Korea Q&A: How Westernized is Korea? – Seoulistic

We got a pretty interesting question about how westernized Korea is. Korea’s on the other side of world from Western nations, but just like most places in the world, Western culture has influenced life in Korea. See what’s changed and what’s stayed true in Korean culture.

Hanbok (한복)

Korea’s traditional clothing, hanbok, is an expensive piece of silk attire. Actually, it’s several pieces with several layers, all of which takes a few good minutes longer to put on than just t-shirt and jeans. That’s probably why it’s nearly non-existent in everyday wear, becoming more and more rare for hanboks to be seen worn around.  These days, the only occasion they are worn at are weddings. Couples will wear their hanbok for a short traditional Korean wedding ceremony, and the mothers of the couples will also wear hanboks on wedding days. Aside from that hanboks are sometimes worn on Seollal (Lunar New Years) and Chuseok (Harvest Festival). But many families have already gotten used to not wearing hanboks on those days too. Clothing is nearly 100% westernized in Korea.



Western food is wildly popular in Korea, especially with younger people. Hamburger, pizza and pasta restaurants can be found in nearly all corners of Korea. These foods are usually the food of choice for children eating out or for young couples going out on dates. But that’s not to say that Koreans prefer Western food to Korean food. Instead, Western food usually acts as a break from eating Korean food daily. However, it probably will never replace Korean food as a daily food. Generally, most Koreans consider Western food to be neukkihae (느끼해), which is equivalent to greasy or heavy. And eating it everyday is unfathomable to most.


Wedding & Marriage

Korean weddings are modeled after Western weddings, with a wedding dress, tuxedo, a walk down an aisle, wedding rings and vows. However, there is a short traditional Korean wedding ceremony called pyebaek (폐백) that usually takes place after the main wedding ceremony. As for post-marriage, gender roles in Korea still play a major role in regards to the expectations of men and women. Most people expect Korean wives to do the majority of the housework, regardless of if they work or not. Korean women are also central to their children’s education, whereas Korean men usually take a backseat to these home duties. These expectations, however, are currently going through a slow evolution to be more balanced.

Want to Marry a Korean? Here’s 7 Things You Should Know.


Traditional Medicine

A few decades ago the only doctors in Korea were traditional Korean doctors (한의사). Western medicine wasn’t readily available nor practiced. These days, however, the vast majority of doctors are Western doctors. When people think of going to a hospital or getting cared for, most of the time it’s off to the big university hospital (Western-style of course) where there are doctors, nurses, hospital rooms, surgery rooms, and all the other things Western hospitals have. Korean doctors on the other hand are sought out for preventative reasons. Traditional Korean medicine is thought to improve overall health and to revitalize a weakened body. Korean doctors are still sought out, but Western doctors are seen much more frequently by most Koreans.

Korea is definitely changing, and western influences are quite big here. But we’re curious. Where are you from and how westernized is your country? Leave us a comment!

Thanks as always to TalkToMeinKorean.com for helping out with the video! Check them out if you want to learn Korean for free 🙂

Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. Katie says:

    This was a really interesting video. Loved it. And Talk to Me in Korean is the best!! I am still on the first workbook, but i am loving it. Sadly for me, the books are sold out now.

  2. GIM says:

    As is so often the case, I liked your video. Maybe, perhaps, for different reasons than might be expected. To me, often your videos show me how young people think about the present in relation to the past. And the past is, in part, what I can personally remember.

    The conversation about women and work/career could have come out in a group of college students or young professionals in the United States in the 1960’s, almost without change. I was tempted to think that you were doing a parody of issues that, at that time, could push people into screaming exchanges, and gave to English such expressions as “male chauvinist pig.”

    More and more I begin to think that there are no “American,” “French,” “Korean” cultures. There is a human culture, in which individuals have there own behaviour and ideas, but in which groups act and think much like each other in similar situations. Videos such the ones you produce really reinforce that thinking with me.

    The last thing I would like to say will irritate a lot of people. I know that hearing such things irritated me. I think two things would persuade most people that what I say has at least a measure of truth. These things are: having constant contact with people from a different place – country or part of the world -, and getting older. Constant contact includes, learning another language.

    I may note that Keith, in particular, makes comments that suggest to me that he is well on the way to that understanding, though he does not seem to be always conscious of it. I would like to hear his observations when he is in his mid-40’s, though I am aware that he cannot share those observations with anyone right now, and I – alas – will probably not be around to put the question to him at that time.

  3. Gong says:

    I wish Korea’s laws, treatment and outlook on women will start reflecting their obsession with the West. Of course the West is far from being peachy or perfect but you have to admit that Korea is quite backward especially for a country that is modeling a lot of things after the West. We copy the West’s obsession with bony/unhealthy women, white/pale is right everything else is wrong mentality, obsession with image/surgeries, ever growing technology, fashion and so on, so when are we going to emulate things that matter such as equal pay, equal opportunity employment, start punishing employers who use, abuse and molest their employees, do something about the ever growing suicide, giving regular people a voice especially against brutal employers/landlords, putting an end to the white is right madness, put a stop to people plotting accidents/fights/confrontations, etc for cash payout and things of that nature. God bless Korea and I pray we’ll advance positive and profoundly within the next 10 years!

  4. 사뚜 says:

    Very interesting video, thanks for that!
    But I must say your habit of putting music on the background bugs me a bit. I think it’s too loud, so it distracts me from your talking! Could you turn it down a little? Please? ^____^

  5. EB says:

    Hi, can you please link sources of where you got this information as I would like to get insight into the historical aspect of westernization impacting Korean culture.

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