26 interesting facts about South Korea

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The most interesting facts about South Korea, from a sex-themed park called Jeju Love Land to one of YouTube’s most-watched videos.

Interesting facts about South Korea cover its diverse scenery, culture and history
Interesting facts about South Korea cover its diverse scenery, culture and history (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Korea
Population: 51,715,162
Area: 99,720 sq km
Capital city: Seoul
Major languages: Korean, English 
Major religions: Protestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9%
Time zone: UTC+9 (Korea Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about South Korea

1. South Korea is located in East Asia, on the Korean Peninsula bordering North Korea, the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.
– Source: Britannica

2. The word “Korea” comes from the Chinese name for Goryeo, which was the Korean dynasty that united the peninsula in the 10th century AD.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

3. The Korean Peninsula has been inhabited for at least 400,000 years, possibly as many as 700,000.
– Source: Carter J Eckert. (1991) Korea Old and New: A History. Harvard University Press: Seoul

A map of the Korean Peninsula
South Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula (Shutterstock)

4. Prior to the Japanese occupation which began in 1910, the Silla, Goryeo and Joseon dynasties were ruled over by an unbroken run of 116 monarchs, dating back to 57 BC.
– Source: Rough Guides

5. At the beginning of the 20th century, Japan, China and Russia competed for control over the Korean Peninsula. Japan eventually took control of the peninsula in 1905 and formally annexing it in 1910.
– Source: History Channel

6. In 1945, after the end of World War II, Japanese occupation ended with Soviet troops occupying the area north of the 38th parallel, and American troops to the south, creating two separate Korean nations.
– Source: BBC News, National Geographic

7. Fought between 1950 and 1953, the Korean War left at least two million dead and North and South Korea permanently divided.
– Source: BBC News, National Geographic

Soldiers and civilians during the Korean War
The Korean war was fought from 1950 to 1953 (Shutterstock)

8. Although the fighting ended in 1953 when North Korea, China and the USA signed an armistice agreement, South Korea objected to the continued division of Korea and did not agree to the armistice or sign a formal peace treaty. As such, technically the war never ended and is still ongoing.
– Source: National Geographic

9. The 4km-wide, 240km-long buffer known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea is also a major tourist attraction, with several observation points allowing visitors to see into the closed off North Korea.
– Source: Lonely Planet

10. The South Korean flag is made up of a white background with a central red-blue disk and four groups of black bars. The white represents peace as well as the white clothing traditionally worn by Koreans. The central emblem is the t’aegŭk, which represents the origin and the duality of the universe.
– Source: Britannica

11. Surrounding the t’aegŭk are four sets of black bars, each consisting of three strokes in different sequences of broken and unbroken bars. These represent the sun, moon, earth and heaven; the four main compass points; the four seasons; and other concepts descending from Confucian beliefs.
– Source: Britannica

The South Korean flag
The South Korean flag (Shutterstock)

12. Seoul literally means “capital city”. The name originates from the Korean word meaning “capital city” and which is thought to derive from Seorabeol, the capital of the ancient Korean Kingdom of Silla.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

13. Approximately 70% of South Korea’s land is considered mountainous and over 60% is covered in forest. 
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

14. South Korea is home to a sex-themed park called Jeju Love Land. the theme park features phallus statues, interactive exhibits on the “masturbation cycle” and other sculptures of humans in acts of sexual mischief. Love Land is also a popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds.
– Source: The Telegraph

An installation at the sex-themed park in South Korea
An installation at the sex-themed park Jeju Love Land (Shutterstock)

15. South Koreans have more plastic surgery procedures than anywhere else in the world per capita with its capital Seoul being dubbed the “global capital of plastic surgery”. A recent survey suggests around one in five (20%) of the Korean population have had some sort of plastic surgery, while for young women in their twenties, it’s around 60%.
– Source: BBC World Service

16. South Korea is also believed to have the highest density of plastic surgeons in the world: 2,330 for a population of 51 million. Compared to the USA, which has roughly triple the surgeons (6,800) but has a population six times larger (327 million).
– Source: The Guardian

17. The music video Gangnam Style by South Korean K-pop star Psy was YouTube’s most-watched video for five years. The hit video became so popular that it broke YouTube’s play counter by exceeding the maximum possible number of views (2,147,483,647) and forcing the company to rewrite its code. As of 2021, it has been viewed over four billion times.
– Source: BBC News

South Korean K-pop star Psy performing Gangnam Style
South Korean K-pop star Psy performing Gangnam Style (Shutterstock)

18. South Korea has 14 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. These include Jeju Island as well as royal palaces, tombs, shrines and hanok villages (hill settlements filled with traditional Korean houses).
– Source: UNESCO

19. South Koreans are obsessed with break dancing and now regularly win dance competitions, beating American and European rivals, despite the dance form originating from the streets of the Bronx in New York, USA, in the 1970s.
– Source: Reuters

20. Taekwondo is South Korea’s national sport. Taekwondowon – or “Taekwondo Town” – is South Korea’s state-of-the-art temple to taekwondo. The town dedicated to the sport is spread over nine valleys, cost $228 million and is 10 times bigger than Seoul’s World Cup stadium and 70% the size of New York’s Central Park.
– Source: The Independent

A Taekwondo match in South Korea
Taekwondo is South Korea’s national sport (Shutterstock)

21. In South Korea, newborn babies are deemed a year old on the day they are born. For those born late in the year, such as on December 31, they turn two on January 1 just 24 hours. The centuries-old tradition means many South Koreans give both their “Korean age” and “international age”.
– Source: The Guardian, CNN

22. South Korea has over 25,000 short-stay hotels known as “love hotels” which can be rented for brief encounters of around three hours for $26.
– Source: Reuters

23. South Korea is home to the Boryeong Mud Festival. The annual festival is recognised as Korea’s top international festival and receives more than a million attendees who attend various events focused on “rolling in the fresh mud”.
– Source: Lonely Planet, Boryeong Mud Festival

The Boryeong Mud Festival
The Boryeong Mud Festival (Shutterstock)

24. The ancient belief system of Confucianism continues to be used as a “kind of ethical bedrock” in the minds of most South Koreans, particularly among older generations. Confucianism descends from philosopher Confucius (552–479 BC) who devised a system of ethics that “emphasised devotion to parents and family, loyalty to friends, justice, peace, education, reform and humanitarianism”. 
– Source: Lonely Planet

25. The UNESCO-listed Gyeongju Historic Areas is home to a remarkable concentration of Korean Buddhist art and architecture dating from the 7th and 10th centuries. The site includes 122 temples, 53 stone statues, 64 pagodas and 16 stone lanterns.
– Source: UNESCO

26. South Korea has been described as the most automated country on Earth having already deployed robotic teachers, industrial manufacturing workers and service staff. The country has the highest robot density in manufacturing with 631 robots per 10,000 employees, which is eight times the global average.
– Source: International Federation of Robotics, BBC Travel

A robot in South Korea
A robot in South Korea (Shutterstock)

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