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What is considered inappropriate in South Korea?


South Korea is known for its rich cultural heritage and unique customs. However, it is important to be aware of the things that are considered inappropriate in this country. Being mindful of these cultural norms can help you avoid any awkward or embarrassing situations during your stay.


Bowing is a common way of showing respect in South Korea. However, it is important to know the proper way to bow. A slight bow is appropriate for acquaintances, while a deeper bow is reserved for elders and superiors.

Hand Gestures

Hand gestures can have different meanings in different cultures. In South Korea, it is considered impolite to point with your index finger. Instead, use your whole hand. Additionally, avoid making the “OK” sign with your fingers, as it can be seen as offensive.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an important aspect of Korean culture. However, there are certain rules to follow when giving gifts. For example, it is customary to give gifts with both hands and to avoid giving sharp objects or clocks, as they symbolize death.


Shoes are often removed before entering a Korean home or temple. Make sure to wear clean socks without any holes if you plan on visiting someone’s home.

Dress Code

Korean culture places a strong emphasis on modesty and conservative dress. It is best to avoid revealing clothing or clothing with offensive images or slogans.

Public Behavior

Public behavior is also important in South Korea. Avoid being loud or disruptive in public spaces, and refrain from smoking in non-designated areas.

Eating Etiquette

When eating in Korea, it is customary to wait for the eldest person at the table to begin eating before starting yourself. Additionally, it is polite to finish all the food on your plate.


Korean is the official language of South Korea. While many Koreans speak English, it is still important to learn a few basic Korean phrases to show respect.

Personal Space

Koreans value personal space and it is important to respect this. Avoid standing too close to someone or touching them without their permission.

Business Culture

Business culture in South Korea places a strong emphasis on hierarchy and respect for authority. It is important to address people by their formal titles and to avoid interrupting or contradicting those in positions of power.

Social Drinking

Social drinking is a common practice in South Korea, but it is important to know your limits. It is also considered impolite to pour your own drink, as it is customary for others to pour for you.


By being aware of these cultural norms, you can show respect for Korean culture and avoid any uncomfortable situations. Remember, while some of these customs may seem foreign or unusual, they are an integral part of South Korean society and should be respected.

What is inappropriate in Korea?

When receiving something in Korea, it is considered impolite to use only one hand. Instead, it is customary to use both hands to receive the item. Alternatively, you can use your right hand to receive while holding your right wrist with your left hand as a sign of respect.

What things are not allowed in South Korea?

The list of illegal substances includes opium, marijuana/cannabis and cocaine, among others. This also includes items such as medicines, handbags, wallets, stoles, taxidermy, and ivory from animals like elephants, leopards, and alligators. In addition, prohibited forms of payment include cashier’s checks, overdraft checks, and postal money orders.

What do Koreans find offensive?

When interacting in Korea, it is recommended to avoid physical contact such as touching, patting, or back slapping. Additionally, it is considered impolite or confrontational for juniors to make direct eye contact with seniors. Korea is known for being one of the most homogenous countries in the world both linguistically and racially.

What things are censored in South Korea?

Topics that are subject to censorship include sexuality (including educational content), homosexuality, information concerning North Korea, violence, anti-government materials, and political discussions.

Is 18 in Korean a cuss?

The number “18” in Korean, pronounced as “ship-pal,” sounds very similar to a vulgar curse word “shi-bal” if even slightly mispronounced. This similarity is so significant that the number “18” is commonly used as a substitute for the curse word in Korean online chat rooms and video games.

Is it illegal to wear jeans in Korea?

In North Korea, Western clothing items like blue jeans, T-shirts, skirts, and suits are prohibited as they are considered a representation of American imperialism. Instead, citizens are mandated to wear traditional Korean clothing like hanboks.

Respect for Elders

Respect for elders is a crucial aspect of Korean culture. It is important to use formal language and honorifics when speaking to someone who is older or in a higher position of authority. Additionally, it is customary to offer the elderly your seat on public transportation.

Celebratory Occasions

Koreans celebrate many occasions throughout the year, such as birthdays, weddings, and holidays. When attending these events, it is customary to bring a gift or money in an envelope. Additionally, it is polite to dress appropriately and arrive on time.


When apologizing in Korea, it is common to bow as a sign of respect and sincerity. It is also important to use polite language and take responsibility for your actions.


Punctuality is highly valued in Korean culture. It is considered impolite to be late for appointments or meetings. If you are running late, it is important to call and inform the person you are meeting with.

Body Language

Body language can also convey different meanings in Korean culture. Avoid crossing your arms or legs, as this can be seen as defensive or disrespectful. Additionally, avoid making direct eye contact with someone who is older or in a higher position of authority.

Respect for Traditions

South Korea has a rich history and deep-rooted traditions that are still celebrated today. It is important to show respect for these traditions and customs when visiting historical sites or participating in cultural events.


In conclusion, understanding and respecting Korean culture is essential when visiting or living in South Korea. By following these cultural norms and customs, you can show respect for the local people and avoid any misunderstandings or offense. Ultimately, embracing these cultural differences can enhance your experience and deepen your understanding of this fascinating country.

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