Having an interest in Korean culture does not only including wanting to learn more about their ways and beliefs, but includes understanding their food choices and embracing the Korean language, as well. The country itself has seen many changes and much turmoil over the past century, but this does not discredit it as a fascinating place to visit and an important part of today's Asian influence on the world.
The country of Korea was once unified into one state, but has since been divided into North and South; the territories themselves are as different as night and day. North Korea is occupied by a communistic government, focused on constant military presence and self-reliance, and does not allow foreigners in.
Therefore, it is considered the world's most isolated territory, and is known for its almost totalitarianism-like government. On the other hand, South Korea is becoming a very popular tourist destination that welcomes visitors in and enjoys others observing their culture.
It is a republic that is openly involved in groups like United Nations and WTO. When one visits, they definitely see traditional aspects of Asian culture like temples and characters, but there is something different and modern about South Korea.
One of the most recognizable factors of this country is their food; immigrants to the United States have brought their traditions and recipes with them to share. Whether you are dining in or out of the country, there is something very noticeably different about Korean food and it sets itself apart from other cuisines like Chinese and Japanese.
As opposed to other types of cuisine, this style focuses greatly on side dishes made from a number of different vegetables and seafood. Along with a main course, there are usually between two to twelve other small dishes served for everyone to sample and fill their plate.
Traditionally, there are no "courses" like in a regular Western meal; all of the courses are served and eaten together. As with any Asian dish, rice is the main component and is supplemented with other items that give flavor and spice.
Korean cooks tend to include a soup or stew along with all of the side and main dishes and rice. One of the most popular sides is kimchi, the culture's infamous spicy cabbage that is placed in both and sometimes fermented.
The level of heat that is present in kimchi depends on the cook and where you eat it, but it can be too spicy for some to handle. Koreans are known for their abilities to preserve foods; this is why many of their traditional sides are fermented, including vegetables, meats, and tofu.
A few common spices and oils are more present than others in traditional dishes, including sesame seed oil, chili pepper paste and flakes, ginger, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and paste made from soybeans. These items are used to give flavor to things that would probably otherwise taste plain or lackluster.
Most of the foods that are served are cut into small bite-sized pieces so they are easy to devour and so that there is enough to feed everyone that is present. Most of the items that have been created and served for hundreds and thousands of years were adopted because of climate and geography.
There are usually manners and etiquette that are involved in this type of feast, so make sure that you are aware of the rules before you attend one. The meals themselves are full of spice and savory ingredients that make it one of the most popular international cuisines in the United States.
Culturally, the family is a very important part of life in Korea. The father is the head of the family and is in charge of providing shelter and food, while the mother is responsible for the rearing of children and caring for her husband.
Family history follows a patrilineal line and the oldest son usually has important tasks in caring for the family. The culture is very specific about manners, and has certain etiquette guidelines for business, relationships, gift giving, dress, and communication.