With a vibrant economy and a forward-thinking education system, South Korea is one of Asia’s real poster-boy countries. They make some of the finest TVs and cell phones in the world, and they have their very own internationally recognized music, film, and television industries. So what would life be like to have been born in this progressive nation?

Would having a noisy neighbor dampen the dynamic nature of living in one of the world’s most high tech countries? What kind of school and work life could you expect to have? And just what is spoon worm and how do we tackle it?  That’s what we’ll look into today, in this episode of the Infographics Show, What if you were born in South Korea?

In the southern part of the Korean peninsula sits South Korea, bordered by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north, the East Sea to the east, and the yellow sea to the west. The capital city is Seoul, and it is home to 10 million people who speak the official Korean language. South Korea’s mixed economy ranks 11th and 13th purchasing power parity GDP in the world, and is one of the major G20 countries. Korea is well represented with household brands such as LG Electronics and Samsung.

In fact, South Korea’s economy was one of the world’s fastest growing since the 1960s to the late 1990s, and was one of the four Asian Tigers along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. They are also progressive when it comes to entertainment, music and film, with K-pop taking the South East Asian region by storm, along with their K-drama television shows. So odds are, if you born here, you would be a devout follower of some of the best cinema, and catchiest of pop songs in the world.  

So what would life be like if you were born here? Well right from the very year dot things would get a bit strange. Koreans, along with the Chinese and Vietnam, use the East Asian age reckoning system when working out your age. Once a baby is born, the infant is automatically one year old, no matter what day of the year you were born. So you will always be at least one year older in South Korea than you are when you travel to other parts of the world.

This means you don’t age on your actual birthday, but instead celebrate another year of age each New Year. Confusing? Well to those from outside Korea maybe. For South Koreans, this simple system makes perfect sense. And if you’re traveling outside of the country, you’d have to wait an extra year before buying liquor, smoking cigarettes, getting married, or starting work.      

How about school? Kindergarten is optional in South Korea, with most parents preferring to keep their small kids at home. At age 6, you must complete 6 years of primary education, learning English, Fine Arts, math, Moral Education, music, PE, science, and practical arts. Secondary school placements are awarded by a lottery type system so all students have an equal chance to succeed despite their socio-economic background.

Schools are rather strict with uniforms and haircuts, and punctuality is enforced. The last three years take place at high schools and standards are just as high. School is tough here, but the rewards are also high. In fact, you’d be lucky to be born in South Korea as far as education is concerned, as this country performs in the top 20 of most world tables in education and is one of the best in Asia.

How about food? Well Korean cuisine is largely made up of rice, vegetables, and meats. Common ingredients include sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger and cabbage. But Koreans also dig their seafood, and if you were one of the more adventurous Koreans, you might develop a penchant for live spoon worms. This aquatic worm with a phallic-like appearance is also said to have aphrodisiac properties, earning it the moniker of the penis fish. These large worms are usually cut into bite-sized portions that have to be picked up with chopsticks as they wriggle on the plate before being transferred to the mouth. Chewing is, we guess, optional.  

So, how about employment? South Korea has the reputation of being the most overworked country in Asia, and with the average person working 2,069 hours a year (second highest after Mexico in the OECD), there is a strong work ethic here. While hard work is essential to rapid economic growth, it also contributes to poor work productivity and a low birth rate. With a 2016 study showing that 4.9% of Koreans work in agriculture, 24.89% in industry, and 70.21% in services, it is likely that had you been born in South Korea, you would be working in the services sector.

And what about entertainment and social life? Well, the capital Seoul is part town with cheap western pubs and classy tapas bars and lounges, but outside of the city you may run into more traditional style drinking joints. There are many customs to learn about drinking here. Not to top your own glass, but top up the glasses of others, and other complex rituals. But being born in Korea, you’ll know all about these quirks already.     

Well, that’s how life stacks up here in South Korea, the land of beautiful people, high tech industries, and world class education. Not as bad as some would have guessed. So, how do you think your life would have been different if you were born in South Korea?  Let us know in the comments! Also be sure to check out our other video called North Koreans vs South Koreans – How do they compare? Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!

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