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10 cool things about South Korea

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A temple sits on the shores near Haeundae Beach, South Korea. (Photo by Jason Teale licensed CC BY-NC 2.0)

Babies are 1 year old at birth!

1st birthday party for a little boy

Little Korean boy celebrating his 1st birthday party. (Photo by Sean Choe licensed CC BY-NC 2.0)

Babies are considered to be one year old when they are born, and every Korean gets one year older on New Year's Day. So, if a baby is born on December 31st, they will turn two years old the next day! This is referred to as Korean Age. Your Korean Age is probably a year or two older than your Western age.

Figure skating World Record

Figure skater Yuna Kim performaing a spin

Yuna Kim performing at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. (Photo by { QUEEN YUNA } licensed CC BY-ND 2.0)

South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim held the Guinness World Record for highest combined scores when she won gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Yuna’s record has since been beaten by Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia. Yuna is also the first Korean to score a medal in figure skating at the Olympics.

South Korea sweet potatoes

containers of sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries sold by a street vendor in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo credit: travel oriented via / CC BY-SA)

Sweet potatoes are widely loved in South Korea and are used in many dishes, including main courses, desserts, breads, salads and even on pizza! They are often enjoyed roasted from street vendors in the fall and winter.

The national dish is kimchi

bowl of kimchi

Photo credit: msgfoodblog via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Kimchi is made with cabbage and other vegetables with salt and chili paste and then buried underground in clay pots to ferment. The final product is like a spicy pickled dish and is eaten with almost every meal. South Koreans will say kimchi instead of cheese when they have their picture taken.

Taekwondo is the most famous sport

taekwondo competitors

Photo credit: KOREA.NET - Official page of the Republic of Korea via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Taekwondo loosely translates to “the way of the hand and foot” or “the way of kicking and punching.” It was one of the first martial arts that mostly uses hands and feet and no other weapons. Taekwondo is the only Olympic sport that has its origins in Korea.

National animals


Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

The Siberian Tiger is the national animal of South Korea and the Korean magpie is the national bird.

Really great golfers

golfer Lydia Ko

Korean golfer Lydia Ko. Photo by Keith Allison licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

More than one third of the top 100 female golfers in the world are from South Korea. Lydia Ko from South Korea holds many records for being the youngest golfer to win professional tours. The first record she broke was in 2012 at the New South Wales Women’s Open in Australia — she was only 14!

Famous women divers of Jeju

women divers in wet suits

Photo credit: Noby Leong via / CC BY-NC

There is a long tradition of women divers on the South Korean island of Jeju. After lots of training, and without the help of oxygen tanks, these women will dive down and fish for octopus, sea urchins and abalone (sea snails). Some of these incredible women will continue to dive until age 80!

No need to do the dishes

a tray of dirty dishes left out in the snow

A tray of eaten food, waiting to be taken away by the delivery person. (Photo by lamoix licensed CC BY 2.0)

Getting food delivered in South Korea is a very different experience. The food doesn't show up in plastic or foam containers inside a paper bag. Instead, most places will deliver meals in real metal and ceramic dishes, like the types you have at home, along with actual metal cutlery. And when you're done, you just package all your dirty dishes and cutlery back up and leave it outside your door for the delivery person to pick it up again. No wasting of paper or creating excess garbage. Great!

There's a festival for mud

kid covered in mud and holding a ball of mud

Photo by Shawn Perez licensed CC BY 2.0

For 10 days every summer, people come from all over the world to enjoy squishy, goopy, wet mud! Millions of people visit the seaside town of Daecheon for the Boryeong Mud Festival where they have mud marathons, mud skiing competitions, mud body painting and a big mud pool.