South Korea is an unspoken hero of Asia, rarely making the news barring when missiles get hurled into the air by its outcast northern brother. But, its’s a shame because what a story it is. An amazing economic miracle that in one generation has seen the country go from poverty to be one of the 11th largest economies in the world.
Soon it will be home to the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang which is bound to illuminate more of South Korea to the world. Of course, the country is also quite famous for Korean Pop music and Korean fashion both of which are incredibly popular throughout Asia and gaining traction throughout the world.
On this page we’ll present the key facts for travelers to the country along with loads of useful resources, APPs and more.
1 Seoul (Korean: 서울) — pop: 10 m – capital of South Korea, a fusion of the ancient and modern civilisation
2 Busan (Korean: 부산, 釜山) — pop: 3.6 m – the second largest city and a major port city of Korea
3 Incheon (Korean: 인천, 仁川) — pop: 3 m – second busiest port in the country, location of the country’s largest international airport
4 Daegu (Korean: 대구, 大邱) — pop: 2.5 m – a cosmopolitan city, rich with ancient traditions and sights
5 Daejeon (Korean: 대전, 大田) — pop: 1.5 m – a large and dynamic metropolis located in Chungnam province
6 Gwangju (Korean: 광주, 光州) — pop: 1.45 m – the sixth largest city in South Korea and home of the county’s democratic uprising of 1980.
7 Suwon (Korean: 수원, 水原) – pop: 1.1 m – the capital of Gyeonggi Province. It is traditionally known as “The City of Filial Piety”.
8 Ulsan (Korean: 울산; 蔚山) – pop: 1.1 m – Ulsan is the industrial heart of SK being home to the world’s largest automobile assembly (Hyundai Motor Company), the world’s largest shipyard and the world’s second largest oil refinery.
9 Jeonju (Korean: 전주, 全州) — pop: 654,000 – well known for it’s museums, temples, and historical monuments.
10 Chuncheon (Korean: 춘천, 春川) — pop: 281,000 – capital city of Gangwon province
11 Gyeongju (Korean: 경주, 慶州) — pop: 270,000 – the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom
A wonderful fusion of ancient culture and modernity that makes for a fascinating and vibrant global city. It’s the nation’s capital and the center of economic, politics and culture (english.visitseoul.net).
A coastal city in South Korea with a rich ancient history and packed with cultural and historical attractions (guide.gyeongju.go.kr).
Seoraksan National Park
The massive 400,000 sq km Seoraksan National Park’s features waterfalls, valleys, hiking tracks, hot springs, woodland and temples. (english.knps.or.kr)
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a buffer zone between North and South Korea. Yes, you can visit the most militarized border in the world. Visit Nuri Peace Park, Unification Hill, Yeolsoe Observation Deck, and more (dmz.gg.go.kr) .
Jeju Island is a popular vacation spot for locals and foreigners. It’s one of the most popular international destinations for Chinese tourists due to the ease of obtaining a visa and the proximity to China itself. The island is packed with theme parks and attractions. Jeju is also home to Manjanggul Cave a UNESCO World Heritage protected site (ijto.or.kr).
Andong & Hahoe Folk Villages
The Unesco World Heritage site is a beautiful traditional village located at the foothill of Hwasan Mountain and beside the Nakdong River. Featuring breathtaking natural scenery and traditional culture (hahoe.or.kr).
Haeundae Beach (Busan)
1.5 km long white sandy beach is a popular tourist destination and also the home to many festivals (eng.haeundae.go.kr).
Haein-sa Temple (Gyeongsangnam)
SK’s most important temple and home to over 200 cultural treasures including the Tripitaka Koreana (National Treasure No.32) and Janggyeongpanjeon (National Treasure No. 52). (haeinsa.or.kr)
|Seollal||New Year’s Day||Sebae(New Year’s greetings), Charye(Ancestral ceremony), Yunnori(Traditional game)||1st day of first month|
|Daeboreum||First full moon||Geuybulnori(Rice field burning), Daljip Taeugi(Bonfire), Aengmagi Taeugi(Talisman burning)||15th day of first month|
|Meoseumnal||Festival for servants||Singing, Dancing, Coming-of-age ceremony||1st day of second month|
|Yongdongje||Celebrating the god of wind||Jesa(Traditional ritual to appease the god of wind)||Second month|
|Samjinnal||Celebrating the coming of spring||Archery, Cockfighting, Fortune telling||3rd day of third month|
|Hansik||Start of farming season||Visit to ancestral grave for offering rite, and cleaning and maintenance.||105 days after Dongji(Winter solstice)|
|Chopail||Buddha’s Birthday||Lantern festival||8th day of fourth month|
|Dano||Celebration of spring and farming||Washing hair with Changpo, Ssireum(Korean wrestling match), swing, giving fans as gifts||5th day of fifth month|
|Yudu||Water greeting||15th day of sixth month||Noodles|
|Sambok||Hottest day of the summer||Hot dishes are made on this day. Cold baths are believed to make people weak.||Between sixth and seventh month|
|Chilseok||Meeting day of Gyeonwoo and Jiknyeo in Korean folk tale||Fabric weaving||7th day of seventh month|
|Baekjung||Time with hundred of fruits’ and vegetables’ seeds||Resting, Performing rituals||15th day of seventh month|
|Chuseok||Harvest festival||Charye(Ancestral ceremony), Ssireum (Korean wrestling match), Visiting ancestral grave sites.||15th day of eighth month|
|Jungu||Double Ninth Festival||Danpung-nori(Viewing the changing color of maples during autumn)||9th day of ninth month|
|Sangdalgosa||Ritual performed to the House gods||Performing a ritual to the house gods, Coiling a golden rope around the House, Spreading a layer of red clay on the floor||Tenth month|
|Sondolpoong||Ritual performed to appease the wind||Usually boatmen and fishermen perform Jesa for Sondol||20th day of tenth month|
|Dongji||Winter Solstice||Rites to dispel bad spirits||11th month|
|Seotdal Geumeum||New Year’s Eve||Cleaning up the house, Preparing for Seollal||Last day of the year|
The Korean Republic Won (Korean: 원) is the currency of South Korea – symbol: ₩; code: KRW.
Korea is a uniquely homogeneous nation having seen very little permanent migration.
0–14 years: 14.1% (male 3,717,701/female 3,424,490)
15–24 years: 13.2% (male 3,525,050/female 3,117,198)
25–54 years: 48.7% (male 11,925,181/female 11,491,841)
55–64 years: 11.7% (male 2,842,996/female 2,907,730)
65 years and over: 12.3% (male 2,469,093/female 3,533,923) (2013 est.)
Customs and Culture
Similar to other Asian nations, Koreans have a strong sense of ‘face’ which is described as self pride, how one is percieved by others and a persons standing within the community and social circles. In Korean it is described as Kibun which has no literal English translation. Relationships in Korea are very much based in maintaining harmony, which mandates the use of indirect speech, the telling of ‘white lies’, and praise all with the aim of maintaining anothers ‘face’ or Kibun.
Other cultural points
In western culture direct eye contact is to convey sincerity and honesty, in Korea it can infer a challenge and also be seen as quite impolite. Personal space, whilst sometimes limited, is very important to Koreans, touching is out unless you are very familiar or close with that person. On greeting Korean men traditionally will bow, with a deep bow a sign of respect, Korean women traditionally will nod slightly. Koreans don’t like to say no or display rejection of ideas, so it can be quite difficult to gain an understanding of where you stand. It can take time to understand the nuances of Korean communication.
Climate and Seasons
Typically, Winter in Seoul is long, cold, and dry, Spring and Autumn are short but the most comfortable and Summer while also being short is quite hot and humid.
Seoul Climate Chart
South Korea Climate Chart
Taxis (taxi.or.kr) in SK are known to be safe, clean, metered and relatively inexpensive. There are several different types which include:
Standard Taxis – exactly as the name implies. They are generally orange, silver or white in color and have the taxi light on the roof.
Deluxe Taxis – black with a yellow light on the roof and offering a higher level of service with a slightly higher fare.
Jumbo Taxis – capable of seating 6-10 passengers.
International Taxis – (intltaxi.co.kr) – generally orange with a black light and clear signage. They offer drivers with English language and possibly Japanese and Chinese.
Call Vans – similar in size to Jumbo Taxis yet they are not metered, the fair is negotiated in advance.
Taxi apps – Uber has a presence in SK but a somewhat difficult existence. The local service Kakao Taxi (kakao.com/taxi) is the most popular.
There are four different types of city buses which are identified by color:
Blue buses – run along main roads covering long distances.
Green buses – short trips, such as transfers between metro stations.
Red buses – express service that goes from the city to urban areas.
Yellow buses – operate circuits within downtown Seoul.
They accept cash, although it is recommended to get a Transportation Card which is accepted on buses, subways and taxis. Cards can be purchased at subway stations and convenience stores.
There are two types of card, Cashbee and T-Money (english.visitkorea.or.kr). You can purchase a card and reload it as required enabling you to easily ‘tap on’ as you enter the bus, and then ‘tap off’ as you get off. TMoney Mpass is designed especially for foreign visitors and is also available at convenience stores. Another popular card for use in Seoul is the Seoul Citypass Plus (seoulcitypass.com) which comes with coupons for use at major attractions in the city.
For route mapping and bus times Google Maps works quite well and also the local Daum Maps (map.daum.net).
Metro/Subway (지하철 )
Seoul has a very highly developed subway network that makes getting around the city a breeze (seoulmetro.co.kr).
App: Subway Korea – Available on iStore and Google Play.
South Korea offers a modern High-Speed Rail network that connects major cities at speeds of 300km/h.
National train operator Korail (letskorail.com) connects major cities in South Korea. Korea Train eXpress (KTX) services between Seoul and Busan, Seoul and Yeosu, Seoul and Mokpo and Seoul and Masan. Visitors will find the Korail Pass (letskorail.com/../) very convenient offering unlimited use of rail services (excluding Metro and SRT).
The SRT (Super Rapid Train) is operated by the SR corporation (srail.co.kr). Running at 300 km/h offering spacious seats and power outlets. The SRT network originates in Suseo and mirrors KTX network through to Mokpo and Busan.
The main mode of national transport, connecting all cities and towns. There are two common types of intercity buses being Gosok (고속, Express)(kobus.co.kr) which runs express to its destination, and Sioe (시외, Intercity)(bustago.or.kr) which makes stops at cities along the route.
Incheon International Airport (airport.kr), the country’s largest airport, is located 1 hour west of Seoul. The airport has a metro line that goes directly to both Seoul Gimpo airport and Seoul Station. The airport is also serviced by the KTX high-speed train.
Gimhae International Airport (https://www.airport.co.kr/gimhaeeng/), located in Busan, has international connections to most major Asian nations and to Seoul.
Jeju International Airport (airport.co.kr/jejueng/) has connections to most major SK cities and internationally to Taiwan, Japan and China.
Seoul Gimpo International (airport.co.kr/gimpoeng/) airport offers flights Japan, China and Taiwan along with domestic routes.
Yangyang International Airport (airport.co.kr/yangyangeng/) offers flights to Busan, Jeju and internationally to Kitakyushu Japan, and Shanghai China.
More airport info and route maps at https://www.airport.co.kr
Low-cost Korean based airlines offering domestic and international flights include Air Busan (en.airbusan.com), Jin Air (jinair.com), Jeju Air (jejuair.net), Eastar Jet (eastarjet.com) and T’Way Airlines (https://www.twayair.com).
Top Places to Stay
South Korea offers a diverse range of accommodation options which include hostels/guest houses, home-stay, holiday apartments, hotels and resorts. See Booking.com which lists a staggering 4700+ accommodation options in SK.
Food and Cuisine
Spicy and fresh, would be two words to describe Korean food. Here’s some examples of popular dishes.
Kimci (김치) – without it a Korean will go slightly mad as it’s almost a staple that’s eaten with every meal.
Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) – thinly sliced pork grilled on Korean BBQ
Pork Bulgogi (불고기) – as above except its marinated in a sweet soy/garlic sauce.
Korean BBQ (고기구이) – thinly sliced meat and plates of vegeatbles are presented for you to grill up on your own persoanl BBQ.
Soft Tofu Stew ( 순두부찌게) – kimchi tofu soup
Korean Ox Bone Soup ( 설렁탕) – slow cooked ox-bones broth served with noodles and green onions.
Hotpot Mixed Rice ( 돌솥 비빔밥) – freid rice served with vegetables, egg, seaweed and sesame seeds.
Typical Living Expenses
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 7,000 ₩
Mid-range Restaurant 20,000 ₩
McDonalds Meal 6,000.00 ₩
Cappuccino (regular) 4,393.52 ₩
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg) 8,728 ₩
Rental Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 640,838 ₩
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment 165,194 ₩
Monthly Transport Pass 55,000 ₩
Budget Hotel 79,000 ₩ per night – Poutside of Seoul 56,000 ₩ per night
Official site: http://www.mofa.go.kr/ENG/visa
Forums, useful websites & APPs
For travel advice: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g294196-i8160-South_Korea.html
For teachers and expats in SK: http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/viewforum.php?f=1
News discussion and advice: https://www.reddit.com/r/korea/
Official Korean Tourism website: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr
South Korea at WikiTravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/South_Korea
Naver Dictionary – Korean <> English dictionary – play.google.com
Jiachul Subway Korea – navigate Koreas subways with ease – play.google.com
KakaoBus – real-time bus info and bus stop information – play.google.com
iTour Seoul – official travel APP for Seoul – play.google.com
Visit Korea – official gov tourism APP – play.google.com
Korean is a distinct language with out a relative. It is the official language of both North and South although there are different forms being Munhwaŏ (North Korea) and Pyojuneo (South Korea). The primary writing system is Hangul.
|English Phrases||Korean Phrases|
|English Greetings||Korean Greetings:|
|Good morning!||An-yŏng-hi ju-mu-shŏ-ssŏ-yo? / An-nyŏng-ha-se-yo? (polite)
안녕히 주무셨어요? 안녕하세요?
|Good evening!||Shik-sa-ha-shŏ-ssŏ-yo? / An-nyŏng-ha-shŏ-ssŏ-yo? (polite)
|Welcome! (to greet someone)||Hwan-yŏng-ham-ni-da. 환영합니다.|
|How are you?||Chal ji-nae-shŏ-ssŏ-yo? 잘 지내셨어요?|
|I’m fine, thanks!||Ne. Chal ji-nae-ssŏ-yo. 네. 잘 지냈어요.|
|And you?||… ŭ-nyo/nŭ-nyo? *1 Title+ 은/는요?|
|Good/ So-So.||Chal ji-nae-ssŏ-yo. / Kŭ-jŏ kŭ-rae-yo.
잘 지냈어요. / 그저 그래요.
|Thank you (very much)!||(Nŏ-mu) kam-sa-ham-ni-da! (너무) 감사합니다!|
|You’re welcome! (for “thank you”)||A-ni-e-yo. 아니에요.|
|Good night!||An-yŏng-hi ju-mu-se-yo! 안녕히 주무세요!|
|Good bye!||An-nyŏng-hi ga-se-yo! / An-nyŏng-hi ge-se-yo! *2
안녕히 가세요! /or/ 안녕히 계세요!
|Asking for Help and Directions|
|I’m lost||Ki-rŭl i-rŏ-bŏ-ryŏ-ssŏ-yo. 길을 잃어버렸어요.|
|Can you help me?||Chom to-wa-ju-shil ssu i-ssŭ-shi-na-yo?
좀 도와주실 수 있으시나요?
|Where is the bathroom?||Hwa-jang-shil-i ŏ-di-ye-yo?
|Go straight! then turn left/ right!||Tchuk ka-se-yo! Kŭ da-ŭ-me woen/o-rŭn tcho-gŭ-ro jom ga-se-yo.
쭉 가세요! 그 다음에 왼/오른 쪽으로 좀 가세요.
|One moment please!||Cham-kkan-ma-nyo! 잠깐만요!|
|Do you speak (English/ Korean)?||Yŏng-ŏ/han-gu-gŏ hal jul a-se-yo? 영어/한국어 할 줄 아세요?|
|Just a little.||Cho-gŭ-myo. 조금요.|
|What’s your name?||I-rŭ-mi ŏ-ttŏ-k’e dwoe-se-yo? 이름이 어떻게 되세요?|
|My name is …||Chŏ-nŭn_____i-e-yo. 저는 ____이에요.|
|Nice to meet you!||Man-na-sŏ ban-gap-ssŭm-ni-da! 만나서 반갑습니다!|
|Where are you from?||Ŏ-di-sŏ o-shiŏ-ssŏ-yo? 어디서 오셨어요?|
|I’m from (the U.S/ Korea)||Chŏ-nŭn (mi-guk/han-guk)-e-sŏ wa-ssŏ-yo.
저는 (미국/한국) 에서 왔어요.
|I’m (American)||Chŏ-nŭn (mi-gu-gin)-i-e-yo. 저는 (미국인)이에요.|
|Where do you live?||Ŏ-di sa-se-yo? 어디 사세요?|
|I live in (the U.S/ Korea)||Chŏ-nŭn (mi-guk/han-guk)-e-sŏ sa-ra-yo.
저는 (미국/한국)에서 살아요.
|Did you like it here?||Yŏ-gi-ga cho-ŭ-se-yo? 여기가 좋으세요?|
|Korea is a wonderful country||Han-gu-gŭn dae-dan-han na-ra-im-ni-da.
한국은 대단한 나라입니다.
|I like Korean||Chŏ-nŭn han-gu-gŏ-ga cho-a-yo. 저는 한국어가 좋아요.|
|How old are you?||Na-i-ga ŏ-ttŏ-k’e dwoe-se-yo? 나이가 어떻게 되세요?|
|I’m (twenty, thirty…) years old.||Chŏ-nŭn (sŭ-mu/sŏ-rŭn)-sa-ri-e-yo. 저는 (스무/서른)살이에요.|
|I have to go||Ka-bwa-ya dwoe-yo. 가봐야 돼요.|
|I will be right back!||Kŭm-bang ga-tta ol-kke-yo. 금방 갔다 올께요.|
|I’m Sorry! (if you don’t hear something)||Mwŏ-ra-go-yo? 뭐라고요?|
|Sorry (for a mistake)||Choe-song-ham-ni-da. 죄송합니다.|
|No Problem!||A-ni-e-yo. 아니에요.|
|Can You Say It Again?||Ta-shi han-bŏn mal-ssŭ-mae-ju-shi-ge-ssŏ-yo?
다시 한번 말씀해주시겠어요?
|Can You Speak Slowly?||Ch’ŏn-ch’ŏ-ni mal-ssŭ-mae ju-shi-ge-ssŏ-yo?
천천히 말씀해 주시겠어요?
|Write It Down Please!||Chŏ-gŏ ju-se-yo! 적어 주세요!|
|I Don’t Understand!||Mo-na-ra-dŭt-kke-ssŏ-yo. 못 알아 듣겠어요.|
|I Don’t Know!||Mo-rŭ-ge-ssŏ-yo. 모르겠어요.|
|I Have No Idea.||Chŏ-nyŏ mo-rŭ-ge-ssŏ-yo. 전혀 모르겠어요.|
|What’s That Called In Korean?||Kŭ-gŏt han-gung-mal-lo mwŏ-ra-go hae-yo?
그것 한국말로 뭐라고 해요?
|What Does “gato” Mean In English?||Da-nŭn yŏng-ŏ-ro mu-sŭn ttŭ-shi-e-yo?
”단”은 영어로 무슨 뜻이에요?
|How Do You Say “Please” In Korean?||“Please” rŭl han-gung-mal-lo ŏ-ttŏ-k’e ma-rae-yo?
“Please”를 한국말로 어떻게 말해요?
|What Is This?||I-ge mwŏ-ye-yo? 이게 뭐예요?|
|I need to practice my Korean||Han-gung-mal yŏn-sŭ-p’ae-ya dwoe-yo. 한국말 연습해야 돼요.|
|Don’t worry!||Kŏk-tchŏng ma-se-yo! 걱정 마세요!|
|Good/ Bad/ So-So.||Cho-a-yo./An-jo-a-yo./Kŭ-jŏ kŭ-rae-yo.
좋아요./안 좋아요./ 그저 그래요.
|Big/ Small||K’ŭn/Cha-gŭn *4 큰/작은|
|Today/ Now||O-nŭl/Chi-gŭm 오늘/지금|
|Tomorrow/ Yesterday||Nae-il/Ŏ-je 내일/어제|
|Yes/ No||Ne/A-ni-yo. 네/아니요.|
|Do you like it?||Kwaen-ch’a-na-yo? 괜찮아요?|
|I really like it!||Nŏ-mu cho-a-yo! 너무 좋아요!|
|I’m hungry/ thirsty.||Pae-go-p’a-yo./Mong-mal-la-yo. 배고파요. / 목말라요.|
|This/ That. Here/There||I-gŏt/Kŭ-gŏt. Yŏ-gi/Kŏ-gi. *5 이것/그것. 여기/거기|
|Me/ You. Him/ Her.||Chŏ/… Kŭ-bun/Kŭ-bun 저/title 그분/ 그분|
|Hurry up!||Sŏ-du-rŭ-se-yo! 서두르세요!|
|What? Where?||Mwŏ-yo? Ŏ-di-yo? 뭐요? 어디요?|
|I love you!||Sa-rang-hae-yo! 사랑해요!|
|I feel sick.||A-p’a-yo. 아파요.|
|I need a doctor||Ŭi-sa-ga p’i-ryo-hae-yo. 의사가 필요해요.|
|One, Two, Three||Il, i, sam / ha-na, tul, set *6 일, 이, 삼 / or / 하나, 둘, 셋|
|Four, Five, Six||Sa, o, ryuk / net, ta-sŏt, yŏ-sŏt 사, 오, 륙/ or/ 넷, 다섯, 여섯|
|Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten||Ch’il, p’al, ku, ship / il-gop, yŏ-dŏl, a-hop, yŏl
칠, 팔, 구, 십/ or/ 일곱, 여덜, 아홉, 열
Learn Korean with Professor OH
20 Useful Phrases for Tourists
Making Friends in South Korea
The number one APP for messaging and connecting with others is KakaoTalk which is available on iTunes or Google Play.
Mobile, Wi-Fi and Internet
There are three major Korean mobile operators. Olleh (https://www.olleh.com), SK Telecom (http://www.sktelecom.com) and LG U+ (http://www.uplus.co.kr). They provide 3G and 4G LTE mobile networks. Olleh is the most recommended due to network coverage and phone compatibility.
Sim cards are available online, or from stands at the airport, or at any convenience store like Seven Eleven for example. As an example, Olleh offer a KT Prepaid Korea SIM Card with 5, 10, 30 day pass options with all providing unlimited data use on their 4G LTE network more here roaming.kt.com
The standard voltage in Korea is 220 volts (and 60 Hertz, or cycles), and the outlet has two round holes being either the “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” or “Type F”.
South Korea offers world-class healthcare which is government ran and subsidized. So good, that many are banking on South Korea becoming a popular global medical tourism destination. The different tiers of the health system are general & university hospitals, traditional medicine centres, public health centres , clinics and private hospitals. The general and university hospitals in each urban center offer emergency and outpatient services while smaller issues may be more quickly dealt with at public health centers.
See the Wikipedia list of Hospitals in South Korea: wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hospitals_in_South_Korea
Other Pages about Korea
The Top Ten Hotels in Ulsan, South Korea [+Attractions & Map]
The Top Hotels in Pyeongchang
The Top Ten Hotels in Jeonju
Seoul’s Top Inner City Hotels
The Top Ten Hotels in Suwon [+ Attractions & Map]
The Top Ten Hotels in Daejeon with Map inc. Attractions
The Top Ten Hotels in Incheon [+ Map and the Must See Attractions]
The Top Ten Hotels in Gwangju [inc Map + Attractions]
The Top 10 Hotels in Daegu [inc. Attractions + Map]