South Korea

South Korea (Republic of Korea) is one of the great examples of ‘old meets new’ – a perfect mix of history and modernised culture. Sohyun Lee, a UNSW student completing the Bachelor of Commerce/Arts, comes from Suwon, South Korea. In this post, she takes us through a nostalgic and eye-opening journey into the specialties of South Korea. The duality of this country is an experience you won’t forget.

Disclaimer: These are personal opinions and perspectives of the interviewees and are not a perfect representation of the whole country/experience.

Edited by Megan Chen

It seems that lately, South Korea is having a sweeping influence on the rest of the world: from the rise of K-POP in Western music to the prominence of Korean style videos, such as daily vlogs or mukbangs on Youtube. If you’d like to get a visual experience of Korean culture, KoreanEnglishman is a great youtube channel to get you started.

Let’s start with the overall Korean culture. How is it different to Australia?

I haven’t been to South Korea for a while, but as far as I remember and according to K-Dramas, I am pretty sure South Korea has a more conservative culture than Australia. We bow to our elders when we greet them and have a very complicated system of language when talking to someone of a higher hierarchy than us. This is definitely a culture shock, as it is extremely easy to make mistakes when you first learn the language! Some words require completely different Korean words when you are referring to the elders, and this makes the language very complicated.

For example, you would say “드시다 (deu-shi-da)” instead of “먹다 (meok-da)” when you describe the action of someone older than you eating. They sound completely different, right? This is only the beginning!

What are some recommended places to put in our itinerary?

The seasons in South Korea are very distinct. Each season has its unique charm, and everywhere you go feels different depending on the season. A lot of people go for flower viewings in Spring! You should try visiting “Starlight Cherry Blossom Festival” at E-WORLD in Daegu.

Cherry Blossoms at E-World in Daegu
Source: Tourism Promoting Organization for Asia Pacific Cities (2019)

Caribbean Bay is an indoor/outdoor water park located in Yongin, and trust me, it’s much better than Raging Waters (Wet’n’Wild) Sydney.

Caribbean Bay
Source: Stephen (2010) Flickr.

If you are in South Korea during Autumn, try visiting Jeonju Hanok Village in Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes)! Autumn has the perfect weather for really nice looking Hanbok.

Jeonju Hanok Village
Source: Dan Ciura (2017) Flickr.

It usually snows heaps in South Korea during winter! Skiing is really nice, or you could also go sleighing and ice skating. By the way, eating street food in winter is the best.

Yongpyong Ski Resort
Source: Tan Cheng Jong (2015) Flickr.

What are some must-try foods to have in Korea?

SOUTH KOREA HAS THE BEST FOOD! You must try the street food if you go to South Korea. They are legitimately so good! Convenience stores have heaps of quality food as well, and KBBQ in South Korea is so much cheaper than Australia (according to my memory). If you enjoy drinking, soju is less than $5 AUD in Korea.

Korean Street Food in Myeong-dong, Seoul
Source: Yong Woo Park (2016) Flickr.

What are some local travel destinations that tourists might not typically go? 

South Korea has a lot of indoor areas where you can enjoy various activities as a “one-day experience.” For example, you can make your own perfume that you can keep as a memento from South Korea – a special scent just for yourself. You can also make rings if you have a lover and want to have something unique and special just for you two! Korea also has places where they help you determine your personal colour, which you can refer to when you choose your clothes or makeup products.

Lovers’ Locks at Namsan Tower
Source: thehappyjetlagger (2016)

Any weather tips?

If you are going in winter, be prepared to face the cold. It often goes to negative degrees Celsius in winter (as low as -10ºC), so dress super warm. In summer, it gets really hot like Australia, so be prepared for that as well!

File:Korea Seoul Snow 05.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Seoul Snowfall
Source: Republic of Korea (2012) Flickr.

What are the most well-known universities in your country and what are they usually known for?

In South Korea, we have the top three universities which are often referred to as SKY:

S for Seoul National University
K for Korea University
Y for Yonsei University

Other than these three, KAIST is famous for science and technology related courses, and Ewha Woman’s University is the most well-known all-female university. Students in Korea usually try to get into a university in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea.

UNSW Exchange Partner Universities: EWHA Woman’s University, Hanyang University, KAIST, Korea University, Kyung Hee University, Pusan National University, Seoul National University, Sungkyunkwan University, Yonsei University.

How is studying in South Korea different to studying in Australia?

Studying is very different in South Korea compared to Australia. Most students stay back at school to study until late at night, whereas in Australia, that doesn’t really happen. You also need to take off your shoes and change into indoor shoes when you are at school. If you get a chance to watch “SKY Castle” which is a K-Drama, it will give you a rough idea on how Korea is like around their education system.

What is your favourite part about your country?

I really cannot decide one favourite part! There are so many, and even though I have lived in few other countries, I still miss Korea the most – especially the food. Scenery is extremely nice, shopping and delivery cultures are very convenient, the overall vibes of all the cities are very unique and friendly, and the list goes on!

Hungry for more of South Korea? Here are some stories from exchange students who studied at Korea University and Yonsei University.

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