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Learning More About Korea’s History and Culture

Updated on July 16, 2011

Gyeongbok Palace

Within Seoul there are many palaces. I chose to visit Gyeongbok Palace (or Gyeongbokgung) which was first constructed in 1395 and is also the biggest in size. Today, the palace we see is different from the original built as it was reconstructed about 200 years ago. In the vicinity, there are also many modern skyscrapers and this makes for an interesting sight.

Visiting the palace reminded me a lot of my visit to Beijing’s Forbidden City. I enjoyed exploring the place as I listened to stories about this historical area. I learnt that hangul was inspired by buildings in this palace. The Korean characters were created by King Sejong who appears on the 10,000 won note. Another interesting fact that I learned was that the number of stairs leading up to a palace staff’s room indicated his/her ranking. More steps indicated a higher ranking. For instance, if you have only one step leading to your room, you would be among the lowest-ranking servants.

Guess What This Hole is For?

In winter, coal is placed inside the hole to keep the palace warm.
In winter, coal is placed inside the hole to keep the palace warm.

Gyeongbukgong: The Number of Steps Indicates Ranking

The more steps there are, the higher the ranking of the servant staying within Gyeongbukgong, Seoul.
The more steps there are, the higher the ranking of the servant staying within Gyeongbukgong, Seoul.

Korean Food

When learning about a country’s culture, it is impossible not to include the country’s cuisine. On my short one week trip, I had the opportunity to taste a variety of Korean food and also learned how to make kimchi. Kimchi is a must at every meal. Among the various foods which I tried, I loved samgyetang, samgyupsal and bibimbap the most.

Side Dishes that are Served at Korean Restaurants

At Korean meals, many side dishes are usually served along with the main dish. A must have is kimchi.
At Korean meals, many side dishes are usually served along with the main dish. A must have is kimchi.

Endless supply of Side Dishes

Another aspect of Korean meals are the endless supply of side dishes. Kimchi will definitely be one of the side dish. Another one, could be a plate of bean sprouts and sometimes a plate of fried fish. If you enjoy eating the side dishes, take note that they are refillable. Seaweed soup may also be served. So, if you have a huge appetite, you don't have to worry about going hungry in Korea.

The Statue of Brothers: Remembering the Korean War

The Statue of Brothers is an important monument as it represents the hope of reunification for North and South Korea.
The Statue of Brothers is an important monument as it represents the hope of reunification for North and South Korea.

The Story behind the Korean War

Korea is also the only place where there still remains a division after the Berlin Wall fell. During my visit, I had the opportunity to visit an outdoor exhibition of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). The exhibits included tankers and jet planes. At the grounds also was the Statue of Brothers which is an important monument. It a South Korean and a North Korean soldier, who are brothers, embracing each other on a battlefield.

The crack on the dome signifies the division between the two Koreas and also the hope for a possible reunification. To visit this monument, head to the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. 

Hanbok is Korea's Traditional Costume

Teddy Bears wearing hanbok at the Teddy Bear Museum.
Teddy Bears wearing hanbok at the Teddy Bear Museum.

Hanbok: Traditional Korean Dress

The hanbok is a very elegant piece of clothing. I had the chance to try it on. And after putting it on, it made me feel like walking slower and more ladylike. For the guys, the traditional dress is also called hanbok but it looks different. 

There are many layers to the hanbok and for those who are wearing it for the first time, you may need some help putting it on. Nowadays, most Koreans do not wear it regularly. It is usually worn during special occasions like a child's first birthday, weddings or even at funerals.

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    • lilian_sg profile image
      Author

      lilian_sg 7 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you for commenting. Hope you will find the tips useful!

    • websclubs profile image

      websclubs 7 years ago

      Food cuisine meals, many side dishes and interesting travel tips. Thank you for sharing.