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Why is respect important in Korea?


Respect is a fundamental value in Korean culture, deeply rooted in Confucianism. Koreans believe that showing respect towards others is a way of maintaining harmony and balance in society. This article will explore the reasons why respect is important in Korea.

Historical Context

Confucianism was introduced to Korea from China during the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). It became the dominant ideology during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), and its teachings emphasized the importance of hierarchy, filial piety, and respect for elders.

Social Hierarchy

Korean society has a strong hierarchical structure based on age, status, and position. The older or more senior person is expected to be treated with utmost respect and deference. This hierarchy is reflected in language, behavior, and social interactions.


The Korean language has different levels of formality and politeness, depending on the social status and relationship between speakers. Using the appropriate level of politeness is a sign of respect towards others.

Manners and Etiquette

Koreans place great importance on manners and etiquette, such as bowing, offering gifts, and using two hands to receive or give something. These actions are seen as a way of showing respect towards others.


In Korean culture, elders are highly respected and revered. They are seen as sources of wisdom, guidance, and experience. Younger people are expected to show deference and obedience to their elders.

Filial Piety

Filial piety is a Confucian value that emphasizes the importance of respecting parents and ancestors. In Korea, this means taking care of one’s parents in their old age and honoring their memory after they pass away.


Respect is also important in the workplace, where seniority and hierarchy play a significant role. Younger or junior employees are expected to show respect towards their seniors, and defer to their decisions and opinions.


Education is highly valued in Korean culture, and students are expected to show respect towards their teachers and elders. This includes using formal language, standing up when a teacher enters the room, and following school rules.

Public Spaces

Koreans also show respect towards others in public spaces, such as on public transportation or in crowded areas. This means being mindful of others’ personal space, not littering, and waiting in line patiently.


Koreans also value respect towards foreigners and visitors to their country. They often go out of their way to be hospitable and welcoming, and expect foreigners to show respect towards Korean culture and customs.


In conclusion, respect is an essential value in Korean culture that is deeply ingrained in society. It is reflected in language, behavior, and social interactions, and is seen as a way of maintaining harmony and balance. Understanding the importance of respect is key to building positive relationships with Koreans and navigating Korean society.

How does Korean culture show respect?

It is important to show respect towards those who are older than you. This includes deferring to their opinions, waiting for their input, and lowering your gaze if they are an elder. When offering or receiving objects, gifts, or food, they should be done with two hands. Additionally, it is customary to remove your hat when indoors as a sign of respect.

What are important values in Korea?

Korean traditions focus on respect for family, diligence, protecting one’s family and showing proper etiquette among family members, which have remained significant even in contemporary times. It is considered polite to wait for an introduction at social events, and bowing is a customary way to greet others.

What is the most important thing in Korean culture?

In Korean society, family holds great significance and the head of the family is the father. A hierarchy is also an important aspect of their culture, with children expected to assist their parents, obey them, and show reverence to the elderly members of the family.

What is one of the Korean customs that is gesture of respect?

In Korean culture, the bow is the customary way of greeting someone, although men may also shake hands. When shaking hands as a sign of respect, it is common to support the right forearm with the left hand.

Why do Koreans respect their elders?

The tradition of showing respect to elders is prominent among Koreans in East Asia, as the Confucian philosophy of filial piety has influenced their culture greatly. This tradition is also evident in Chinese and Japanese cultures, as they similarly prioritize respect for their parents and elders.

How many levels of respect are there in Korean?

Korean has a system of addressing people with honorifics, which includes six levels of politeness known as speech styles. These styles range from formal to plain, with intermediate levels of politeness in between.

Challenges to Respect in Modern Korea

While respect remains an essential value in Korean culture, there are challenges to maintaining this traditional value in modern times. Western influences have brought new ideas about individualism and self-expression, which can clash with traditional Confucian values. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of modern society can make it difficult to prioritize respect in daily interactions.

The Future of Respect in Korea

Despite these challenges, many Koreans continue to hold respect as an important value. Efforts are being made to preserve and promote traditional values, such as through education and cultural programs. Additionally, younger generations are finding ways to adapt traditional values to modern situations, such as using informal language with close friends while still showing respect towards elders and strangers.

Respect in Korean Pop Culture

Korean pop culture, or K-pop, has gained global popularity in recent years. While it often features flashy visuals and catchy music, it also reflects Korean values such as respect. K-pop idols are expected to show respect towards their fans and seniors in the entertainment industry, while fans show respect towards idols by following fan etiquette and not crossing boundaries.

Relationships and Respect

Respect is a crucial aspect of relationships in Korea, whether it be romantic relationships, friendships, or family relationships. Showing respect towards one’s partner or friends can strengthen the relationship and build trust. Additionally, respecting one’s parents and elders can lead to closer family bonds and a sense of security.

Respect and Mental Health

Research has shown that practicing respect towards oneself and others can have positive effects on mental health. In Korea, where mental health issues are still stigmatized, promoting respect can be a way to break down barriers and encourage open discussions about mental health. By prioritizing respect towards oneself and others, individuals can build healthier relationships and a stronger sense of self-worth.

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