|Fascinating facts about South Korea|
The name for Korea comes from an early dynasty name, 'Koryo' meaning 'high mountains and clear water', which makes sense, as roughly 75 percent of Korea is mountainous.
Seoul is a Korean word meaning simply ‘the capital.’ Located on the banks of the Han-gang River, Seoul (population 11 million) is home to around a quarter of Korea's 45.5 million population, making it the world's 10th largest city. Yet even with so many people, there are only about 300 different family names.
Kimchi is an authentic Korean side dish of pickled vegetables, often made with Chinese cabbage. Almost any food can be kimchi-ed, and there are over 170 varieties!
Central heating has always been part of traditional Korean housing. Originally trenches carried warm air from the kitchen fire and directed the heat under the floors.
The mungunghwa (or Rose of Sharon) is the national flower of Korea.
Koreans have Thanksgiving too. Called Chuseok, it falls in autumn and people return to their home towns to be with their families and take part in the half-moon festival, as well as a feast, visits to their ancestors' graves, and traditional dances.
The Korean alphabet (hangul) was invented in the fifteenth century by King Sejong. Easier than the Chinese characters which had been used previously, hangul depicts the shapes of the sounds, is the only manmade alphabet, and the only one with a special day to celebrate it - Han-gul Day, October 9th. It is called the "morning alphabet" because Koreans say that even a fool can learn the whole alphabet in a morning, making illiteracy in Korea almost nonexistent.
Korean chopsticks and eating bowls are often made of metal as Koreans have been working in metal for centuries, even developing metal type for printing, two hundred years before the Europeans did.
The Seoul underground railway system, used by 4.4 million people daily has 219 kilometres of track, and is the eighth largest in the world.
- Sally Hammond
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