11 Things I Love About South Korea

January 28, 2014
11 Things I Love About South Korea

Since moving to South Korea back in August I’ve been asked by countless people why I love living here so much. Here are the best  aspects of this wonderful, little powerhouse of a country.

11 Things I Love About South Korea

1. Sense of community.

Having lived in Los Angeles for 10 years prior to moving to Korea back in August it was quite a bit of a culture shock to feel and see the sense of community here in Korea. I lived in a bubble in LA, a city where making true and lasting friends is as rare seeing Victoria Beckham gobble down an In’N’Out burger, animal style fries and a vanilla shake.

I spent my years constantly on guard and trying to shovel my way through the layer of shallow nonsense to find something real and lasting within Hollywood.

In Korea, that sense of community is everywhere. You don’t need to understand a language to see that people look after one another here like family. It’s not uncommon to see an adult pat a child he or she has no relation to on the head or give the child a cookie or even gently scold when the child is hitting her younger brother with a stick (this happened.)

People aren’t annoyed when others are talking on the phone or when a child is brought to a fancy restaurant. Koreans are taught from day one that they live in a community and it is important to take care of one another and respect each other.

2. Food.

Korean food is amazing. And while I do love a bit more variety in cuisines and miss my beloved Mexican food, I can’t complain about the food here. Bibimbap! Hetopap! Kimbap! Kimchi! It’s delish! And cheap! (except for produce at a grocery store.) And my taste buds have never been happier and more alive trying all the new flavors.

Korean food

3. Integrity.

I am a low-maintenance person. I don’t need to put makeup on every day, wear the latest fashions or even carry a purse everywhere I go. In fact, I prefer to be free of what I call “female tax.” And, I am telling you this because most of the time when I am with my husband, I leave my purse at home and wander the city hands free.

Well, a couple of months ago we met a couple of friends for dinner and it was one of those rare occasions when I did bring my purse. Not only did I bring my purse but I had stuffed it with my iPad, iPhone, passport, Alien Registration Card, bank cards, bank books, bank USB (something you need in Korea to access your bank account), Social Security card, cash…you name it, it was in there.

I’m sure you can guess what happened. Yup, I left my purse at the restaurant. No, scratch that, I left it OUTSIDE of restaurant. I had put it down when I was distracted by something and never picked it back up again…and didn’t notice for a full half hour. If this was LA, I might have lost my mind and fallen in a puddle of my tears knowing I would never get my purse back or if I did, it would be a couple of Mac products and dollar bills short.

And my story isn’t rare–you hear them all the time in Korea. The friend of ours who left her iPhone in a cab only to be tracked down by the police so that they could return it to her.

But, here, my sweet and wonderful husband calmly trotted back to the restaurant while I entertained our visiting friends (freaking out a little in my head). The purse was turned into the restaurant with every bit of my paper identity and products still intact.

And my story isn’t rare–you hear them all the time in Korea. The friend of ours who left her iPhone in a cab only to be tracked down by the police so that they could return it to her. Or the other friend who left his brand new shirt, still in the bag, overnight at a bathhouse only to return the next day with it still safety ensconced in the open cubicle he left it in.

4. Use of space.

When you are squeezing over 50 million people in a country the size of Indiana that is 70 percent mountainous, it is crucial to get creative with the use of available living space. Take my bathroom, for instance, where you can pee, shave, take a shower and brush your teeth at the same time. The shower is connected to the sink and the toilet is a mere four inches from the sink.

The entire bathroom is roughly the size of a large refrigerator. It never ceases to amaze me how every single square foot of space is used for one purpose or another.

The entire bathroom is roughly the size of a large refrigerator. It never ceases to amaze me how every single square foot of space is used for one purpose or another. It’s a great lesson that less is more. That’s not the only example of creative use of space. People who own small businesses often live there.

Our favorite crab joint is not just a happening restaurant but also doubles as a home for the owners. Also, an elderly woman caring for a large garden has made this tiny box of a house her home.

Tiny garden house

5. Ambition.

It’s hard not to admire a country that went from having the worst economy in the world after the Korean War to the 15th (13th on some lists) in 50 years. That takes a lot of determination, ambition and teamwork. And while children are pressured from a young age to study hard and work harder, it’s a practice that has paid off for the entire world. Go Korea!

6. Respect.

I might get a lot of flak for this but I admire the “respect your elders” aspect of the culture. Our parents and grandparents have a lot to teach the younger generations and communication is lost if respect is forgotten so I appreciate the hierarchical respect culture of Korea. Plus, it goes both ways. The number one priority in a Korean household is the children. Every decision that is made in a family unit is based on the goal of helping the children succeed in life.

7. Safety.

Many a night I’ve walked the streets of Hollywood…Wait, that sounds bad.  Let me start again. After work, I used to walk through Hollywood to get back to my apartment, never once without my mace at the ready and head on a swivel. It’s a very unsettling way to live and teaches a person quickly that trust is a hard thing to come by in the world.

But since moving to Korea, I would never think twice about walking by myself in a dark alley at 2 AM. It’s incredibly freeing as a woman to not worry about my personal safety on the streets of Korea.

8. K-Pop.

I mean…how do you not LOVE K-Pop. It’s catchy, it’s sexy, and it’s fun! And any girl group that flaunts a song entitled, “Girl President” is okay with me! Here is an example:

9 Fitness.

I can’t walk more than half a mile without passing one of these free, outdoor exercise gyms, not to mention all the walking a person has to do if they live in a big city like, Seoul , Busan or Daegu.

10. Healthcare.

Hands down amazing. After nearly going bankrupt in my twenties from doctor bills for non-life threatening ailments with insurance, I don’t know how I will ever convince myself to go back to such a broken system. Say what you will about private health insurance, the Affordable Health Care Act, the US having the BEST healthcare in the world, to me, this system is hand over fist better than anything I’ve encountered.

I couldn’t walk out of a doctor’s office in the states for a sinus infection without it costing at least a Benjamin.  In South Korea, it costs the equivalent of around eight dollars. And now you’re thinking…but what about a long hospital stay, Lo? Well, friends, here’s a great example:

My good friend had a complicated pregnancy a year ago and had to be placed on bed rest in a hospital here in Pohang for over two weeks, which ended with an emergency C-section and a premature baby. The total cost of everything? $2,500 out the door…And, that was with an upgrade to a private and spacious room, food catered in daily for her, her husband and her mother and round the clock first-rate medical treatment. Is it the best system?

I suppose that’s all a matter of perspective but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s damn near perfection!

I suppose that’s all a matter of perspective but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s damn near perfection!


11 Things I Love About South Korea

11. Beauty.

The mountains. The ocean. The temples. The people. Need I say more? Korea is purely and simply beautiful.

Laura Whang is a writer from Los Angeles. She is currently based in Pohang, South Korea teaching English at both a public elementary school and an orphanage. You can find her at www.BreakingLo.com where she blogs about international adoption, travel and all things South Korea!


11 Things I Love About South Korea

Related Reading

So Much Culture Shock in South Korea
South Korea Travel Tips: Rebecca’s Take on Health, Safety and Romance
Finding Balance and Self-Acceptance in South Korea

Have you traveled to South Korea? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

11 Things I Love About South Korea top photo credit: pixabay.

One thought on “11 Things I Love About South Korea

  1. youssra
    November 12, 2015

    You made me feel so excited to visit SK! I’ve been watching kdramas for a few years now and I’m really fond of the Korean culture. Enjoy your stay there girl!

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