South Korean Culture


Primary Author
Nina Evason,

Koreans are very family-oriented. Family members are very loyal to each other and dedicated to maintaining their nexus (characteristic of societies). In some traditional/rural social circles, families can be so defining that they are perceived as having a collective . Therefore, the act of an individual can impact the perception of the entire family by others.

Traditionally, Korean family were defined by the Confucian organisation of relationships, which emphasised authority. Under this family model, a husband/father was to exhibit dominance and kindness to his wife in return for obedience and love. Likewise, he would show guidance and protection to his children and receive , respect and obedience. Many families would uphold him as the ultimate decision-maker.

However, since the Korean war, people have deviated from this hierarchical convention to adopt modern family dynamics similar to those of Australians. The is the common family structure, and children are raised to be more dependant on themselves. The archetype of the man as the breadwinner has remained to a degree, but women have gained much more status and power in society. Parents now share disciplinary power over their children, whereas previously it was largely the father’s role.

The ultimate goal of most parents is to see their child be more educated and prosperous than themselves. As such, most Korean parents are utterly devoted to their children’s success. This is often expressed in a way that puts heavy expectations on the child to excel to reach their parent’s aspirations. Many Korean youths are put under immense pressure in their education and career.

This technologically aware, highly educated young generation is also overwhelmingly Westernised and has grown as a result. A split of familial ideals has emerged as they become less family-focused. Under Confucian values, age defines seniority in the household and overrides a person’s personal virtue or merit. Elders should be honoured for their wisdom in accordance with and cared for by the family. The younger generation has started rejecting these conventions, causing issues in some Korean households where the older generation expects respect and obedience to be shown in accordance to age – the traditional way.

Nonetheless, some Koreans still adhere to traditional family values. For example, many worship their ancestors multiple times a year in ceremonies that revere their previous three generations (parents, grandparents and great grandparents). This act of respect honours the belief that Korean children are in eternal debt to their parents.

Dating and Marriage

Korean youths are often hesitant to approach each other individually, so they usually date in groups. Blind dates are very common, either arranged by mutual friends or parents. Many couples in Korea celebrate anniversaries more often than once a year. These include celebrating their 100th, 200th or 1000th day together. The commercial sector has also promoted celebratory days alongside Valentine's Day such as Rose Day, Wine Day and Kiss Day. Arranged marriages remain common as parents often assist their children in finding someone to date. However, strong emphasis is placed on the importance of a strong husband/wife relationship and dynamic. Today, the majority of young Koreans consider all genders and sexual orientations equal. 

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