South Korea has landed on the global map with its fever-inducing Korean pop music, highly addictive Korean dramas (ruining lives by the way), and powerful conglomerates.  However, a startling transformation in a mere 30 years from a third world country to one of the world’s wealthiest countries is bound to bring about some interesting behavior. We cover various odd facts about Korea and the reasons behind them, highlighting everything from the insane drinking culture here to a more humorous tidbit on high school portraits.

Creative freedom for high school portraits leads to hilarious results

A traditional South Korean high school portrait will typically look something like this.

traditional portrait

Now, let’s implement an ‘anything goes’ (PG) policy and well, the following shenanigans is what ensues. Keep in mind that because of the insane academic competition here, most middle to high school students attend a minimum of 3 – 4 ‘hakwons’ (aka academies) that focus on various subjects. Sadly, this forces them to remain in a classroom environment up until 10 p.m. on weekdays, and many spend time there during weekends as well. Thus, it’s not totally surprising that Korean students will jump at any opportunity to act like a kid again.

Sources: maru1 | dbwls7714 | todayhumor | kookje

South Koreans LOVE drinking to blow off steam

Most Koreans are known to be hard-working. What you probably didn’t know is that South Korea also ranks among the lowest in work-life balance in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development). These stats mainly stem from a rigid hierarchical system established by deep-rooted Confucianism, in addition to being a highly ethnically homogeneous society. This also makes change a bit difficult although the Korean government is now taking steps . There are countless accounts of employees burning out, feeling pressured to continually work overtime, and shying away from taking any kind of leave of absence.

What does this lead to? Yup, check out the chart below.

Korea’s go-to hard alcohol Soju, which can be bought at most convenience stores for around $1 (cheaper than water sometimes!), is far more inexpensive than western brands of alcohol and made readily available. Combine this with a dire need to de-stress and you have the average Korean drinking almost 14 shots a week, twice as much as the second closest country… Russia?!

odd facts about korea - liquor consumptionSource: QZ

In attempts to rectify the imbalance themselves, the working population here takes the motto “work hard, play hard” to a whole new level. If you haven’t already, check out our funny gif article on a typical night out in Seoul with soju to get an idea of how much drinking is involved.

Part 2 will continue with a reality makeover show and more. What do you think of the odd facts about Korea we mentioned in this article? Know of any other funny, random, or insightful facts unique to Korea?

About The Author


An eclectic soul with a diverse background, Rob has lived in Korea for the past 5 years. An avid interest in Korean culture, high-quality media, and content led him to co-founding SeoulSync. On his down time he plays ball, visits museums, explores new places, and shoots. These days, he channels his photography into the @seoulsync IG and his own personal @rlvism account.