Culture Corner

 

 

Korean Culture

Monuments and Must Sees

Cultural Activity Suggestions

Money Matters

Transportation

 

Korean Culture

Harmony

One of the enduring qualities of Korean culture is the desire to maintain harmony within the community and society. For Americans this stands in stark contrast with our individualist values where being different, unique and above all independent are ideals we hold dear. In Korean society you will find that the well-being of the community comes first. This shows in all facets of life from sharing food, respecting elders and traveling in groups. Enjoy the intimate friendships that flourish as a result of Korean community culture.

Food

Enjoying food and drink is a high priority in Korean culture. Be prepared to spend a lot of time eating and drinking in large groups. Meals consist of a large variety of food in small quantities including rice, meat, seafood, soups, and an array of seasoned and pickled vegetables. Kimchi is a spicy, pickled vegetable integral to every Korean meal and it can come in the form of cabbage, radish, cucumbers and many other forms. Dive in and experience the spice of Korean life!

Festivals

The Lunar New Year, on the first day of Spring, and Thanksgiving (Chusok), before the Autumnal equinox, are the most important holidays in Korea. Every year these days change on the solar calendar but tend to fall around February and September respectively. Koreans travel to their hometowns and gather with their immediate and extended family members to celebrate these holidays. The Lunar New Year is a chance to celebrate renewal by cleaning your home, getting haircuts, and buying new clothes. For Chusok, the harvest celebration, Koreans pay respects to the spirits of their ancestors by cooking traditional food, visiting tombs and performing rituals.

 

Region and Population

Seoul is located in the northwest corner of South Korea, not far from the Yellow Sea coast. It is almost exactly between Beijing and Tokyo, with each being about 600 miles away. The large Han River flows through the center of the city, with a total of 27 bridges across this river throughout the city. There are 10.5 million people in the city, making it one of the largest cities in the world.

 

Climate

Even being on a peninsula and near a coast, Seoul still experiences all four seasons in moderation. Summers are warm and humid and winters are cold and snowy. The late summer is monsoon season for Korea, so there is a significant amount of rainfall in July and August.

Type Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Highs 35 39 50 64 73 80 84 82 78 67 53 40
Lows 21 25 41 45 55 64 71 72 62 50 37 26
Avg. Rainfall .85 .93 1.8 3.03 4.02 5.25 12.91 13.7 5.52 1.94 2.09 .98

 

Monuments and Must Sees

 

Namdaemun Gate

One of the last remaining sections of the original city wall, and the most treasured of Seoul's historic landmarks, this southern gate is the oldest wooden structure in the city. Originally built in 1398, it was mostly destroyed by a fire in 2008 and is currently being restored. The largest traditional market in Korea is next to the gate, and it offers great bargains and wonderful traditional food of every variety.

Five Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty

These are located throughout Seoul, and range in age from 900 years to 400 years old. Although most were destoyed at various points throughout history by the Japanese, they have largely been restored. Perhaps the most impressive is Changdeok-gung, although Gyeongbok-gung is certainly the most important historically.

Namsan Tower

One of the tallest buildings in Asia, the top floor offers a panoramic view of the entire city. This experience gives one a sense of just how large and beautiful the city really is.

Itaewon

This area of Seoul not only is home to a US military base, but is also the most diverse region of the city, offering restaurants from around the world, and shops of every variety. Visitors are likely to see people from every corner of the world, including a large number of Americans.

 

Cultural Activity Suggestions

Buddhist Temples

Visit the numerous Buddhist temples within and around the city of Seoul. Admire the beautiful displays and performances for the Lunar New Year and Buddha's birthday in May.

Music Scene

Explore the vibrant nightlife and live music scene in Hongdae, Sinchon and Itaewon. You can hear rock, jazz and other creative sounds coming from the urban youth culture of Seoul.

Local Street Food

A feature of local culture, eating in "pojangs" is a favorite custom among Koreans. You will find a variety of foods sold on the street and subway stations, all piping hot and ready to eat on the go! You'll never be in need of a place to eat in Seoul. Koreans love their food so you'll be sure to find affordable homemade dishes served on every street in Seoul.

Insadong Arts District

Enjoy some lunch and Korean tea after a walk in Insadong, the art district of Seoul. On this street you can find traditional arts and crafts, calligraphy, pottery and wonderful contemporary art galleries.
Cultural Immersion

Language Exchanges

By participating Mentoring Programs at Konkuk University, students will be given the opportunity to meet local and international students wishing to share their knowledge of Korean and learn English in exchange. This activity, based on student interest, is a great way to get to know other students of Seoul, and share your culture and language with others while learning more about your surroundings and Korean student counterparts!

 

Language Resources

Helpful Phrases
An-yeong-ha-se-yo Hello
An-yeong-hi-ke-se-yo Goodbye (if you are the one leaving)
An-yeong-hi-ka-se-yo Goodbye (if someone else is leaving)
Cho-un-haru-de-se-yo Have a good day
Cho-un-pom-de-se-yo Have a good night
Hangul-mal-chal-mu-lai-yo I don't speak/understand Korean
Mu-lai-yo - I don't understand
Chwueh-so-ham-ni-da I'm sorry (very polite)
Shi-la-ham-ni-da Excuse me
Quin-cha-na-yo Don't worry
Ju-se-yo Please give (this to me)
Ol-mai-ya-yo How much does this cost?
 

Money Matters

Currency

The Korean currency is the won (₩ or KRW), with $1.00 being equivalent to about ₩1,138.23. There are ₩1, ₩5, ₩10, ₩50, ₩100, ₩500 coins and ₩1,000, ₩5,000, ₩10,000, ₩50,000 bills. ₩1 and ₩5 coins are rare, and almost all prices are rounded to the nearest ₩10.For current exchange rate information, visit www.oanda.com.

 

Cost of Living

While the cost of living in Seoul can be much lower than the U.S. please keep in mind that there are places to dine and shop that are comparable to those costs of living in the U.S.

 

Budgeting

Due to the change in exchange rates and vast differences in individual spending habits, we can only give you estimated figures. However, most students seem to spend around $250 per week. This figure does not include extra traveling, heavy shopping, or frequent restaurant dining. Please keep in mind that some students spend less and others spend more.When budgeting, keep in mind that it is always better to overestimate than to underestimate. To give you an idea of common approximate expenses and commodities a typical student will incur, please see the brief list below:

  • Public Transportation: $9-20/week (round trip metro with one destination costs $3)
  • Groceries: $40/week
  • Dining Out: $70/week
  • Local Calls: $5-10
  • International Calls: $10-20
  • Cafés/Coffee: $5-10/cup
  • Nightlife: $10-50
  • Entertainment: $7-10/event
  • Travel/Hostel/Hotel: $20-100/night
  • Laundry: $0-20/month
  • Gym Membership: $10/month

Additional Estimated Expenses

The Veritas program cost includes items such as tuition and fees, housing, insurance, and more. To view what is included in your program price, please visit the "What's Included" section of the Veritas South Korea program page.

The Additional Estimated Expenses page in the Helpful Resources for Students section has the following estimated expenses listed:

  • Airfare
  • Books & Supplies
  • Meals
  • Visas/Passports
  • Passport (new/renewal)
  • Student Visa
  • Personal Travel

ISIC Card

The ISIC card is an internationally recognized student ID card that gives students thousands of discounts worldwide from travel to cinema, meals and more. Veritas students who purchase a flight through STA are eligible to receive an ISIC card. Visit www.isic.org for more information.

 

Transportation

Seoul has an extensive subway system that makes getting around Seoul very convenient. It is by far the most popular mode of transportation with more than 8 million trips daily. It is interconnected with the bus system so that riders can get anywhere they need within the city and as far out as the suburbs. In addition, taxis are also an affordable way to navigate the city especially late at night when the subway and bus lines are limited. To learn more about the different ways to navigate Seoul, please read the descriptions below:

 

Subway

Subway service begins at 5:30am and concludes at 1am on the weekdays and 5:30am-midnight on the weekends. Seoul's integrated Metrobus transportation system includes buses and the subway. The Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation has created an English version of their incredible interactive subway map, schedule and route. Click here to plan your trips with more detailed information!

Bus

The buses are color coded blue, green, red and yellow.
Blue (Main line): The blue buses serve the main roads throughout downtown Seoul and are designated with 3-digit numbers.
Green (Branch Line): The green buses connect the subway stations with nearby residential neighborhoods and other main bus lines and are designated with a 4-digit number.
Red (Wide Area Line): The red line connects the major areas in Seoul with the satellite cities around Seoul. These buses are designated by a 4-digit number.
Yellow (Circular line): The yellow line serves the circular belt roads in the downtown and major metropolitan areas. They are designated by a 2-digit number.

Taxis

Taxis are abundant on the Seoul streets and can easily be hailed. There are also orange umbrella covered stands around the city where you can wait for them. All taxis have the option of a free translation service and the phone number should be visible inside the window of the taxi. There are four types of taxis: the standard (grey) taxis and orange/white taxis charge W2400 for the base price, the international taxis (orange) charge 20% more and the deluxe (black) taxis charge a base price of W4500.

 

Transportation Passes

For students, the Konkuk student ID card serves as a transportation card, providing a discounted rate of W900 to W1700 for each ride. Students simply scan their cards at the entrance of the subway or bus. The regular fare ranges from W1000 to W1800. Riders also have the option of buying a T-money card that functions in the same way. The initial cost of the T-money card ranges from W2500 to W10,000.