Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

North and South Koreans live in northeastern Asia, mostly on a peninsula sharing a northern boundary with China and Russia and facing Japan across the Korea Strait and the East Sea. The Koreas are ethnically a homogeneous nation with a prolonged political and cultural influence from China, especially the Confucian classics, which had a profound impact upon the written and spoken Korean language, an Ural-Altaic language. There are no mutually unintelligible dialects. Buddhism and Confucianism have been the main religions. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910-1945. The economy is mostly based on industry and services, particularly in South Korea which has had rapid growth and integration into the world economy.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --East Asia


North Korea

South Korea

OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in this eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Korea file contains 64 documents and spans over a hundred years of scholarship. The largest areas of research are studies of rural communities, religion, and kinship. The file contains numerous early works, which provide an interesting historical perspective on Korean culture and society. Most of these works are travelers' accounts by ship captains, government officials, naturalists, and missionaries, who largely discuss the environment and material culture, and include some descriptions of ceremonies such as marriages and funerals (Dallet 1874, no. 49; Carles 1888, no. 51; Bonar 1893, no. 43; Kenny 1883, no. 45; Rockhill 1891, no. 14; Bishop 1898, no. 46; Roy 1919, no. 18; Bergman 1938, no. 40.) A unique 17th century document records the impressions of a Dutch sailor who was shipwrecked on Cheju Island in 1653 (Hamel 1918, no. 48). A couple of these early works are attempts at more comprehensive description of Korean society and culture (Morse 1897, no. 41; Hulbert 1906, no. 1.) A group of articles discuss issues of concern during the Japanese colonial period (Lee, H. 1936, no. 7; Borton 1944, no. 27; Grajdanzev 1944, no. 6; Suagee 1947, no. 26) and the subsequent postwar period under U.S. administration (McCune 1946, no. 30; Balfour 1948, no. 60; Kang 1948, no. 31; Martin 1948, no. 32.) Studies of religion include discussions of shamanism, ancestor worship, village cults, pollution, puberty rites, and burials (Landis 1896, 1898, nos. 12 and 11; Clark 1932, no. 5; Turner 1950, no. 21; Yi 1984, 1987, nos. 71 and 75; Janelli 1982, no. 61; Cho 1986, no. 74; Ch'oe 1987, no. 77; Kendall 1988, no. 59.) A couple of these articles stress the political component of religious practices (K. Kim 1994, no. 69; Dix 1987, no. 76). The file also contains a relatively large number of rural community studies and surveys (Moose 1911, no. 4; Brunner 1928, no. 25; Osgood 1951, no. 22; Knez 1959, no. 55; Biernatzki 1967, no. 67; Brandt 1971, no. 57; Han, C. 1970, no. 56; Han, S. 1977, no. 65; Sorensen 1988, no. 58.) One is a study of rural society in North Korea (Lee 1976, no.63.) The subject of another group of documents is the Korean kinship system, including discussions of kinship terminology, and lineage and clan organization (Hough 1899, no. 13; Hewes 1950, no. 19; Lee 1970, no. 70; Yi 1973, 1975, nos. 72 and 66; Janelli 1978, no. 80.) A specific account of family succession and inheritance is provided by Choi (1995, no. 78.) Non-kin social organization and practices (specifically, mutual- aid associations and reciprocity) are discussed by Kennedy (1977, no. 79) and Chun (1984, no. 62). Two articles focus on the Korean YANGBAN class (Anonymous 1850, no. 47; Kang 1931, no. 3.) Several authors discuss gender relations in relation to class, nationalism, or industrialization (Hubert 1902, 1910, nos. 24 and 23; S. Kim 1992, no. 81; M. Kim 1993, no. 73; Kendall 1994, no. 68) More specific topics found in the file are on food (VanBuskirk 1923, no. 16), a history of agricultural practices and technology (Heydrich 1931, no. 9), geography (Lautensach 1935, no. 8), Korean music (Ahn 1946, no. 42), Korean anthropometry (Hrdlicka 1946, no. 35), Confucianism (Deuchler 1980, no. 82), and a Korean corporation (C. Kim 1992, no.64).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Korean," by Choong Soon Kim, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. V. 1993. Paul Hockings, ed. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by Ian Skoggard, 1997. HRAF wishes to acknowledge with the thanks the assistance of Soo H. Choi in preparing the up-dated working bibliography for the eHRAF Korea file.

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

ÀJON--local clerks--631

BON--place of origin of a surname group--614, 173

corporate culture--473, 181

BUL-CH'ON CHI-WI (PULCH'oNJIWI)--meritorious subject--554

CHAEBoL--business groups--471, 473

CHEGWA--ritual officiate--796

CHEMIN--ceremonial text--214

CHESA--ancestor worship--769

CH'IMAJARI--sisters-brothers, or cousins-cousins exchange marriage--582, 583

CHIP--household--342, 592

CHITNANUGI--a share--476

CH'OLLIMA--work team movement--476, 668

CH'ON--degree of relatedness--611

CHONGKA--household of oldest living member of clan--592, 554


connection hiring--466, 571

DAE-JONG--large clan--614

DONG--village within the UP--621


entrepreneurship--472, 157

GA--a patrilineal clan--614

geononymy--103, 551

HAN--poverty and bitterness--735, 157, 152

HANGYoL--rule of generation--561, 576

HO--extended family household--592

HONBAEK--ancestor box, tablet--769, 778

HWAN'GAP--grave sweeping--769

KAEKCHU--commission merchant--443, 438

KAJOK--stem family household--592

KE (KEI, KYE)--voluntary association--456, 476, 775

KONGCH'AE--hiring exam for college graduates--466, 873

KOSA--shaman's ceremony propitiating company gods--755, 473, 776

KU--a community--621

KIMCH'I--spicy pickled cabbage--263

KUJANG--village official--622


KUNSU--a county official--634

KUT--shaman ritual--796, 756, 755

KYE--association--452, 456, 476, 575


MANSIN--female shaman--756

Masan Free Export Zone (MAFEZ)--361, 439


MUDANG--female shaman, hereditary priestess--791, 756

MUNJANG--lineage--613, 614



P'ASI--mobile fish market--443, 226

P'UMASI--labor exchange association--476, 241, 243

P'UMP'ARI--wage labor--464

PANJANG--hamlet head--624

PAN--political unit of 10 households--621

Young Pioneer Corp--575, 877

PONKWAN--place of family origin--173

PUJONG--father-centered group--593, 769

P'UNGSOK--Korean Confucian concept of proper social order--779

PUNSU (PANGSA)--fortune teller--791

PUSO--memorial room--765, 769

SADAEBU--Yi dynasty scholar-officials--875, 645

SADANG--household ancestral shrine--769, 778

SIJE--ancestral rites--769, 613, 614

SO-JONG--small clan, descent group--613

surname group--614

SoWoN--Confucian academy; some used for corporate training--344, 346, 463, 779

TANG--village shrine--621, 778

TANGNAE--ancestor worship group--613, 769

TANKOL--buyer-seller relationship--432

TOBANG--fish whole seller--442

ULLYoK--beam-raising party--476, 342

UP--area immediately around and including a town--632

Women's League--668

YANGBAN--aristocratic class--565

YE--Confucian moral concept--779

YIJANG--village headman--622

yin and yang--772

Youth Corp--665

YUSA--general manager of lineage estate--429, 613, 614

Indexing Notes by

Ian Skoggard

Close Box