Korean Culture and Traditions

Topics: Korean language, South Korea, Hangul Pages: 8 (3081 words) Published: April 29, 2008
Ruth Benedict was quoted saying, “Culture is not a biologically transmitted complex.” In many ways, through studying a foreign country or culture, this statement is very true. In most cases, cultures do pass from generation to generation. But this has nothing to due with biology. Obviously, cultures can be passed through music, art, folklore stories, and games. But some of the best ways that culture and tradition are passed on are often overlooked. For example, South Korea is one country which over the years, through wars and independence, has retained a strong sense of culture. The country has easily maintained its culture through language, religion, and holidays. Language is one of the most unsurpassed ways to continue and spread culture. In most foreign language classes even in the U.S. culture is one topic that is taught, thus to learn a language one must learn its culture. But does the relationship between language and culture go the other way, that to learn a culture one must learn the language? Yes, the answer is absolutely yes. There is a reason that many people when use the phrase “lost in translation,” when they are having trying to interpret for a foreigner. This is because even if, for example, a joke is translated if one doesn’t understand the culture behind the joke, that person may not understand the humor in it. Even certain old phrases, like “break a leg,” are not always understood. In South Korea their language has withstood many changes. As South Korea, or the Republic of Korea, has only within the last hundred years obtained independence, the Korean language is shared between both North and South Korea. The language originates from part of the Altaic language family. Like English there are various apparent dialects, but these diverse dialects are mostly understood throughout the Korean speakers. Although the region this language is spoken in is small and partially remote, it is still spoken by over sixty-five million people. And forty-five of those alone, are from South Korea.1 Many language experts consider the language to be very well planned and one of the best in history. The formal name of the Korean Language is Hangul, which is used as the name of the written language. The alphabet was created by King Sejong in 1446. The alphabet is fairly simple and exceptionally easy to learn. A direct result of this maybe that Korea has one of the higest literacy rates in the world. Without a doubt, part of Korean culture is the huge focus on education for children. This is exemplified by the popular chuldrens story of how Hangul was invented.5 “A long, long time ago a man was sitting in his room thinking to create a new language for the newly independent country. He wanted something simple in opposition to the complexity of Hanja and the three different alphabets of Japan. He thought and thought but couldn't come up with anything; hoping to find some consolation from the night sky, he motioned to open the window, but he heard that there was a lot of rain falling outside. He looked at the window. In this window he saw some simple, yet powerful shapes to unify the broken Korea and get rid of illiteracy. And looking at this window, King Se-Jong invented Korean.”5 Today in Korea, technology invention and manufacturing has really taken hold. In order to communicate internationally, many in Korea learn English.1 While this modernization is happening very fast, Korea maintains its traditional values and the old way of life. Although there are highly populated cities, there are also rural area's which are still relatively poor, and still follow traditional ways of life. In cities, millions of people live in apartments, but in the rural area's you will find traditional housing. Also, even though the cities are headed toward very modern times, people still hold onto some traditional values. One thing that guarantee's this is the language. The language has traditional values of social...
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