Your guide to being an expatriate in South Korea

Caffeinate Your South Korea Expat Journey: Find Essential Info and Connect with Expatriates Today!

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, is a nation located in East Asia. It is bordered by North Korea to the north, the East Sea to the east, the Yellow Sea to the west, and China and Russia to the northwest. South Korea is a thriving modern nation that has emerged from its tumultuous past. The country is rich in history, culture, and technological innovation, and has one of the most prosperous economies in the world. Here we explore this fascinating country, offering insights into its geography, people, climate, economy, culture, and traditions to help expats thrive in their new home.

South Korea

Expat destinations in South Korea

Demographics of South Korea:

Ethnic groups




Religion Overview

South Korea has a complex religious landscape, with traditional belief systems mixing with modern religion. Although Buddhism and Confucianism have historically dominated the religious landscape, Christianity has experienced significant growth in recent decades, with over a third of the population adhering to Christian denominations. Buddhism is still practiced widely, with almost a quarter of the population identifying as Buddhist. Traditional religious and cultural practices continue to play a significant role in daily life, and South Koreans place great importance on their spiritual and religious beliefs.

Major Religions


South Korea's climate is primarily temperate, with four distinct seasons. In the summer, temperatures can reach highs of up to 32°C, whereas winters can be extremely cold, with temperatures dropping as low as −16°C in the mountain areas. The wettest months are June to August, with the highest rainfall recorded during typhoon season, which usually runs from June to September.

Economy Overview

South Korea is an economic powerhouse, with a thriving technology and automobile manufacturing industry, as well as burgeoning shipbuilding and semiconductor production sectors. The Korean economy is ranked 12th in the world by nominal GDP and 11th by PPP. This prosperity is due in part to the country's successful transition from a rural agricultural economy to an industrialized one and its dedication to free trade. South Korea has also benefited from investments in new technologies, like semiconductors and displays.

Key Industries

  • Technology
  • Automobile manufacturing
  • Shipbuilding

Major Companies

  • Samsung
  • LG Electronics
  • Hyundai Motor Group
  • SK Hynix
  • Posco
  • Shinhan Financial Group

Culture and Language Overview

South Korea's rich culture is shaped by a unique blend of traditional values and innovation. The country's fiercely proud history continues to influence its art, music, and food. An essential facet of Korean culture is family values, which are deeply ingrained in daily life. The Korean language is tonal and written using the Korean alphabet (or Hangul), which was invented by King Sejong in the 15th century. As such, it is one of the youngest writing systems in the world.

Cultural Highlights

  • Kimchi - a fermented vegetable staple food that is essential to Korean cuisine and culture
  • K-Pop - a globally popular musical phenomenon that has swept the world in recent years. K-Pop's evolution has been heavily influenced by Korean culture, values, and traditions.
  • Hanbok - the traditional Korean dress that has been worn for centuries. The Hanbok remains a prominent feature of Korean culture today, particularly during traditional festivals and ceremonies.
  • Chuseok - a three-day harvest festival that is one of the most significant traditions in Korean culture. This festival is celebrated in September and marks the end of the harvest season.
  • Hanok Village in Bukchon - a traditional Korean village where wooden housing with unique architecture still remains. Visiting this village will provide you with a glimpse into Korea's rich cultural heritage and traditional ways of life.

Geography and Landmarks Overview

South Korea is a relatively small country, around the size of Ireland. The Korean Peninsula is richly mountainous, leading to a diverse landscape dotted with sparkling rivers, waterfalls, and verdant forests. South Korea is blessed with a wealth of natural beauty, providing expats with a myriad of opportunities to explore and appreciate the country's natural heritage. The country is also home to several notable landmarks, both old and new, that reflect its rich cultural heritage, including Seoul Tower, Bukchon Hanok Village, and the DMZ.

Notable Landmarks

  • Namsan Tower, Seoul - a prominent landmark in the heart of Seoul, providing stunning views of the city below.
  • Bukchon Hanok Village - an authentic Korean village where traditional wooden houses still remain. This area is an excellent example of Korean Hanok architecture, a style that is recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  • Seoul Cathedral - the largest church in South Korea, located in Anguk-gu, and dating back to 1962.
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream - a restored stream located in the heart of Seoul, providing a perfect balance of nature and urban architecture. The stream is lined with colorful lanterns, and its surrounding area is lively, bustling with activity.
  • Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) - arguably the most famous and prominent landmark in South Korea, representing the world's last great divide. The DMZ serves as a silent yet poignant reminder of the continuing tensions between North and South Korea.

National Holidays

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Lunar New Year's Day (February/March)
  • Dongji ( February 3 or 4)
  • Taejeon (April 5)
  • Children's Day (May 5)
  • Constitution Day (August 15)
  • National Foundation Day (August 15)
  • Chuseok (September)
  • Hangeul Day (October 9)
  • Peace Day (August 14)
  • Liberation Day (August 15)

Political Stability

South Korea has enjoyed political stability since the 1960s, with a parliamentary republic modeled after the US system. South Korea's authorities have consistently shown a commitment to transparency in governance, accountability, and the rule of law, helping foster a culture of political stability that has balanced economic growth and social welfare.

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