South Korea

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South Korea

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Quick Facts
CurrencySouth Korean won (KRW)
Areatotal: 98,480 sq km
land: 98,190 sq km
water: 290 sq km
Population48.324 million (July 2002 est.)
LanguageKorean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
ReligionChristian 49%, Buddhist 47%, Confucianist 3%, Shamanist, Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way), and other 1%

South Korea is a country in Eastern Asia. It occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula that lies between the Yellow Sea and the East Sea (Sea of Japan). It is bordered to the north by North Korea, and Japan lies across the Korea Strait to the south.

Map of South Korea


After World War II, a republic was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north. The Korean War (1950-53) had US and other UN forces intervene to defend South Korea from North Korean attacks supported by the Chinese. An armistice was signed in 1953 splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 20 times the level of North Korea. South Korea has maintained its commitment to democratize its political processes. In June 2000, a historic first north-south summit took place between the south's President KIM Dae-jung and the north's leader KIM Chong-il.


The Korean peninsula extends southward from the eastern end of the Asian continent. The peninsula is roughly 1,030 km (612 miles) long and 175 km (105 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Mountains cover 70% of Korea’s land mass, making it one of the most mountainous regions in the world. The lifting and folding of Korea’s granite and limestone base has created breathtaking landscapes of scenic hills and valleys. The mountain range that stretches the length of the east coast plunges steeply into the East Sea, while along the southern and western coasts, the mountains descend gradually to the coastal plains that produce the bulk of Korea’s agricultural crops, especially rice. The Korean peninsula is divided just slightly north of the 38th parallel. The democratic Republic of Korea in the south and communist North Korea are separated by a demilitarized zone. South Korea’s 99, is populated by 47.9 million people (2003). Administratively, the Republic of Korea consists of nine provinces ; the capital Seoul; and the six metropolitan cities of Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon and Ulsan. In total, there are 77 cities and 88 counties .


Get in

By plane

There are 5 international airports (Seoul/Incheon, Busan, Jeju, Daeju, Chongju) in Korea. The largest international airport in South Korea is Incheon International, located approximately 45 minutes west of Seoul.

Korean Air and Asiana are the principal carriers to and from South Korea.


Due both to its location at the end of the Korean peninsula and the political situation with North Korea, entering South Korea overland is not possible.

By boat

The Pukwan Ferry Company links Busan with Shimonoseki and Hakata in Japan. These cost from $US60 (one-way). A Seoul-Osaka combination ferry/train costs $US195. There are ferry links between Incheon and Welhai, Qingdao and Tianjin in China. There are weekly departures to Vladivostok from $US270.

Get around

1. Bus

2. Subway

 Subway system is well developed in big cities like Seoul. 
 If you want to travel Seoul area, just try to get on subway in Seoul. 
 It will take you basically anywehere in Seoul. 
 Fare is between 800 won and 1000 won depending on kilometers, which is much cheaper than taxi. 
 Take a look at official subway website for Korean subway system. You will find out more detail information.

3. Taxi

 There are two different kinds of taxi, regular taxi,and first class taxi.
 Base fare for regular taxi is 1500 won. 
 100 won per 171m and also 100 won per 41sec. 
 Depends on your situation,you can negotiate fare with driver.  
 First Class taxi is black car. Becoming drivers for this taxi,
 they never be in car accident before, and if taxi is empty, 
 they can't just pass passenger who wants to get on taxi.
 Base fare for this taxi is 4000 won. 
 200 won per 251m and also 100 won per 51 sec.   

4. Train

 A. Korail
 B. Korea Train eXpress (KTX)


All Koreans have taken English lessons as part of their education; however due to lack of practice (as well as a polite shyness towards mispronunciation), many Koreans have little more than a very basic grasp of English phrases. Nonetheless, travellers can get by with English only; however it goes without saying that learning basic Korean phrases will enrich your travel experience.

A common experience for western travellers in South Korea is to be approached by children interested in practising their English skills.

Written Korean, called Hangul, is a phonetic writing system, similar to the Latin and Cyrillic writing systems, as opposed to the Chinese ideographic writing system. See the Wikipedia article on Korean language for more detail.


The currency of South Korea is the Won. As of mid 2004, the exchange rate was approximately US$1:KRW1200. Thus the KRW, Korea's smallest denomination, is worth approximately 1/10th of one US cent. The simplest method of calculating exchange on the run is to divide by 1000 for US$, and figure that you're getting a discount.

Korea is the ginseng capital of the world.


Korean food is delicious and very healthy, a fact attested to by the observation that very few South Koreans are overweight. Popular dishes include bulgogi, the famed Korean barbeque exported worldwide, dolsot bibimbap, rice with a variety of toppings served in a piping hot stone bowl, and a wide variety of chigae stews.

The ubiquitous kimchi pickle, made from fermented cabbage and chili, accompanies nearly every meal and may be a bit of an acquired taste for visitors.


The national South Korean drink is soju, a vodka-like alcoholic beverage (usually around 20%). It's cheaper than any other drinks and also strong. Korean young girls like cocktail soju (like yogurt soju, peach soju, grape soju).

Also, you can have "DongDongJu" and "Makkolli". That's Korean traditional alcohol. It's raw [unstrained, crude] rice wine. This is good with "Haemul Pajeon" which is pancake style food with seafood and green onion. It's yummy!


Some of the cheapest accommodation in South Korea are in what are locally termed motels, but these are rather different from motels in the West and closer to Japan's "love hotels". Motels in South Korea are generally very cheap hotels targeted at young couples aiming to spend 'time' together away from their elders, complete with gaudy plastic beds with strategically placed mirrors on the ceiling, as well as a VCR and a variety of appropriate videos. However for the budget traveller, they can simply be inexpensive lodging.

In South Korea it is common to do a "minbak" or homestay, which meen that you live and have your meals with a family. This can cost round USD 30 per night.

For the budget traveller JJim Jil Bangs can offer a great way to sleep. These are public bath houses but with places to sleep. Entrance costs around USD 5 to get in, and includes a robe to wear. Inside there are public baths, a restaurant, computer lab, a room with movies, and places to sleep. These places are more often meant for families coming in for a day and as such are not perfectly catered to travelers. When you leave you have to take everything with you, and pay to get back in. There is no secure place to leave your things except a single locker. Aside from these drawbacks, JJim Jil Bangs offer a very relaxing place to sleep and bathe.


  • Taekwondo — If you're interested in Martial Art, I would definitely recommend to learn this. The places you can learn will be all over the country, you can find easily. Taekwondo is originally from Korea. You can also learn self defense. Taekwondo is a very courtesy sport.
  • Chang or Pansori — If you like music, it will be good for you. It's Korean traditional way to sing a song. It is very different and unique. If you want to learn what it is through movie, I will say " Seo Pyen Je". Korean movie with lots of Pansori.
  • Korean — Yonsei University (Seoul) provides Korean language program. You can meet friends from all over the places to learn Korean.
  • Korean Traditional Dance — You can go to dance studio and learn Korean traditional dance. You will wear "Han Bok" - Korean traditional cloths.


Stay safe

Stay healthy


When Koreans are saying "hello", they bow each other to show their respect.

Korean language has different levels to show respect.

When picking something up or taking something from somebody older always use two hands. If you have to reach to get it and this is not possible, you can simply support your right arm with your left hand hand.

Likewise, when shaking hands with somebody older support your right arm with your left hand.

When drinking with an older person, turn your head away from the person when you are actually taking a drink.

Younger people often times have a difficult time refusing a drink from an older person, so be aware when asking someone younger than you if they want to drink more as they will often feel unable to say no to you.


External links

  • Tour2Korea (Korean National Tourism Organization]