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Snapshot of South Korea – The official language of South Korea is Korean. South Korea has a significantly higher Christian population than other east Asian countries; even though nearly half of the population professes no religious affiliation, about 30% of South Koreans are Christian. While traditional aspects of South Korea’s culture are similar to North Korea, the modern cultures of the two nations are quite distinct from one another. Traditional art is influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism, and traditional dances still influence modern performances. Modern Korean entertainment – such as K-pop music (think Psy and “Gangnam Style”) and television dramas – has become increasingly popular within Korea while also spreading to Asia and the rest of the world. South Koreans are heavy technology users, with an estimated 90% of the population owning a mobile phone. Soccer and baseball are the most popular sports in South Korea, though basketball also has a following. Taekwondo originated in South Korea. Rice is the staple food in South Korea, and is usually served with numerous side dishes known as banchan. Kimchi (a spicy vegetable dish), soups, and a variety of meat and seafood are also regularly served at meals. Dog meat is also eaten.
With the recent creation of the Korea, Seoul South Mission, the Korea, Seoul Mission has just four stakes to which missionaries can be assigned. However, South Korea as a whole has seen consistent membership growth since its first member was baptized in 1951. Missionaries can expect to work with investigators and members alike to help continue the growth of the Church in the Seoul area. The Seoul, Korea temple is also located within the mission boundaries which is a huge blessing to both the missionaries and the members within the Korea, Seoul Mission.
As the Church is relatively young in Korea, most members are first-generation members or second-generation members. In addition to finding and teaching investigators, an important aspect of missionary service in Korea is strengthening the members.
Food in South Korea is very different from the food served in the United States. Cuisine in the capital city Seoul is extravagantly presented, and prepared according to strict quality rules. Meals are served in small portions and many dishes. The cooking uses many seasonings, but the taste is not overly spicy. Meals often include main dishes and side dishes served almost always with rice. Some popular dishes served in the Seoul area include:
Seolleongtang- A soup made from beef brisket or ox bones with rice either added directly to the broth or served as a side.
Sinseollo- A dish containing meatballs, mushrooms, and vegetables cooked in a rich broth. It is served in a large circular pan with a hole in the middle that is filled with hot embers to keep the food hot.
Another very popular dish in all of South Korea is Kimchi. Kimchi is side dish comprising of fermented vegetables with a variety of seasonings. There are hundreds of varieties of Kimchi made with all different sorts of vegetables including cabbage, radishes, and cucumbers. It is served in various forms including stews and soups.
Various forms of rice cakes served are often served.
For a more comprehensive list of Seoul dishes feel free to visit:
The city of Seoul offers many forms of public transportation including buses, subway, taxis, and trains. The Seoul bus system consists of four primary bus configurations that offer access to all parts of the city. There are also major bus terminals in Seoul that offer bus routes to the rest of the mission outside of the city itself. Seoul also has one of the busiest and most efficient subway systems in the world. With 14 different lines that travel to all districts of the city and many outlying areas it is a very handy way to get around the city. With more than 8 million passengers daily it is also a great place for contacting! Taxis also run throughout the city providing quick travel and access to all parts of Seoul. Seoul is also connected to all major cities in the country through an elaborate train system. The trains provide easy access to other locations in the mission. Missionaries can expect to use lots of public transportation.
On most forms of transportation, there are designated senior/pregnant/disabled seating reserved. Regardless of if the bus/train/metro is empty or full, it is seen as disrespectful for a missionary to sit in those areas. Also, if the bus/train/metro is full, it is appropriate to give up your seat for an elderly person. They will try to refuse, but that is just part of the culture, and the appropriate response is to insist that they take your seat. During rush hour, the public transportation can be very crowded.
Seoul is a remarkably safe city given its size, comparable in safety to Hong Kong or Tokyo. Pickpocketing is not very common and violent crime is minimal if almost unheard of, but always be on alert especially when traveling through busy markets or the subway system.
Large scale demonstrations against the government happen from time to time in Seoul. Often they can result in a riot where there are pitched battles between protesters and riot police. People do get seriously hurt, so try and avoid getting too close to the action.
Occasionally, natural disasters hit the Seoul area including hurricanes (called typhoons), earthquakes, and flooding. The most recent large scale earthquake hit Seoul in 2007. Almost every year a typhoon will hit Seoul and cause some damage and flooding. The Seoul Government has in place certain “preparedness plans” to help its citizens in case of a natural disaster. Obey mission rules and stay in touch with your mission President and all will be well!
Hi! Seoul Festival is a seasonal cultural festival held four times a year every spring, summer, autumn, and winter in Seoul, South Korea since 2003. It is based on the “Seoul Citizens’ Day” held on every October since 1994 to commemorate the 600 years history of Seoul as the capital of the country. There are various Korean traditional and cultural booths that lets you experience the making of different traditional dishes and also trying on the national dress, the hanbok. Also many festivities are observed including a parade, a giant game of tug-of-war, the traditional Bukcheong Sajanori (a lion mask dance originating in one of the local provinces), fireworks, and displays of calligraphy.
It is important to remember that Kimchi and rice are huge parts of the Korean culture and are served with almost every meal.
Another custom is to always remove your shoes when entering a Korean’s home. It is disrespectful to do otherwise.
Another old Korean custom is the wedding duck. When Koreans are married the groom gives the bride two hand-carved wooden ducks. The ducks symbolize eternal faith and chastity as ducks are known to have one mate for life, and if one duck dies the other lives alone until death. The female Korean wedding duck has a string tied around her mouth, some say as a symbol to remind her not to nag the husband!
당근이지 [ dang-geun-i-ji ]- literally: It is carrot. Locally: You bet/Absolutely
거기 물 좋다. [ geo-gi-mul-jo-ta ] literally: Pure water. Locally: That place rocks! (maybe when talking about church??)
썰렁하군. [ sseol-leong-ha-gun ] Literally: It’s cold/empty. Locally: That’s a lame joke.
부카니스탄. [ bu-ka-nis-tan ] Slang term for referring to North Korea.
안녕하세요? Ahnyoung-ha-seyo, “Are you at peace?” (Greetings, Good morning, good day, hello)
반갑습니다. Pan-gap-sum-nida. “Nice to meet you.”
수고하세요. Soogo-ha-seyo, “Go work hard.” (Appropriate parting phrase)
좋은 하루 되세요. Cho-un haru dwa-seyo, “Have a good day.”
감사합니다. Kam-sa-ham-nida. “Thank you.”
예수 그리스도 후기 성도 교회. Ye-su Ku-ri-su-do Hoo-gi Sungdo Kyo-hway, “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
선교사. Sun-kyo-sa. “Missionary”
한국. Hangook “Korea”
대한민국. Dae-han-min-gook “The Great United Beautiful Country” (Full name of Korea)
화이팅! Hwa-ee-ting! “Fighting!” (Go team! Huzzah! Yay!)
-Slip-on Dress Shoes (inside houses and restaurants everyone takes their shoes off. Lace-up shoes get in the way)
-Sturdy umbrella (Korea goes through a yearly typhoon season which usually lasts for an entire month. The winds and storm will break any non-sturdy umbrella)
-American Toothpaste and Deodorant (Korean stores sell these, but most American missionaries prefer to bring their own, or have their own shipped)
-No electronics (different power cords, and most transmitters do not work, and actually fry your electronics)
-Electronic translator (available for purchase in Korea, helpful language study aid)
-Thermal garments and thin garments (Korea has exceedingly cold winters and intensely hot and humid summers)
-Small tokens (magnets, postcards) and pictures from home (Koreans love to connect at a personal level, and small gifts are frequent expressions of affection)
Korea is known as the land of the morning calm. Korea is a beautiful country full of amazing and wonderful people. The culture may be difficult to understand at times, but any attempts to embrace the culture or language are very appreciated and respected. Koreans are very professional in appearance and behavior, so it is of the utmost importance to be Christlike and professional as well. Be prepared to fall in love with the country, the language, the culture, and especially the people!
The easiest and cheapest way to send letters and packages to South Korea would be through the USPS. This would be significantly cheaper than sending mail through a private courier such as Fedex or UPS. One downside to using USPS is the shipping time; things shipped via the USPS usually travel by boat to South Korea taking between 6-8 weeks. Things can always be damaged when shipping anywhere, so one would be advised to organize and protect their packages accordingly. Private couriers do provide the possibility for quicker travel, but they also charge significantly more. A possible alternative exists if you live near a city or neighborhood that has a high population of South Koreans. One can almost always find a local Korean shop in neighborhoods like that that have shipping services to Seoul. These services are usually decently priced, but perhaps not as secure as the USPS or a private courier would be.
Jahamun-ro 152 1 dong
Straight from the Korea Seoul Mission:
*What did you eat the most of?
“Koreans eat some form of kimchi and rice at every meal. Korean cuisine is based on vegetables, with occasional asian noodles, and bits of meat. As beef is extraordinarily expensive, chicken is most available. Korean food is amazingly healthy, and Koreans hate bland food, so all food has a lot of taste, most of the time that takes the form of spicy food (from asian peppers). Since Koreans have inhabited the peninsula for over 3,000 years, they have become masters at making good use of the food items they have. In other words, Korean food is amazingly delicious! For missionaries there are cheap options, and even some more American-esque food, like $5 pizzas (with Korean flair, like sweet potatoes and corn on it), and $3 toast sandwiches that are amazing!”
*What was the craziest thing you ate?
“Dog Soup or Live Octopus”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Literally everything is entirely different in Korea. From the light switches going from side to side instead of up to down, to sidewalks being made from individual bricks, to toilet flushers. Korean culture is one of deep humility, high respect for others, and having a mindset of doing what is best for the family and community, not what is best for an individual. To connect well with Koreans (members and non-), you must embrace the culture, even the parts that may not make sense. In Korean culture, food is of the utmost importance. So much time, money, and effort goes into making the food. Therefore, a person must show deep appreciation for the food, and eat every grain of rice given them to show respect for their sacrifice, but also respect for the time in the not-so-distant past when food was scarce.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Korea Seoul Mission?
Love the people, embrace the culture, don’t worry about speaking the language well – few people ever do, but the Lord can still use them to accomplish His purposes. Remember that the Church has only had a presence in South Korea since the mid 1950’s, and is still relatively young. Be patient with the members, and don’t be judgmental or condescending.
*What do you wish you had known before serving a mission?
“Serving a mission in general, especially serving in Korea, was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done for a multitude of reasons. But since you, as a missionary, are His representative, He will help and succor you, “[He] will be on your right hand and on your left, and [His] Spirit shall be in your hearts, and [His] angels round about you, to bear you up.” Doctrine & Covenants 84:88. Even though it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, it has brought more joy and blessings than I could ever have imagined. I would do it again in a heartbeat!”
“Koreans celebrate two major holidays: Chuseok (Fall Harvest Thanksgiving) and Lunar New Year. These holidays are based on the lunar calendar, so actual dates change from year to year. For each of these holidays, the entire country shuts down for between 2-5 days, and everyone goes to the family patriarch’s home to celebrate together and pay homage to ancestors. Each spring/early summer everyone gets a day off of work to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Similar to westernized customs, the women are primarily responsible for feeding and cleaning for the holidays. In Korean customs, male-to-female interactions are very limited. It is inappropriate for a male missionary to shake hands with females. Language and proper form and address is an important aspect of Korean culture.”
**Did you serve in the Korea Seoul Mission Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**