When you arrive in Korea, one of the first and important things you would notice is that the country is no longer the land of 'Morning Calm' - a literal translation of Joseon Dynasty that ruled the peninsula until the dawn of the 20 th Century.
What you can see here, however, is a dynamic face of the nation which turned to a Republic less than 60 years ago: in fact, tomorrow (15 August) is a national holiday to celebrate the establishment of the independent government in 1948.
Since then, the Koreans have struggled to adapt themselves to the fast-changing society over the past half-century, which saw a series of historic events such as a civil war in 1950, a coup d'etat in 1961, the industrial revolution in the 1970s, the democratisation movement in the late 80s, and a severe economic crisis in the late 90s.
With the country entering the new millennium, however, the time has come for the people to celebrate what they have achieved so far, and co-hosting the FIFA World Cup™ in 2002 was a perfect chance. The Taeguk Warriors set up a nationwide party with their sensational run to the semi-final, and now it is their boys' turn to spice up the showpiece event in five years time.
So, for the football fans visiting Korea to join the festivities this summer, FIFA.com has prepared some simple but practical tips.
Mixture of cultures
The first things that catch your eyes upon arrival are the countless neon crosses all over the city. The symbol of Christianity is so prevalent one might be confused if this is really a Far Eastern country. But don't be. Only around a fourth of the population are Christians, and more or less the same number of people are Buddhist. Buddhist temples are mostly located in the mountains and valleys, which is why it is difficult to find them in the city centre.
Then what about the rest? Although most people live without religion, the rich tradition of Confucianism keeps the society going. The essence of the philosophy is summed up well in the four virtues of humanity, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom.
Respect the aged
It is the golden rule. You have to show respect to someone older than you. For example, when you shake hands with your seniors, grab their hand with your right hand while supporting the arm with your left hand. This 'two hands' rule also applies to a lot of other cases including when you give/receive something to/from elders.
It's very convenient to greet someone in Korean because saying both hello and goodbye are basically the same - simply say annyong when you either meet a friend or say goodbye. But when you say it to elders, you have to add following suffixes to show your respect: annyong-haseyo (hello) and annyong-higyeseyo (goodbye).
Sorry and thanks are a bit more complicated. Say mian-hamnida when you are sorry, and gomap-sumnida to show your appreciation.
kimchi, not cheese
The famous Korean food, kimchi is a traditional fermented dish made of seasoned vegetables. There are various versions of kimchi, depending on what it is made of (cabbage, radish, or cucumber), and what kind of seasonings used (chilli pepper, salt, garlic, or even oysters). Some might say kimchi is too hot and spicy to swallow, but the Koreans cannot live without it!
If you prefer sweeter dishes, there are some other options: when you visit Suwon, don't forget to try galbi, which is a barbecue of marinated ribs. Gwangyang boasts its own famous bulgogi, which is sliced beef served with sweet soybean sauce.
Beware of the lightning
August is midsummer in Korea, which means you should be prepared for the suffocating heat, the monsoon rains, and even worse, the typhoons. An umbrella is a must, but don't try your luck when the thunderstorms are coming - find a shelter to hide yourself until the sun comes out.
But don't panic even if these tips cannot help you a lot. Because when in Korea, you know, you can survive by doing just as the Koreans do!