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Do people hug in Korea?


In this article, we will explore the cultural norms surrounding physical touch in Korea, specifically the practice of hugging. While hugging may seem like a universally understood gesture, it is important to understand how it is perceived and received in different cultures. We will examine the historical and societal factors that have shaped attitudes towards physical touch in Korea and explore whether hugging is a common practice among Koreans.

The Role of Confucianism

Confucianism has had a significant impact on Korean culture, including attitudes towards physical touch. Traditionally, Koreans have been taught to value emotional restraint and maintain a certain level of emotional distance from others. This means that hugging, as a form of physical affection, may be seen as inappropriate or even uncomfortable.

Family Dynamics

While physical touch may not be common among strangers or acquaintances in Korea, family dynamics are different. In Korean families, it is not uncommon for parents to hug their children or for siblings to embrace each other. However, even within families, the frequency and type of physical touch may vary depending on individual preferences and family traditions.

Gender Roles

Gender roles can also play a role in attitudes towards hugging in Korea. While it is becoming more common for young people to hug friends and romantic partners, physical touch between men and women who are not romantically involved may still be viewed with suspicion or discomfort.

The Influence of Western Culture

As Korean society becomes more globalized, the influence of Western culture cannot be ignored. In recent years, hugging has become more common in Korea, particularly among younger generations who have been exposed to Western media and culture. However, this trend is not universal and attitudes towards hugging can still vary widely depending on personal beliefs and upbringing.

Non-Verbal Communication

Physical touch, including hugging, is a form of non-verbal communication that can convey a variety of emotions and intentions. In Korea, where indirect communication is often preferred, physical touch can be particularly powerful. However, it is important to be aware of cultural norms and individual preferences when engaging in physical touch.

Personal Boundaries

Respecting personal boundaries is important in any culture, and this is particularly true in Korea. While some Koreans may be comfortable with hugging, others may prefer to maintain a certain level of distance. It is important to always ask for consent before engaging in physical touch and to be aware of nonverbal cues that may indicate discomfort.

Alternatives to Hugging

If hugging is not an appropriate form of physical touch in a given situation or with a particular person, there are other options. For example, a handshake or a bow may be more appropriate ways to show respect or gratitude. It is important to be aware of cultural norms and individual preferences when choosing a form of physical touch.

Regional Differences

It is also worth noting that attitudes towards physical touch may vary depending on where someone is from in Korea. Different regions may have different cultural traditions and norms when it comes to physical touch, so it is important to be aware of these differences when traveling or interacting with people from different parts of the country.

Hugging in Professional Settings

In professional settings, hugging may not be appropriate or professional. While some Western companies may have a more relaxed attitude towards physical touch, Korean companies may still adhere to traditional norms around emotional restraint and maintaining professional boundaries.


In conclusion, while hugging may not be as common in Korea as it is in some other cultures, attitudes towards physical touch are changing. Younger generations are increasingly comfortable with hugging friends and romantic partners, while older generations may still view physical touch with suspicion or discomfort. Ultimately, it is important to be aware of cultural norms and individual preferences when engaging in physical touch in Korea.

Are hugs common in Korea?

When a service worker greets you or receives something from you, they may put their hands together in front of their chest as a sign of gratitude. Some Koreans who live overseas may be used to hugging or kissing as a casual way of greeting friends.

Do Koreans show affection?

In Korean culture, physical affection between individuals is not commonly displayed. However, it is acceptable for young girls and women to hold hands, and male friends may have more physical contact than what is typical in Western culture.

Do Koreans hold hands in public?

Korean couples tend to dress similarly, but they are more modest when it comes to showing affection in public. Holding hands is common, but kissing on the lips is not. If you come from a culture that is more openly affectionate, it’s best to save those displays of love for a more private setting.

How normal is skinship in Korea?

In Korea, physical displays of affection between people of the same gender are common and not necessarily romantic. Friends may sit comfortably in each other’s laps, touch each other’s hands and arms, hold hands, put their arms around each other, and hug.

What is considered respectful in Korean culture?

It is important to demonstrate respect towards individuals who are older than you, which includes showing deference to their opinions, waiting for their input, and lowering your gaze when in their presence. When offering objects, gifts, and food, it is customary to use two hands, and hats should be removed when indoors as a sign of respect.

What is skinship culture in Korea?

EF recommends keeping in mind the Korean concept of “skinship,” which refers to physical displays of affection between close friends, often seen among teenagers. This can include holding hands, putting arms around each other, or even sitting on each other’s laps.

It is also worth noting that physical touch can be influenced by the context in which it occurs. For example, physical touch may be more acceptable in social settings, such as parties or informal gatherings, while it may be less appropriate in formal or professional settings. Additionally, cultural events, such as weddings or funerals, may have their own unique norms around physical touch.

Another factor that can influence attitudes towards physical touch is age. Older generations in Korea may still adhere to traditional values and beliefs around emotional restraint and maintaining a certain level of distance from others. Younger generations, on the other hand, may be more open to physical touch and may not view it as inappropriate or uncomfortable.

It is also important to consider the relationship between the individuals involved when engaging in physical touch. While hugging may be acceptable between close friends or family members, it may not be appropriate between strangers or acquaintances. Additionally, the type of physical touch may vary depending on the relationship – for example, a pat on the back may be more appropriate than a full embrace.

Finally, it is important to note that attitudes towards physical touch are not static and can change over time. As Korean society continues to evolve and become more globalized, attitudes towards physical touch may become more relaxed or open. However, it is important to always be respectful of cultural norms and individual preferences when engaging in physical touch in any context.

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