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How do Koreans pay respect?


Koreans have a deeply rooted culture of respect and etiquette that is reflected in their daily lives. As a society, they value relationships and the proper way of showing respect towards others. The way they show respect differs according to the relationship between individuals, age, gender, and social status. In this article, we will explore the different ways Koreans pay respect.

Respect for Elders

Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Korean culture. Koreans show respect towards elders by using honorific language, bowing, and offering gifts. They believe that elders hold significant wisdom and experience that should be respected and listened to. It is common to see younger people standing up on public transportation to offer their seats to elders.


Bowing is a common gesture used in Korean society to show respect. The depth of the bow depends on the person’s social status or relationship with the other person. A deeper bow indicates a higher level of respect. Koreans bow when greeting each other, apologizing or expressing gratitude.

Honorific Language

Koreans use honorific language to show respect towards people who are older or have a higher social status than them. The use of honorifics is not limited to verbal communication; it is also used in written communication.

Hand Gestures

Hand gestures are also an essential part of Korean culture. Koreans use hand gestures to show respect towards others. When receiving something from someone older or higher in status, Koreans hold their left forearm with their right hand as a sign of respect.

Removing Shoes

When entering a Korean home or traditional restaurant, it is customary to remove your shoes. This practice shows respect for the host’s property and keeps the home clean.

Bowing During Meals

Koreans show respect for the meal and the cook by bowing before and after the meal. This gesture also shows gratitude towards the person who provided the meal.

Respect for Ancestors

Koreans practice ancestor worship, which involves showing respect to their ancestors through rituals and ceremonies. This practice is based on the belief that ancestors play a significant role in family affairs and should be respected.

Respect for Teachers

Teachers hold a high position in Korean society. Koreans show respect towards their teachers by using honorifics, bowing, and presenting gifts. They believe that teachers have a significant impact on their lives and should be respected.

Respect for the Dead

Koreans show respect for the dead by holding traditional funeral ceremonies and offering condolences to the family. They believe that it is important to show respect for those who have passed away.

Respect for Authority

Koreans show respect for authority figures such as police officers, government officials, and military personnel. They believe that these individuals hold an essential role in society and should be respected.


In conclusion, Koreans have a rich culture of respect and etiquette that is reflected in their daily lives. The way they show respect varies according to the relationship between individuals, age, gender, and social status. By understanding these cultural practices, one can gain a deeper appreciation for Korean culture and its values.

What is the Korean culture of respect?

One of the fundamental aspects of Korea’s Confucianist culture is the principle of showing respect for others based on their seniority. Seniority can be determined by a number of factors, such as age, family position, job title, and status as a teacher. In social situations, it is customary to show respect to elders by turning one’s head away when taking a drink.

How do Koreans show gratitude?

The most sincere way to show gratitude or apologize is through a deep and respectful bow. This involves bending the torso at an angle of approximately 45 degrees, or enough for the head to look up at the person’s face. Throughout the gesture, the head remains lowered.

What is considered polite in Korea?

In polite etiquette, when passing or accepting food or drink, it is customary to use your right hand while supporting your forearm/wrist with your left hand. The person who extends the invitation is expected to cover the bill for all guests, but it is also considered polite to offer to pay. In situations where two people are dining, it is usually expected that the younger person will pay for the older person.

How do Koreans apologize?

In Korean language, there are different levels of politeness and formality depending on who you are speaking to. Apologizing also has two main stems, 미안 (mi-ahn) and 죄송 (joe-song), which both mean sorry but the latter is considered more formal.

What is considered most respectful in Korea?

It is important to show respect to those who are older than you, which includes listening to their opinions, waiting for their input, and lowering your gaze if they are an elder. Additionally, when offering and receiving objects, gifts or food, it is appropriate to use both hands as a sign of respect.

How do Koreans express sadness?

Koreans commonly express deep sadness by saying “슬퍼요. (Seulpeoyo.)” or “I’m sad.” They may also use the expression “아이구 (Aigoo)” to comfort someone, although this phrase has multiple meanings and uses.

Respect for the Environment

Koreans also show respect for the environment by practicing eco-friendly habits such as recycling, conserving energy, and using public transportation. They believe that preserving the environment is crucial for future generations and the overall well-being of society. In addition, many traditional Korean practices, such as using natural remedies and consuming locally grown food, reflect a deep respect for nature.

Respect for Personal Space

Koreans also value personal space and privacy. While they are generally friendly and warm towards others, they may be more reserved when it comes to physical contact or invading personal space. It is important to respect boundaries and avoid making someone uncomfortable by being too touchy or pushy.

Respect for Diversity

Koreans are becoming increasingly diverse and multicultural, with a growing number of foreigners living and working in the country. As a result, Koreans have become more accepting of different cultures and lifestyles. It is important to show respect for diversity by being open-minded, tolerant, and inclusive towards others who may come from different backgrounds or have different beliefs.

Respect for Business Etiquette

In a business setting, Koreans place great importance on proper etiquette and respect towards colleagues, clients, and superiors. This includes using formal language, presenting business cards with both hands, and dressing appropriately for the occasion. It is also common to exchange gifts as a sign of respect or gratitude in business relationships.

Respect for Traditions

Koreans take great pride in their cultural traditions, which include music, dance, art, and cuisine. It is important to show respect for these traditions by learning about them and appreciating their significance. In addition, many traditional customs such as bowing, wearing hanbok (traditional clothing), and participating in traditional ceremonies are still practiced today and reflect a deep respect for the country’s history and heritage.

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