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Why do Koreans pray before eating?


Koreans are known for their unique culture and traditions. One of the most notable customs is the act of praying before eating. This practice may seem unusual to outsiders, but it holds deep cultural and religious significance in Korean society. In this article, we will explore the reasoning behind this tradition and the various beliefs that have shaped it over time.

History of Korean Prayer

The tradition of praying before meals has a long history in Korea. It dates back to the ancient shamanistic practices that were prevalent in the country before the introduction of Buddhism and Confucianism. The shamanistic belief was that spirits lived in all natural things, including food. By praying before consuming food, Koreans believed they could show respect to these spirits and receive their blessings.

Korean Religious Beliefs

Religion has played a significant role in shaping Korean culture, and it continues to influence daily life today. The majority of Koreans practice either Buddhism or Christianity, both of which place an emphasis on gratitude and humility. Praying before eating is seen as a way to give thanks for the meal and show appreciation for the blessings in life.

The Role of Ancestors

In addition to spirits and deities, Koreans also hold a deep respect for their ancestors. Many families have ancestral altars where they offer food and incense as a sign of respect. Praying before meals is also seen as a way to honor ancestors, who are believed to watch over their descendants from the afterlife.

The Importance of Sharing

Korean society values communal sharing, and meals are often seen as an opportunity for bonding and socializing. Praying together before a meal is a way to bring people closer together and acknowledge the importance of sharing food with others.

The Significance of Gratitude

Gratitude is a core value in Korean culture, and praying before meals is a way to express appreciation for the food and the people who prepared it. Koreans believe that showing gratitude is essential for maintaining positive relationships and creating a harmonious society.

The Connection to Mindfulness

In recent years, mindfulness has become a popular concept in Western culture, but it has always been an integral part of Korean life. Praying before eating is seen as a way to cultivate mindfulness and focus on the present moment, rather than rushing through meals or taking food for granted.

The Role of Food in Korean Culture

Food plays a central role in Korean culture, and there are numerous traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. Praying before eating is a way to acknowledge the cultural significance of food and show respect for the ingredients and cooking process.

The Importance of Ritual

Rituals are an important part of many cultures, and they can provide a sense of comfort, stability, and connection. Praying before eating is a ritual that has been passed down through generations, and it provides a sense of continuity and tradition in an ever-changing world.

The Benefits of Praying Before Eating

Praying before eating can have numerous benefits for individuals and society as a whole. It can foster feelings of gratitude, mindfulness, and social connection. It can also promote healthier eating habits by encouraging people to slow down and savor their food.

The Practice Today

While the act of praying before eating may have evolved over time, it remains an important part of Korean culture today. Many families continue to practice this tradition at home, while restaurants may offer a communal prayer before meals.


Praying before eating may seem like a simple act, but it holds deep cultural and religious significance in Korean society. It reflects the values of gratitude, mindfulness, and social connection that are integral to Korean culture. By understanding the reasoning behind this tradition, we can gain a greater appreciation for the richness and complexity of Korean culture.

Why do Koreans say before eating?

In Korean culture, it is customary to say “jal meokgetseumnida” before eating as a way of expressing gratitude to the person who prepared the food. This phrase conveys a sense of appreciation and acknowledges the effort that went into making the meal.

Do Koreans pray before eating?

In Korean culture, it is common to say “잘먹겠습니다” before eating and “잘먹었습니다” after eating. However, Christian Koreans also offer a prayer of thanks before eating. The specific practice may vary from household to household, but saying “잘먹겠습니다” is generally a safe and appropriate choice.

Do Koreans say grace before eating?

This Korean prayer is typically recited when dining with others. It acknowledges that some people have food but are not able to eat it, while others desire food but do not have it. However, those reciting the prayer are fortunate enough to have food to eat, and they give thanks to the Lord for this provision. The prayer also asks for the Lord’s blessing on the food they are about to eat, which they acknowledge as a gift from Him, and it is offered in the name of Christ.

Do Koreans brush their teeth before eating?

Koreans make it a habit to maintain their oral hygiene by keeping toothpaste, toothbrush, and mouthwash sets with them. They diligently brush their teeth after consuming coffee, snacks, or during lunch breaks.

Do Koreans brush their teeth after eating?

The most commonly recommended brushing method for the general population in Korea is the 3-3-3 brushing method campaign. This involves brushing your teeth three times a day, within three minutes of eating, for at least three minutes each time. It focuses solely on toothbrushing behavior, including the timing and frequency.

Why are Koreans so noisy when eating?

In some cultures, it is traditional to express gratitude and enjoyment of food by making audible chewing noises. While some may view this as impolite or unclean, in other cultures the sound of someone eating with enthusiasm is seen as a sign of good luck and is even complimented by older individuals.

It is worth noting that praying before meals is not unique to Korean culture. Many other cultures around the world also have similar practices, such as saying grace before a meal in Western countries. However, each culture has its own unique beliefs and customs surrounding food and dining.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the benefits of mindfulness and gratitude practices in the West. As a result, the act of praying before meals has gained some popularity outside of Korean culture. Some people may choose to adopt this practice as a way to cultivate mindfulness and gratitude in their daily lives.

While there may be some differences in the specific prayers or rituals used in different cultures, the act of praying before meals ultimately serves a similar purpose – to show gratitude for the food and recognize the interconnectedness of all things. As we continue to explore and appreciate different cultures, practices like praying before eating can serve as a reminder of our shared humanity and the universal values that bring us together.

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