Destination: Focus South Korea

South Korea

Seoul skyline (Getty Images)

In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week's focus is on South Korea. Know all about it.

Capital: Seoul Currency: South Korean Won Language: Korean, English (widely taught in junior and high school) Religion: Protestant 19.7per cent, Buddhist 15.5, Catholic 7.9, none 56.9. (2015 est.)

Climate

Moderate climate with four seasons. The hottest part of the year is during the rainy season in JulyAugust, and the coldest is December-February. Occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods. Spring and autumn are mild and mainly dry.

Visa

Maximum two documents are required from the Korean host ~ one invitation letter(In case of company, inviting company's details and incharge person's details and in case of individual, host's full details) and photocopy of business registration certificate of inviting company or employee certificate (Individual). Documents required from applicant are photo copy of business registration certificate (business owner) or employee certificate (individual) and income tax return (recent). For family reunification, Foreigner Registration No. or the photocopy of Alien Card of the Indian living in Korea is submitted.

They love rice and noodles

Korean cuisine is punchy and bold flavoured; fermented foods are common and dishes are often heavily laced with red pepper and generous amounts of garlic. Rice is omnipresent in most meals, except when noodles take centre stage. A typical Korean meal consists of warm rice, soup, rice water and between eight to 20 side dishes of vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, bean curd and sea plants. Some of the specialities are Bibimbap, Kimchi, Bulgogi, Grilled galbi, Haemultang, Chijimi, Tteokbokki. Some of the popular drinks are Soju, Hite, Makgeolli and Ginseng wine.

Chuseok and other celebrations

The two most important national holidays are New Year's Day and Chuseok (which falls on the eighth full moon by the lunar calendar). Koreans observe both solar and lunar New Year's holidays of which many people wear hanbok (traditional dress), offer sebae (New Year's greetings with a "big bow") to their parents, eat ttok-kuk (rice-cake soup), play traditional games, and observe ancestor rites. Other festivals celebrated are Independence Day, Buddha's birthday, Children's Day, Memorial Day, Hanguel Day and Christmas.

Fort and Palaces

Jeju Island

Jejudo also known as the "Island of the Gods" is one of the top honeymoon destinations for Korean newlyweds, the island offers visitors a wide range of activities: hiking on Halla-san (South Korea's highest peak), catching sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, viewing majestic waterfalls and lava tubes and Jeju Loveland.

Seoul

Seoul has many historical and cultural landmarks. The Seoul metropolitan area contains four Unesco World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. Major modern landmarks in Seoul include the Korea Finance Building, N Seoul Tower, the World Trade Center and the skyscraper residence Tower Palace.

Gyeongju

The city is actually referred to as a museum without walls. Home to Bulguksa Temple, famous throughout Korea. Gyeongju is best seen in springtime. Places to visit are Tumuli Park, Anapj Pond, Gyeongju National Museum, Gyeongju Folk Craft Village, King Munmu's underwater tomb.

Pyeongchang

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games will be held for 17 days from 9 to 25 February 2018 in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea. It will be South Korea's first Winter Games. The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will take place on 9-18 March 2018.

Other attractions include Gyeongbokgung Palace (largest palace in South Korea), Kimchi Museum, Nami Island, Dadohae Haesang (largest national park in South Korea), Lotte World (world's largest theme park), Myeongdong (famous for souvenirs and Korean Cuisine).

Trade and economic relations

Trade and economic relations have started to gather momentum following the implementation of CEPA in 2010. Bilateral trade reached $18.8 billion in 2015. India became the 15th largest trade partner of Korea. Major Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai Motors and LG have made significant investments in India, estimated at over $3 billion. Indian investments in South Korea have already exceeded $2 billion. There are officially 603 large and small Korean firms which have offices in India. Novelis, a Hindalco subsidiary, acquired a Korean aluminium company by investing about $600 million. Mahindra & Mahindra acquired a majority stake in SsangYong Motors, the country's fourth largest auto manufacturer in March 2011, with an investment of about $360 million. Tata Motors acquired Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company for $102 million in March 2004. Other Indian companies present in South Korea include IT majors, Indian Overseas Bank, State Bank of India and others.

Student haven

The total number of Indian nationals living in ROK is estimated to be around 11,000 which includes 120 PIOs. Around 1,000 Indian scholars are pursuing postgraduate and PhD programmes, mostly in pure sciences. Many professionals mainly in the areas of IT, shipping and automobile have immigrated to ROK.

Regular flights

Jet Airways, Asiana Airlines, Korean Airlines fly from India to Seoul. Air India, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines fly from Chennai to Seoul with stopovers at Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Bangkok. Direct flights fro m Mumbai to Seoul take around eight-and-a-half hours. From Delhi, flying time to Seoul is a little less than eight hours.

Compiled by Kunal Jain (kunaljain@thestatesman.com)