Unit II Essay: Exploring A Different Culture
SOC 1010, Introduction to Sociology
Columbia Southern University
Unit II Essay: Exploring A Different Culture
The culture I explored for this essay was the South Korean culture. South Korea is located on the southern half of a small peninsula off the northeast coast of China and adjacent to the Japanese isles. The capital of South Korea is Seoul and as of 2016 the country population is estimated at 50,924,172 (South Korea Guide, n.d.). Before the 1945 national division of the peninsula and the subsequent establishment of the two political regimes of North and South Korea in 1948, Koreans identified themselves as the people of Choson. Tan’gun as the founding ancestor has had a symbolic meaning for Koreans throughout the nation’s history. A temple erected in Tan’gun’s honor in 1429 stood in P’yongyang until its destruction during the Korean War. In 1993, North Korea announced the discovery of Tan’gun’s tomb and a few remains of his skeleton at a site close to P’yongyang. Some Korean calendars still print the Year of Tan’gun (Tan’gi) along with the Gregorian calendar year, which the South Korean government officially adopted in 1962 (Culture of South Korea, n.d.). I chose this culture for a couple of reasons. The first and main reason was I was stationed in South Korea from 2013 to 2014 and I was relatively familiar with the culture which made this assignment easier. The second reason I chose this culture was because I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and love their culture. A couple unique folkways in the South Korean culture are that they do not thank others for holding the door open for them and do not usually apologize if they bump into you when passing by. These two folkways differ greatly from my own where holding open the door and bumping into someone normally warrant a thank you or apology. South Koreans value hard work, family, and humbleness. They also consider education as very important. A few things considered taboo in this culture are wearing shoes in places of worship or peoples’ homes, eating and drinking in public while walking, putting your feet on furniture, using red ink and the number four.
Upon review of the agents of socialization, the culture I chose and the folkways, values, and taboos I listed in Part A, I decided to discuss the two following agents: Family and Mass Media and Technology. Our families are our most important agent of socialization (Witt, 2016). The basic skills we learn shortly after birth and through our adolescent years can be attributed to our family. They assist in teaching us our values and our beliefs. We learn our social norms through the direct connections we have with our family ties. Depending on our race and gender can mean the differences that we see in our family exposures. Within the past 100 years media innovations have become more important agents in our overall socialization, (Witt, 2016). We as a whole are spending more time interacting with technology on a daily basis and thus it influences the way we see values, or folkways and thing that are perceived as taboo. For the South Koreans family is valued very highly so its use to socialize their younger generation has a high impact. Family is where they learn that using red and four are looked at as taboo. It also instills the value of the importance of family and hard work. South Koreans are also on the more advance side of technology and new media. As of Q4 2016, South Korea had the fastest average internet connection in the world at 26.1 Mbit/s according to the report State of the Internet published by Akamai Technologies. South Korea’s speed is almost four times faster than the world average of 7.0 Mbit/s. From my time in their country I noticed several ways they use technology to advance their social norms. They use TVs throughout their cities to run commercials to establish good and bad behaviors such as not walking and eating and drinking. Another example is using mass text messages to send out tips on etiquette and protocols.
Studying this culture has had an amazing impact on me in several ways. I have in reality been learning about the Korean culture for multiple years but when I applied these concepts from the lesson it opened my eyes to just how much I had not previously seen. After completing this assignment, I in fact do have a great appreciation for their culture and I am glad that I picked it to learn more about its history and social quirks. I spent an entire year in South Korean and never knew that they considered using red ink as taboo or that using the number four was frowned upon because its similarity to their Korean word for death and the pronunciation of the word four. This does not only extend to using the word but to avoid it at all possible ways like give some one something in the amount of four. Researching this culture also showed me differenced that I had not previously noticed such as, thanking some one for holding a door open or apologizing for bumping into them. For our culture that would be virtually expected where in South Korea it is just not expected. I find this to also be true about tipping in South Korea. In their culture giving them a tip is offensive because they are paid a proper salary and feel that they do not need to be paid extra to do their job well because they value hard work so much. Where as in the United States waiters and restaurant employees expect a tip and get offended if it is not enough. This is partly due to the fact that they are being paid less and the tips supplement their pay. I also personally think that it has become a social norm for those type of jobs to encourage their patrons to tip higher regardless of the employee wage. Overall I am fascinated with not only learning more about the South Korean culture but I am encourage to research other cultures and learn more about their societies and what they hold as values, folkways, and see as taboo.