling” – a quality held by those who are sensitive to the dynamics within a given group. Koreans cultivate nunchi from a young age. “Kids in Korea know the word by age three,” she says. “You usually learn it in the negative; if everyone is standing on the right side of an escalator and a kid is lounging on the left, the parent will say, ‘Why don’t you have any nunchi?’ It’s partly about not being rude, but it’s also partly, ‘Why are you not plugged into your environment?’” [Source: Adrienne Matei, The Guardian, November 11, 2019]

“The word “nunchi” itself roughly translates to “eye-measure”, a sort of sizing-up, not of individuals but of the overall context and atmosphere of a situation. It’s applicable to just about every social setting one can be in, from a wedding to a job interview. In action, nunchi involves noticing who, in any given context, is speaking, who is listening, who interrupts, who apologizes, who is rolling their eyes. From there, one can make potentially useful assessments about the nature of relationships and hierarchies within a group, the overall mood, and how to behave accordingly.

“As the truly skilled discern such cues intuitively even as they’re constantly in flux, Koreans don’t say someone has “good” nunchi, but “quick” nunchi – the ability to rapidly process changing social information. Because people with quick nunchi take the time to read the room, their chances of success in any social environment are high – they’re more likely to fit in and make connections and are less prone to coming across as clueless or incompetent, or of committing awkward faux pas. “At a very basic level, people will be happier to be around you if you have quick nunchi,” says Hong, “and from a Machiavellian point of view, you can negotiate better” by staying quiet, listening carefully, and gathering information from others before speaking.

“Because nunchi is a soft skill premised on discretion, Hong notes it can be a superpower for introverts. She claims approaching social situations through the lens of nunchi even helped her battle social anxiety, allowing her to remain grounded in stressful circumstances. Yet if the subtle art of nunchi is so powerful, why does it seem that these days corporate and world leaders seem to more often be blustery loudmouths, rather than sensitive, quiet types? Hong’s investigation of this question illuminates why the concept of nunchi – with its emphasis on unity, relationship building, and collective harmony – may be particularly relevant at a cultural and political moment characterized by divisiveness. It is, after all, essentially the power of understanding others.

Koreans and Apologizing

Ed Park wrote in The New Yorker: “A casual reader of the news from South Korea could be forgiven for wondering whether Koreans apologize more than other people do. Public expressions of contrition abound. Last year, President Park Geun-hye apologized for the government’s mishandling of the Sewol ferry disaster, and JoongAng Ilbo, one of the country’s major newspapers, ran a full-page apology for its sensationalist coverage of the tragedy. When, earlier this year, the MERS virus spread through Seoul’s Samsung Medical Center, the minister of health apologized “for causing concern and anxiety” by underestimating the disease’s contagiousness, and the heir apparent to the Samsung Group did the same, bowing deeply from the waist on national television. [Source: Ed Park, The New Yorker, October 19, 2015]

“Then, there was last year’s “nut rage” incident, in which a Korean Air Lines executive went berserk after a flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag rather than in a bowl. She demanded that he beg her forgiveness, only to apologize herself, later, as did her father, the company’s chairman, and her sister, who had threatened to seek vengeance on whistle-blowing employees. And Korean-Americans might recall that the country’s Ambassador to the United States called on them to “repent” after it was discovered that the gunman who carried out the Virginia Tech massacre was born in Korea, proposing a thirty-two-day fast, one day per victim, to prove that Koreans were a “worthwhile ethnic minority in America.”

“Hierarchy — social, corporate, political — is the major organizing principle of Korean life, and apology is one of its crucial mechanisms. When those lower down the chain screw up, decorum demands that they apologize to those higher up; when those higher up wrong those lower down, apology functions as an affirmation of accountability, an expression of responsibility of the few toward the many. South Korea perennially demands apology from Japan, its former colonizer, which in 1993 acknowledged forcing women (many of them Korean) into sexual slavery during the Second World War. There are practical reasons for wanting such repeated reassurance; the rise of aggressive nationalism in a neighbor that has invaded you countless times across the centuries is certainly a distressing trend. But South Korea’s insistence on fresh acknowledgment of misdeeds long past, and its distress when such acknowledgment fails to come, also stem from the quintessentially Korean concept of han, a mélange of sadness, rage, and despair — a condition born of a sense of oppression and grievance, and impossible to assuage by apologies alone.

Are Koreans Honest Liars?

During the 2002 World Cup, pandemonium broke out after a televison actress on a South Korean radio station said that South Korea was going to be in the final against Brazil because Germany — who had beaten South Korea in the semifinals — had been disqualified because one it one of it players failed a steroid test. The actress reportedly heard the rumor from a friend and the radio station didn’t think it was necessary to check the veracity of the story before broadcasting it. Many Koreans head the broadcast believed the rumor was true.

Ed Park wrote in The New Yorker: “The Korean apology is satirized to harrowing effect in “At Least We Can Apologize,” a darkly comic 2009 novel by the South Korean writer Lee Ki-ho, published in this country by Dalkey Archive Press as part of its Library of Korean Literature series. The narrator, Jin-man, is equipped with a literal mind and a disconcerting lack of curiosity, and lives at “the institution,” a disreputable mental ward that doubles as a sock-packaging plant. Fluorescent lights burn around the clock, and the staff subdues residents with daily cocktails of pills. “When I first entered the institution I was beaten almost daily,” Jin-man recounts, in Christopher J. Dykas’s translation. “I was beaten in the morning, beaten at lunchtime, and beaten before bed.” [Source: Ed Park, The New Yorker, October 19, 2015]

“As he goes through the menu of brutality, a certain giddiness sets in:“I was beaten with a pointer, beaten with a steel pipe, slapped, punched, kicked with a booted foot, and even beaten with a thick book. I was beaten with a chair, beaten with a trashcan, beaten with socks, and beaten with a shovel. After being beaten like this for some time, one day I looked over and there was Si-bong. He had both arms wrapped around his head as he was being beaten. That was the first time that Si-bong and I met. After that, we were beaten together every day. We were beaten together under our beds, beaten together in the hallway, beaten together after being called into the office, beaten together in the workroom, beaten together on the hill behind the institution, and beaten together in front of the main gate. Being beaten together like that for so long, we became friends.

“Falsely confessing to random wrongdoing — swearing at their superiors, throwing out medication — results in milder punishment, so Jin-man and Si-bong learn to game the system: “Si-bong admitted to cursing the caretakers again and was beaten repeatedly in the thighs with a steel pipe. The caretakers said that committing the same wrong again was an even greater wrong. So we had to come up with new wrongs every day. Some of them became “wrongs,” while others became “greater wrongs.” On days we committed wrongs, we were beaten less, on days we committed “greater wrongs,” we were beaten a lot, and on days we admitted to nothing, we were beaten repeatedly all day long.

“Jin-man and Si-bong are honest liars. They always make sure to commit their offenses after admitting to them, proving so adept at the racket that their caretakers put them in charge of collecting the apologies of the other inmates. This equilibrium is interrupted by the arrival of a new guy, “the man with the sideburns,” who despairs at his confinement and tosses messages over the institution’s fence in an attempt to reach the outside world. Jin-man and Si-bong start to copy him, packing their notes — “We are being held captive. If you find this note, please report this to the police. The man in our room said that you will be generously rewarded” — into sock crates. The messages hit their mark. The institution collapses in scandal, and Jin-man and Si-bong emerge to a media frenzy. Camping out at the dingy apartment of Si-bong’s sister and her pimp boyfriend, they fruitlessly hunt for jobs until they hit on the idea of marketing their sole indisputable skill: apologizing for someone else’s sins.

“One of their first customers is a ten-year-old boy who has stolen money from his mother’s purse. Jin-man and Si-bong accompany him to his mother’s small food shop, where the irate woman threatens to “break this little bastard’s wrist.” Primed by their impeccable training at the institution, the newly minted businessmen spring into action, offering their own bodies up for abuse. As mother and son look on in horror, Si-bong takes a pipe and whacks Jin-man repeatedly on the wrist.

““An apology means that you say you’re not going to do the same thing that you did before,” Si-bong explains to another customer. “That’s all it is. There’s nothing we can do about your feelings, sir.” By outsourcing a gesture whose only value comes from the intent behind it, Jin-man and Si-bong turn the apology, that most civilized of interactions, into a mercenary performance, a backstreet Grand Guignol. It’s a lucrative one, too. “There are wrongs upon wrongs out there,” the pimp says, with growing excitement at the new business’s possibilities. “That means the apologies will just keep coming.”

““At Least We Can Apologize” is divided into three sections, whose titles — “Finding Wrong,” “Creating Wrong,” and “Cultivating Wrong” — describe a surefire, if unmistakably cynical, business strategy. What started, at the institution, as a simple means of survival becomes, in the outside world, an industry with the promise of limitless growth.”

Rudeness, Pushing and Shoving by Koreans

Brochures offered by the Philippine government to potential overseas workers bound for Korea say, "employers are regarded as generally rude considering their strong voices and harsh ways. However, Filipinos...should not take this personally."

Koreans are notorious for bumping into each other, blocking doorways, littering, smoking in non-smoking areas, not holding doors open for other people, stopping their cars wherever they want, butting in line, shoving and pushing, walking in groups that take up the entire sidewalk, leaping into subways before other people get off, and generally not getting out of the way or watching where they are going.

Middle-aged Korean housewives seem to be they pushiest of all Koreans. The routinely butt in line and push people out of their way and never apologize. Workmen are aren't much better. They often do there job and leave behind a mess in your house, expecting you to clean it up.

Koreans act pushy unconsciously. They don't have the same concept of personal space as Westerners. Koreans are used to crowds and pushing you way throw a busy sidewalk or subway station is considered normal. If two people collide, a brief apology might be offered, then people continue with their business as if nothing happened.

Smiling and Laughter Classes in Seoul

Choe Sang-Hun wrote in the New York Times: “It's 7 o'clock on a Tuesday evening. In a packed fourth-floor auditorium overlooking a street clogged with people heading home, hundreds of South Korean workers, many still in uniform, take their seats for an after-hours class. Within minutes, the students are screaming with guffaws. "Laughter makes you feel good," the instructor, Joseph Lee, tells the students - 300 postal workers in Seoul's Gwang Jin district. "If you feel good, it helps you make your customers feel good. So laugh until your back breaks, until your stomach muscles cramp, and until your belly button pops out." [Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, December 30, 2005]

“In a country where looking cool has often meant looking serious, South Koreans are learning the value of a good laugh. In fact, some see laughter as a business skill that is increasingly necessary as customers demand better service in a country where smiling has traditionally been frowned upon. "Our people have difficulty laughing," Lee admitted, noting that centuries of Confucianism had taught Koreans to value the solemn more than the funny. Traditionally, the men considered most attractive were humorless and stern; women were taught not to laugh at matchmaking sessions or risk never giving birth to a boy; and children were told that laughing too much "drives away good luck."

“In recent times, South Koreans have had to cope with a grim social mood set by war, decades of dictatorial rule and headlong industrialization. This is all changing now, however, in part through the vogue in laughing therapy. In recreational classes offered by local governments and hospitals, instructors preach the healthful effects of hearty laughter. They cite studies showing that laughter stimulates the respiratory system and the blood circulation, eases arthritic pain and prevents everything from a common cold to cancer. But there are also business incentives. The national postal service, Korea Post, is among the corporations that have realized the value of laughter.”

Competitive Koreans and the Plastic Surgery Boom They Triggered

Koreans can be very competitive. They are very serious about games and often will do anything to the win. At the same time, sometimes they seem unappreciative. They quickly condemn their leaders and the United States without praising them for the good things they do.

On South Korea's hyper-competitive society and its obsession with image, Daniel Tudor wrote in his book “Korea: The Impossible Country”: "The wave of competition unleashed in South Korea since the economic take-off in the 1960s has brought about a crucial change. Now, according to Hwang Sang-min, a professor of psychology at Yonsei University, Koreans feel impelled to achieve an image of perfection rather than mere respectability and to be seen as doing not just well but better than others. A kind of 'face inflation' has taken place. ... People construct about themselves the public image of a perfect person and then somehow they must live up to it. A word that has great currency in Korea today is jalnancheok, or 'pretending to do well.' " [Source: Elise Hu, NPR, August 5, 2015]

CBS News reported: “In South Korea, people have also come to equate "beauty" with success and job resumes commonly require a photo attachment. Beauty has become a means to distinguish oneself in the nation's hypercompetitive culture. "I think it's more competitive than other areas of the world — very highly educated — so you can't just have a good spec on your resume," Oh said. "Because everyone has good grades, everybody has all the credentials, so how are you going to get ahead of it?" [Source: CBS News September 28, 2015]

Plastic surgery was become so common in South Korea that it is even given as a gift to graduating high school students, 20-year-old Sally Park, told CBS said it was a "new face, new start" and almost every one of her friends have had it. "When I told my friends I was going to get this surgery, their reaction was bland...they weren't surprised," said Kim Eun Som, before going under the scalpel at Regen, one of Seoul's biggest cosmetic hospitals.

Moments before the operation, her doctor, Oh Myeong-Joon, marked up her face during one final consultation. At 23, she worries she looks "old" and "gloomy," so she saved up about US$1,800 working part-time retail jobs to get a "fat graft of the full face." "She thinks she has a very haggard look- a very skeletonized look, which makes her look older than her age," Oh said. "And she wants to have a more babyish face or a younger face."

To achieve the new look, he would take some fat from Kim's thigh and inject it into her temple and under her eyes. It is a "simple procedure," one that's so subtle that he called it "the perfect crime." Less than 24-hours after her surgery, bandaged up and still swollen, Kim said, "I think I will be stressed out less. Since the depressed areas of my face are now filled with fat, I think I will be able to live a brighter life."

Rude Elite

Devin DeCiantis and Ivan Lansberg wrote in The Atlantic: In South Korea it isn’t “surprising to hear indignation over stories about “high-handed” South Korean shoppers slapping lowly sales clerks and chaebol billionaires receiving presidential pardons for embezzlement convictions, or to see references to chaebol elitists invade popular culture and spawn bestselling exposes. [Source: Devin DeCiantis and Ivan Lansberg, The Atlantic, March 13, 2015]

The “Nut Rage” incident, discussed in more detail below, Syed Munir Khasru wrote in The Straits Times, “struck a deep chord among Koreans, being symptomatic of popular anger at the authoritarian antics of the elite in a society challenged by economic polarisation and disparities. The nut rage case highlights the disparities in Korean society, as family-run chaebols are seen as the diametric opposite to the meritocratic ideal preferred by ordinary Koreans. Following the incident, the Korea Herald newspaper castigated the "feudal" management practices of chaebols” — South Korea’s powerful business conglomerates. [Source: Syed Munir Khasru For The Straits Times, Jan 10, 2015]

“In April 2013, a Posco Energy executive assaulted an air stewardess for serving him food he did not like; in September that year, the CEO of a renowned outdoor clothing company stirred up controversy when he hit an airline employee over boarding issues. The publicity and outrage surrounding such incidents reflect a civil society that is more vocal over blatant wrongs, even of the elites who reign in the commanding heights.

“But at the same time, Korea still suffers from a culture that seems to hardwire in its young an almost unquestioning submission to authority. South Korea's economic success story must be followed by a reboot in its socio-economic paradigm. It needs to be responsive to the egalitarian expectations of society so that ordinary citizens can partake in its transition towards not only a 21st-century economy that is creative and dynamic, but also a modern society that is enlightened and inclusive.

Nut Rage Incident

Devin DeCiantis and Ivan Lansberg wrote in The Atlantic: In December 2014, “in an episode since immortalized as “Nut Rage,” a Korean Air executive brutally berated an unsuspecting flight attendant for daring to serve macadamia nuts from the bag instead of a porcelain dish during pre-flight snack in the first-class cabin. According to witnesses, the executive “snarled like a ‘wild beast’” and struck him with a tablet computer before ordering the pilots to return to the gate at JFK Airport in New York so he could be forcibly deplaned. The fallout continued months later. Just this week, the flight attendant sued the company and the offending executive, Cho (“Heather”) Hyun-ah, who is already serving a yearlong prison term over the incident. [Source: Devin DeCiantis and Ivan Lansberg, The Atlantic, March 13, 2015]

“Cho is the 40-year-old heiress of the Hanjin Group, which owns Korean Air and is one of South Korea's massive family-controlled conglomerates or chaebol — literally, “money clan.” The scion’s bad behavior not only flouted the country’s aviation laws by “threatening the safety of the flight and causing confusion in law and order,” but also fed into the worst stereotypes of capitalist privilege.”

William Pesek of Bloomberg wrote: “The news media pounced on the delicious tale of Cho's freakout, on a Dec. 5 New York-to-Seoul flight, over the manner in which she was served her macadamia nuts. Cho figured her status as daughter of Korean Air's chairman entitled her to demand that Flight 86 return to the gate to toss off a crew member who didn't pay her sufficient homage. The 40-year-old has since been indicted for obstructing aviation safety (she's also being investigated for colluding with transportation officials). Her father, the head of one of South Korea's family-run conglomerates or chaebols, apologised for what he termed as his daughter's "foolish act". [Source: William Pesek, Bloomberg, January 8, 2015]

Response to Nut Rage

Devin DeCiantis and Ivan Lansberg wrote in The Atlantic: “In response to the “nut rage” backlash, the head of a leading South Korean investment bank summarized the country’s intractable economic dilemma: "People have always felt this frustration, but the previous perspective was you can't discipline the chaebol because we can't survive and thrive without them." A professor at Pusan University captured the zeitgeist with far less reserve: “The chaebol are rapacious, politics-corrupting, consumer-punishing, reverse-engineering oligopolists who’d have been broken up long ago anywhere in the West.” While dramatic structural change may not be likely in the near term, Koreans and their lawmakers are now openly debating a shift in the historically symbiotic relationship between the state and the chaebol’s controlling owners. [Source: Devin DeCiantis and Ivan Lansberg, The Atlantic, March 13, 2015]

William Pesek of Bloomberg wrote: “News commentators are now slamming the sense of privilege felt by families running Korea's corporate giants, or chaebol. Indeed, Cho's tantrum demonstrated, in a nutshell, how nepotism and clubby ties between government and industry hold back the economy. But why did it take Cho's nut-rage to get reporters on the case? Something similar happened last April with the sinking of the Sewol, in which more than 300 people (most of them school kids) died. The ferry was operated by chaebol Chonghaejin Marine Co., a fact that was harnessed to explore how cronyism and the revolving-door between regulators, bureaucrats and the private sector put lives at risk. This fit a disturbing pattern. When a spectacular incident makes global headlines, journalists feel compelled to investigate Korea's chaebol problem. When the dust settles, they move on. Rather than respond only to periodic public outrage, journalists should keep a steady watch on the issue. [Source: William Pesek, Bloomberg, January 8, 2015]

“ Many blame the widening gap between rich and poor on the dominance of the chaebol, with their unseemly penchant for tax-evasion, sibling battles over assets and extreme concentration of national wealth. Just five companies generate roughly two-thirds of South Korea's gross domestic product. This outsized influence stifles small-and-medium-size companies. It kills any chance a startup might have to introduce game-changing products and create new jobs.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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