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What things are taboo in Korea?


Korea is a country steeped in tradition and customs, and it is important to be aware of the cultural norms when visiting or living in the country. One of the most important aspects of Korean culture is the concept of taboo, which refers to actions or behaviors that are considered inappropriate or offensive. In this article, we will explore the different things that are taboo in Korea and why they are considered as such.

Taboo Topics

One of the most significant taboo topics in Korea is politics. Koreans tend to be very passionate about their political beliefs, and discussions about politics can quickly become heated and divisive. It is best to avoid discussions about politics unless you are well-versed in Korean politics and can engage in a respectful conversation.

Age and Hierarchy

Korea has a strong hierarchical social structure, which means that age and seniority are highly valued. It is important to address elders with respect, using appropriate titles and language. Additionally, it is considered impolite to speak loudly or out of turn when someone older or of higher status is speaking.

Physical Contact

Koreans tend to be more reserved when it comes to physical contact, especially between strangers. It is not common for people to hug or kiss when greeting each other, and it is important to maintain a certain distance when interacting with others.

Showing Off Wealth

While there is nothing wrong with being successful and wealthy, Koreans tend to value modesty and humility. Showing off your wealth or flaunting expensive items can be seen as boastful or arrogant and may make others feel uncomfortable.

Talking About Money

Money is another topic that can be considered taboo in Korea. It is generally not polite to ask others about their income or financial status, as this can be seen as intrusive.

Personal Hygiene

Koreans place a high value on cleanliness and personal hygiene, and it is considered impolite to have body odor or bad breath. It is important to make sure you are clean and well-groomed when interacting with others.

Table Manners

Like many other cultures, Koreans have their own specific table manners that should be respected. It is considered impolite to talk with your mouth full, make loud noises while eating, or leave food on your plate.


While Korea is home to many different religions, it is generally not polite to discuss religion in public. It is important to respect the beliefs of others and avoid engaging in religious debates or discussions.

Gestures and Body Language

Gestures and body language can also be considered taboo in Korea. For example, pointing with your index finger or using the palm of your hand to beckon someone can be seen as rude. Additionally, crossing your legs or arms while speaking with someone can be interpreted as defensive or closed-off.

Gender Roles

Korean society still values traditional gender roles, and it is important to be aware of these expectations. Women are often expected to be more demure and submissive, while men are expected to be strong and assertive.

Personal Space

Koreans tend to value personal space and may feel uncomfortable if someone stands too close or invades their personal space. It is important to maintain a comfortable distance when interacting with others.


Understanding the concept of taboo is essential for anyone living or visiting Korea. By being aware of the cultural norms and expectations, you can ensure that you are respectful and polite when interacting with others. By avoiding these taboo topics and behaviors, you can show your appreciation for Korean culture and build positive relationships with those around you.

What things are not allowed in South Korea?

The list of illegal drugs includes substances like opium, marijuana/cannabis, and cocaine, among others. This also includes items made from animals such as elephants, leopards, and alligators, as well as various forms of currency such as cashier’s checks, overdraft checks, and postal money orders. This list is not exhaustive.

What is offensive in Korean culture?

In South Korea, it is considered impolite to blow one’s nose while at the table, even if the food is spicy. If necessary, it is better to leave the table or be discreet. Additionally, South Koreans typically use stainless steel chopsticks while eating.

What do Koreans find offensive?

Actions that are considered impolite or offensive in your own culture are likely to be seen as such in Korea as well. This includes behaviors such as spitting, yelling, physical aggression, using profanity, and exhibiting general rudeness.

What is cultural rules in Korea?

In Korea, it is considered impolite to receive something using only one hand. It is recommended to use both hands to receive something or use your right hand to receive while holding your right wrist with your left hand. This is a cultural practice that should be observed.

Are tattoos allowed in South Korea?

In South Korea, only medical professionals with licenses are allowed to open tattoo shops, while individuals without medical degrees cannot. However, having a tattoo is not against the law, except in the military where they are prohibited. Individuals who have served in the military are allowed to have tattoos.

Is it illegal to wear jeans in Korea?

Blue jeans and other Western clothing items, including T-shirts, skirts, and suits, are considered symbols of American imperialism in North Korea and are banned. Instead, citizens are required to wear traditional Korean clothing such as hanboks.


Appearance is important in Korean culture, and it is common for people to dress neatly and conservatively. It is also important to maintain good hygiene and grooming habits, as well as keeping your hair and nails well-maintained.


Alcohol is a big part of Korean culture, with many social events and gatherings involving drinking. However, it is important to be mindful of your alcohol consumption and not become too intoxicated. Getting drunk in public or causing a disturbance while under the influence can be seen as disrespectful and inappropriate.


Tattoos are still considered taboo in Korean culture, as they were historically associated with criminal activity. While attitudes towards tattoos are slowly changing, it is still best to cover up any visible tattoos when interacting with others, especially in more formal settings.


Gift-giving is an important aspect of Korean culture, but there are certain rules and expectations to follow. For example, it is considered rude to give a gift that is too expensive or extravagant, as this can be seen as showing off or trying to buy favor. It is also important to wrap gifts neatly and present them with both hands.

Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection are generally not common in Korean culture, especially between couples. It is considered more appropriate to show affection in private rather than in public, as this can make others feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.


Language is another important aspect of Korean culture, and it is considered respectful to learn some basic Korean phrases and customs when interacting with Koreans. Additionally, it is important to use polite language when speaking with elders or those in positions of authority.


Overall, being aware of cultural taboos and norms is essential for anyone interacting with Koreans. By showing respect for these customs and behaviors, you can build positive relationships and avoid causing offense or discomfort. While it may take some time to fully understand Korean culture, making an effort to learn and adapt can go a long way in creating meaningful connections with others.

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