- Face (chaemyoun)
Korea was divided into North and South Korea in 1945. The erratic and often openly hostile North Korean regime remains an ongoing source of stress and uncertainty for South Korea. Both nations have endured an immense amount of adversity since the war, and South Koreans have been significantly toughened by years of instability. Their experiences introduced new values into Korean culture. The need for adaptability, tenacity and education increased, and nationalism was revived. These contemporary attitudes have intermingled with older Asian traditions. The new cultural combination has worked in favour of the country’s development, seeing the nation rebound and thrive economically, and begin to heal psychologically.
Koreans have come to understand the longstanding agony, hardship and oppression they have experienced as ‘hahn’. Hahn is the collective feeling of frustration that has built up in the Korean psyche from suffering so much. The release of this energy (or manifestation of hahn) is seen in the rise of extreme nationalism, an incredible work ethic and an intense focus on Korean prosperity. However, some have argued that hahn has also made Koreans less generous and more resistant to compromise. Indeed, Korean sociologists believe hahn has been a source behind much of the resentment and divisions within society. Nevertheless – tensions aside – the Korean sense of national belonging and pride remains strong. The country is overwhelmingly ethnically
The concept of face (known as chaemyoun in Korea) is central in influencing Korean behaviour and thinking. This is the quality embedded in most Asian cultures that indicates a person's reputation, influence, dignity and honour. In South Korea, the perceptual lens of chaemyoun is taken especially seriously. It gained new importance during the hardships of the 20th century as people had to learn to control their rage and frustration under a mask of stoicism. However today, though great effort is still made to disguise one’s true feelings, many Koreans today are less concerned about appearing completely stoic and are often unable to hide or control their temperament. Facial expressions and gestures often reveal their true feelings very quickly.
As such, chaemyoun (
Confucianism has also been a powerful influence on Korean culture. This way of thinking puts emphasis on the importance of healthy human interactions. It promotes the idea that relationships between people are unequal with defined hierarchical roles (for example, ruler and subject, husband and wife, father and son). When this natural inequality is accepted and respected, it becomes easier to maintain harmonious, stable relations among individuals and, therefore, in the society as a whole. However, this
The Confucian logic of obedience, responsibility and adherence translates into a variety of Korean behaviours and attitudes. One will notice that within Korean society, interactions are tiered, requiring a level of deference and respect from one party – particularly in business. In the social
Modern Day Korea
Though Confucian and traditional values constitute the roots of societal expectations, their influence is weakening in the age of technology. In fact, the younger generations of Koreans are extremely Westernised and
However, despite the influx of new Westernised values into South Korean culture, the society remains more
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