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SOUTH KOREA

In the words of Tucker Elliot, “The sun rises first over Japan, and as Korea is waiting for the earth to spin, for streaks of light to brighten its eastern sky, in that quiet moment there is a calmness that makes Korea the most beautiful country in the world.” The Land of Morning Calm, South Korea is a mountainous country that makes up the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Its flowery spring landscapes, sandy beaches, picturesque high mountains with streams and waterfalls, and stunning historic sites- the impressive palaces and shrines make it an enchanting country. Although known for technology, South Korea is deeply rooted in their culture and traditions making it an intriguing country. Its spellbinding natural beauty and unique culture has gifted the country ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites of which nine are cultural and one is natural. The twenty national parks strewn across the country that host and protect many of the country’s sacred historical sites provide a look at the heart and soul of the country.

Forests cover two-thirds of the country and the vegetation is typical of mixed forests with deciduous plant species such as maple, elm and poplar, and evergreens such as pine and abeto, and the living fossil ginkgo. Bamboo, laurel and roble grow in the coastal areas. The forests host large mammal species such as tigers, leopards, bears and lynx and small animals particularly squirrels, porcupines, hares, owls and hawks.

Greatly inspired by Confucianism and Buddhism, the vibrant art and culture of South Korea has a history of ingenious creativity in the field of painting, sculpture, embroidery, wood carvings, music, dance, drama and literature. Over the centuries, the artisans have been inspired by the flora and fauna with the tiger, turtle, deer, lotus, bamboo and pine being some of the popular symbols in art. Minhwa paintings are the most interesting of the rational paintings. Traditional music is slow, sombre and complex and incorporates folk or court music. The dramatic ‘Pansori' (a genre of narrative song) is performed accompanied by a puk (double headed barrel drum). The Hermit Dance, the Ghost Dance, Buchae Chum (the fan dance), Seung Mu (the Monk dance), the Oudong Dance are some traditional dance forms.

South Korea is a country of vibrant festivals. The Andong Mask Dance Festival (Gyeongsangnam-do), the Tea Festival, Kite Fighting, the Boryeong Mud Festival, Gangneung Danoje Festival (Gangwon-do), and the Baekje Cultural Festival are just a few of the lively festivals that give an insight into the people and culture of the country.

The Koreans believe ‘food is the best medicine’ and health and illness alike come from the food they consume and how they eat it. This belief played a crucial role in the development of traditional Korean medicine. The cuisine is based on rice, vegetables and meat. Bibimbap (mixed rice) along with kimche and bulgogi (fire meat) are the three most representative dishes of South Korean cuisine.


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