The Korean language comes from the Ural-Altaic family of languages, which includes Turkish, Finnish and Mongolian. 68 million people speak Korean both within on the peninsula and overseas. After the invention of the Korean alphabet in the 15th century, Korean became easier to learn in all aspects, especially in reading and writing.
The Korean Alphabet; Hangeul was invented in 1443, during the reign of King Sejong comprising of 10 vowels and 14 consonants. Hangeul has 11 compound vowels and 5 glottal sounds.
GMT + 9 hours
Generally, visitors from most Western countries staying in Korea for a period of less than 15 days and holding a departing ticket do not need to apply for a visa. Those planning longer stays must obtain a visa from a Korean Embassy or Consulate before entering Korea.
Any foreign visitors wishing to enter the Republic of Korea must have a valid passport and obtain a Korean visa before travel. For travellers from a selected list of 99 countries who wish to visit Korea temporarily, they are permitted to enter without a visa in accordance to visa-exemption agreements. (For more details, visit http://english.tour2korea.com/).
The official term for South Korean currency is Won. Major credit cards are accepted at established hotels, restaurants, department stores, grocery stores, and big retailers, (like Wal-mart). Most American franchises, like KFC, McDonald's and Burger King do accept credit cards too. The majority of ATMs provide South Korean Won.
Seoul has many good shopping locations; Insadong, Myeong-dong, Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Market and Itaewon. Favourite buys include hand-tailored clothes, sweaters (plain, embroidered or beaded), silks, brocades, handbags, leatherwork, gold jewellery, topaz, amethyst, amber, jade and silver, ginseng, paintings, costume dolls, musical instruments, brassware, lacquerware, wood carvings, baskets, scrolls and screens. Prices are fixed in department stores, but may be negotiated at arcades and markets. Major cities have duty-free shops for foreigners, whereby tourists can make purchase using foreign currency with proof of a valid passport.
A value-added tax (VAT) is levied on most goods and services at a standard rate of 10% and is always included in the retail price. In hotels, 10% tax applies for rooms, meals and other services and is automatically added onto the bill.
Tipping is not customary in Korea. As expensive restaurants and luxury hotels may include a 10% service charge onto the bill, it is not necessary to prepare extra charges.
- Banks and Government offices:
In general, banks open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, and till 6.00 pm for government offices. They do not operate on Saturday.
Most offices open from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday, and 9.00 am to 1.00 pm on Saturday
- Shops (Hours vary):
Shops generally open from 10.30 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Sunday.
Seoul is no stranger to excellent high quality foods. All price ranges offer a wide variety of flavors to suit anyone's taste. Korean food is delicious and almost always low in fat contents. In fact, South Korean food is a pleasurable oral experience with explosion of flavors for the tastebud. Not only is it delicious, but it also has different medicinal purposes and helps prevent certain health conditions. Korean food is an excellent alternative to eating high-fat Western dishes, and can assist anyone on a weight loss plan. Traditionally, Korean food is not served in courses, and is served on the table all at the same time instead. Food is eaten according to personal preference and not in a set order.
Traveling within Seoul is easy and efficient. You can use the subway, the train, taxis, buses, private cars, bicycle, or simply walk.
IDD is available in Seoul and other major cities. The country code is 82, while outgoing international code is either 001 or 002. GSM 1800 and 900 networks also in use. SK Telecom is the main network provider (website: http://www.sktelecom.com/). A new 3G network is planned for May 2002.
There are many hospitals where basic English is spoken. International clinics at large general hospitals like Severance Hospital, Asan Medical Centre or Samsung Medical Centre are recommended.
In Korea, 220 volt outlets are most common.
New Year’s Day; Seollal (Lunar New Year), Independence Movement Day; Buddha’s Birthday; Children’s Day; Memorial Day; Liberation Day; National Foundation Day; Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day) and Christmas.