South Korea's economic development started in the 1960s, when it was just an agricultural-based economy, which has now transformed into what we know today as one of the world's largest and most powerful economies.
Educational development was a major contributor to this. Still, despite Korea’s rigorous education system, there is a strong emphasis on cultural activities such as learning traditional arts and crafts, and you should try some of these too.
Minhwa — Folk Painting
This artistic style has been around since the Joseon Dynasty and became extremely popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. It acts as an outlet for the emotions for the common person—a personal artistic style of self-expression.
There are different types of Minhwa based on the subject, concept and technique of the painting; for instance, Chaekgeori is the most famous type, and it refers to the painting of books and stationery.
Today, Minhwa has evolved, and it is no longer found simply on canvas; it decorates modern accessories like phone covers and T-shirts.
Calligraphy is an artistic style of writing and common across cultures. But Korean calligraphy, or Seoye as it is known locally, is an ancient tradition that many Koreans still love and enjoy today.
Historically, seoye was done with Chinese characters, but in recent times it's also done using Hangul—the Korean alphabet. Seoye is not just an artistic endeavor, but it's a deeply emotional process requiring a lot of discipline, and this makes it a very rigorous task, but an art, nonetheless.
For Asians, gifting a work of calligraphy to someone is a sign of deep affection and respect—it’s basically like giving them a piece of your soul.
Making Hanji — Mulberry Paper
We all know paper comes from trees, so what makes this paper so special? Well, simply put, it's hand-made and absolutely exquisite. It's made from a mulberry tree's inner bark, and the soft material's history goes back to ancient times, which makes it a historically important cultural asset with several uses. It is globally acknowledged that the first printed document of the world was on Hanji.
This eco-friendly paper (it uses non-wood pulp) is also very gentle on human skin and can be used to make organic tissues and masks. It is also popularly used to create beautiful lampshades and Hanbok accessories.
In such a fast-paced transformation, cultural roots and traditions often get left behind, but this doesn't stand true for the South Korean population. Even Seoul, with all its modernity, holds a perfect blend of tradition and contemporary.
Korean art, food and culture have developed a great deal in the past few decades, but the local population has a great degree of love and respect for tradition, which is why it's still alive and thriving.
If you’re fascinated by Korean culture, check out some great Korean products here.