Korean’s are exceptionally welcoming, hospitable people. Decorum plays a major role in their generosity to outsiders and there are several social rules that Koreans stick to. A quick, short bow is most respectful for greetings and departures and when receiving or giving business cards, money or gifts both hands should be used. Similarly, when pouring or receiving drinks, you should use both hands. When eating, use chopsticks or a spoon to touch food and don’t leave either sticking up in a bowl of rice – this is deemed highly offensive!
Upon entering a Korean home, guesthouse, temple or Korean-style restaurant, you must remove your shoes. Korean’s often sit and even sleep on their floors so a dirty floor is intolerable - not removing shoes is a great sign of disrespect.
Arguing is best avoided in South Korea, even if you are in the right. A mishandled remark should be smoothed over quickly and if you sense someone trying to change the subject, just go with the flow.
South Korea’s calendar is always packed full of festivals and events. The Boryeong Mud Festival, is a 10 day festival held every July which began in 1998 as a way of promoting the health benefits of the local mud, rich in germanium and other minerals. It now attracts more than a million people who, after being baptised in a vat of mud, enter the ‘mud prison’ and get doused with buckets of warmed mud. There’s a mud super-slide, mud rain tunnel and a number of muddy pools where groups run, splash and get covered head to toe in mud. The principal venue is Daechon Beach making it easy for participants to run into the sea and clean off. Afterwards, they can enjoy an evening of music and either a concert or rave.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors brave the sub-zero temperatures to participate in trout ice fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. Held on a frozen river, festival goers drop their fishing lines into ice drilled holes and wait patiently for their catch. If successful, participants bite into the head of the caught trout to celebrate.
At the Jinju Lantern Festival vibrant lanterns of various colours, shapes and sizes line the Nam River for a stunning water display. The red lanterns carry personal wishes of local residents while other lanterns represent the remembrance of the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle veterans. With a history dating back to 1592, the Jinju Lantern Festival originated from the custom of lighting lanterns to prevent Japanese troops from wading the Namgang River during the Japanese invasion. Today, you can enjoy an evening stroll while admiring the parades and munching on food from one of the many street food vendors.
With numerous parks and historic sights, South Korea is a joy to explore. And with excellent transport links, it is easy to do so!
There are many World Heritage sites in South Korea. Jeju-do, the largest of the islands is a beautiful location popular with holidaymakers. Known as the Island of the Gods, its volcanic landscape is home to both picturesque parks and coastlines. Head to the north west of the island to encounter the most stunning white sand beaches.
Jongmyo houses the spirit tablets of the Joseon kings and queens as well as some of their most loyal government officials. The shrine was awarded World Heritage status for its special ceremonies and impressive architecture. The main shrine, Jeongjeon, is a very long, stately and austere building which was constructed in 1935. Inside you’ll find 49 royal spirit tablets in 19 small windowless rooms, which are usually locked. Yeongnyeongjeon, the smaller shrine which was built in 1421, has 34 spirit tablets of lesser kings in six rooms.
Thousands of bronze-age tombs known as dolmen dot the hills around the small village of Gochang. The site includes a museum, behind which six trails lead in and around huge boulders dotting the countryside.