About South Korea
by Delia Toh
Before the Korean War and the splitting of Korea into two independent territories that we know today, Korea had been the centre of an ancient civilisation dating back to some 700,000 years ago. Pottery was widespread in prehistoric Korea. Imperialism crept into Korean society and lasted for the most of Korea's known history. Three major eras, the Three Kingdoms, the Goryeo and the Joseon Dynasty (the most common time setting in Korean period dramas) prevailed before the division of Korea into the North and South states.
Korean culture is still pretty traditional today, with largely Confucian values ingrained into society, such as the idea of filial piety. Koreans also believe in geomancy when selecting the location of homes and businesses, and in terms of its cuisine, the recipes of fermented and pickled food used in its early history are still very widely used in households. The Korean Hanbok is very commonly worn during family gatherings and festive events.
Korean arts are extremely versatile. Korean dance, for one, is distinctive in the sense that it follows a curvilinear path and involves moves that embody the fluidity of the emotions the dancers wish to portray. Most Korean dancers are dressed in the hanbok. Korean paintings are also something to be admired- they mainly revolve around Buddhist or Confucian themes. Finally, Korean traditional music is produced from a unique orchestra of drums, flutes and erhus. Coupled with dance, this was a common form of entertainment for royalty during the Joseon dynasty.
Like other developed nations, South Korea does come with its own issues of pollution and deforestation, leading to soil erosion. Many exotic tigers and bears that were once abundant throughout the Korean Peninsula are now dwindling in numbers, following human settlement and industrialisation. However, South Korea also houses many natural parks and regions where natural flora continues to thrive.
Since the division of Korea, the government of South Korea has been comprised of three sections: the executive, judicial and legislative. The public service in South Korea is largely a very closed one, although efforts to make improvements and increase transparency are in the way. South Korea is a sovereign republic state as of today.
Korean press has had a tradition of being strongly reformist. Today, Korean journalists are independent and relatively free to raise question towards the government. New media is also thriving. Needless to say, South Korea has banned certain signals and content originating in North Korea.
Taekwondo, a widely known form of martial arts, originated from Korea. Some more traditional forms of sport in South Korea includes Bull Fighting (So Ssaum) and Kite flying (Yeon Nalligi). The traditional Korean kite is made of bamboo and Korean paper and is very appealing to children.
The architecture of religious places of worship is largely based on that of Northern China, whose influence made its way into Korea in 4th Century AD. Much of the architecture of ancient buildings in the cultural and historical hubs are that of the longest reigning dynasty in the history of Korea, the Joseon Dynasty.