KOREAN LIFESTYLE AND CULTURE IN MY VIEWPOINT Winners of Essay Contest on Korea February 13, 2001 Korean Overseas Information Service
The Korean Information Service is pleased to announce the winners of its annual essay contest on Korea. This year's competition was held from April to December of last year in 12 countries, including six countries in Asia (Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam), and three each in Europe (Britain, Germany and Russia) and the Americas (Canada, Mexico and the United States). The deadlines have been extended for those in the United States, Russia and Malaysia due to their differing school calendars. The contest started in 1988 to stimulate interest in Korea among foreign students and educators as well as to promote mutual friendship and the understanding of Korean culture and society. The following is a list of the winner essay from Thailand.
Jaya Patrachai M, 83. 2.13 Triam Udom Suksa School Grade 12
When it comes to "One of the Five Tigers of Asia", Korea comes first to our mind. The image of Korea as the most outstanding newlyindustrialized country has been in people's memory since the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. The success of Korea at that time reflects the development of the country in many aspects, such as lifestyle, tradition and custom, culture, together with the advancement in technology, which leads Korea to be industrialized country. This "One of the Five Tigers of Asia" used to be known as "Land of the Morning Calm." Considering the meanings, we can see the difference in these two things. The difference is the development of the country, and the lifestyle and culture. In terms of lifestyle and culture, it has been changed from the "land of the morning calm" to the "Tiger of Asia." Lifestyle, culture and civilization of Korea have been built upon the
small peninsular between the Yellow Sea and the East Sea. Korea has almost the same size as Britain. The Taebaeksan range runs the full length of the east coast, where the lashing waves of the East Sea have carved out sheer cliffs and rocky islets. The peninsular features so many scenic mountains and rivers. The geography of this kind has brought impression to people who live there. They compare the scenic nature as the "beautifully embroidered brocade." This beautifully embroidered brocade has had an influence on lifestyle and culture of the Korean people from past to present. In the past, Korean lifestyle was not very much differ from the other ancient civilizations. Korea had an agricultural society and respected nature. Under the influence of nature, the Korean people came to develop a peace-loving characteristic. Korean people lived nearby rivers like Thai people did. Hangang river is the major one which flows through Seoul for decades. The characteristic of agricultural society of the Korean people was reflected in holidays and festivals. The first full moon of the year, "Taeborum" is the day when farmers pray for a bountiful harvest. "Tano" is the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. On that day, farmers will take a day off from the field for joint festivities marking the completion of sowing. "Chusok" is the autumnal full moon day that falls on the 15th day of the eight month. These traditions reflect that, in the past, Korean people had a peaceful agricultural lifestyle. Throughout the year, their lives were connected with harvest festivals, which was quite similar to those of Thai people. The Koreans in the agricultural society lived with nature and worshipped it. They had a profound belief in spiritual landscape of people. They had animistic beliefs that every object in the world possessed a soul. In ancient Korean society, there was a "Mudang" who could link living creature with spiritual world. Mudang was considered capable of curing sickness and averting bad luck. From the study of Korean history, it reflects that the Koreans fought to protect the country from China's invasion. Even though Korean people were ethnically originated from the Mongol, they had their unique civilization which was different from that of the Chinese people. Foreign influences, which were very much distinguished in Korean culture, were Confucianism and Buddism. Confucianism was introduced along with the earliest specimens of Chinese written materials. There were records which indicated that Confucianism had an influence on political administration of Korea. In Koguryo, there was a Confucian university. The civil service examination called "Kwago" were adopted after the Chinese system. Confucianism deeply implanted in Korean values. However, Buddhism seems to have been well-supported by Korean people. Buddhism was supported by the ruling people of the Three Kingdoms. Under royal patronage, many temples and monasteries
were constructed and believers grew steadily. Shilla Dynasty regarded Buddhism as the state religion while Confucianism formed the philosophical and structural backbone of the state. The Confucian government administration's system was still there. It can be seen that the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism remains in Korea until now. In the 19th century, Korea remained a "Hermit Kingdom" even though the country was invaded by Japan. Korea opposed to Western demands for diplomatic and trade relations. Over time, a few Asian and European countries with imperialistic ambitions competed with each other for influence on others. Under the Japanese rule, Korean patriotism had been stimulated. At the end of the World War II, Korea had been divided into two. It can be said that rapid social and economic changes mainly come from the perseverance of Korean people. The Administration of former President Park Chung-hee aimed at ensuring political stability and completing the historic task of national development through socio-economic progress under strong presidential leadership. President Park led the economic development of the so-called "Miracle on the Han-gang River." North Korea's government tried to maintain a socialist structure that emphasizes Korean style socialism known as "juche" ideology. Devastating flood over the past several years and food shortage had an impact on North Korea's foreign policy. North Korea had to accept foreign aid to help revive its ailing economy. From past to present, the lifestyle of Korean people has been changed from agricultural to industrialized society. The rapid population growth in urban areas led to a housing shortage and spiraling land prices in cities. People had to change their lifestyle. Korean people tended to live in high-rising building or condominium. However, with the implementation of the "Five-Year plan for science and technology innovation," not much environmental problem could effect Korean people who lived in the big cities. In my opinion, at present, Korean lifestyle is in a very good standard. Korea has the unique housing rental system, the advancement in health care and public welfare, and the social security system. These examples reflect that Korean government has a good concern on its people. Korea is a country in Asia which has high literacy level. The Korean government has placed great importance on education. Education is an area which receives primary attention. Korea Telecom has offered massive effort to supply personal computers to schools nationwide. This shows the initiative to prepare the future generation for the
information age. In the meantime, Bangkok has just started using its sky train, but Seoul has its subway system for more than 3 decades. The first subway line in Seoul started in 1974 and at the moment the eight line is under construction. Seoul's subway system is the eight-largest in the world. This subway system is the main daily city commuter for the Korean people. If we go to Seoul next year, we will see the new Inchon International airport, the new international air terminal of Korea. Inchon airport is situated on Yongjongdo Island near Inchon. This will improve the air transportation capacity of Korea. Even though Korea has been developing the country to be like the West, the Koreans do not neglect their culture. Korean drama has its origins in prehistoric religious rites, while music and dance play an integral role in all traditional theatrical performances. The famous classical theatrical mask dance of Korea is called sandae nori, a combination of dance, song, narrative punctuated with satire and humor. From past to present the lifestyle of Korean people has been changed for several times. However with the cooperation of the people, Korea can fight all the misfortunes and be one of the leading industrialized countries in Asia. Even though the country has faced the economic crisis, the Kim Dae-jung Administration has successfully driven the country through the problem by using sound policies. The future of Korea is turning bright at the time since the Two Koreas participated in the North and South summit meeting in Pyongyang. The two leaders, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il have brought up peaceful atmosphere to the Korean peninsular. The lifestyle and culture that have been parted long before would be able to reunite again. In my opinion, Korean people can come to this point because they have strong determination, attempt, cooperation and patience. The Korean people do not neglect their traditional lifestyle and culture. The unique "Hermit Kingdom" or the "land of the morning calm" still remains in them. They can adapt this kind of lifestyle to use for the country's highest advantage in the age of globalization. If the reunification plan of the two Koreas can be accomplished, Korea would be the country that has much influence in Asia. In my viewpoint, Korean lifestyle and culture are the important aspects which lead the country to become industrialized and be one of the "Five Tiger of Asia."