82.7% Internet penetration. 78.5% of the entire population is on smartphones as of 2013, and now 91%. Among 18 to 24 year olds, smartphone penetration is 97.7%.
Smartphones are used in many different ways in Korea: pay at shops, watch TV (not Youtube but real-time channels) on the subway and scan QR codes at the world's first virtual supermarket.
2. Whipping out the plastic: credit cards
South Koreans became the world's top users of credit cards two years ago, according to data from the Bank of Korea. It's technically illegal for any merchant in the country to refuse credit cards, no matter how low the price, and all taxis have credit card machines.
According to 2012 data from South Korea's Ministry of Strategy and Finance, South Koreans work 44.6 hours per week, compared with the OECD average of 32.8. And according to a study released in August 2014, along with Tokyo residents, Seoulites get the least amount of sleep of any residents of major cities in the world, just less than six hours a night.
4. Business boozing
While many leading companies are trying to curb the working/drinking culture, there are still plenty of bosses who drag their teams out for way too many rounds of soju/beer/whiskey "bombs." Those who opt out are considered rude or hopelessly boring.
Jinro soju was the world's best-selling liquor last year, for the eleventh year in a row, with its home country accounting for most of the sales.
5. Innovative cosmetics
When it comes to makeup and cosmetics, South Koreans can't stop experimenting with ingredients or methods of application.
Now it's all about Korean ingredients such as Innisfree's Jeju Island volcanic clay mask and fermented soybean moisturizer.
Just as Korean men are less wary of going under the plastic surgery knife (see point 10) than their foreign counterparts, they also snap up skincare products and, yes, even makeup, namely foundation in the form of BB cream.
South Korea is by far the largest market for men's cosmetics, with Korean men buying a quarter of the world's men's cosmetics -- around $900 million a year, according to Euromonitor.
6. Female golfers
Of the top 100 female golfers in the world, 38 were Korean.
Of the current top 25, 9 are Korean. Inbee Park, 25, is the second-ranked player in women's golf and was the youngest player to win the U.S. Women's Open.
Chalk it up to crazy Korean competitiveness or to the Tiger Mom/Dad theory (golfer Se-Ri Pak's father is infamous for making her sleep alone in a cemetery every night to steel her nerves), but the phenomenon certainly begs study.
Starcraft is actually a legitimate career in South Korea, with pro gamers raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings in addition to endorsements.
Since the game launched in 1998, nearly half of all games have been sold in South Korea, where boys, girls, men and women drop by for a night of gaming in giant video game parlors.
There are cable channels devoted solely to the games, and the culture has led to approximately 14% of Koreans between ages 9 and 12 suffering from Internet addiction, according to the National Information Agency.
8. Flight attendants
Flight attendants from airlines around the world come to Korean airlines' training centers to learn proper airborne charm.
Ask anyone who's ever flown a Korean airline and dare them to say the service isn't the best they've ever had.
9. Blind dates
According to data compiled by South Korea's largest matchmaking company, Duo, the average length of time of a relationship from the (blind) first date to marriage is approximately 10.2 months for working people, with an average of 62 dates per couple. In a survey conducted by Duo, working singles interested in marriage say they typically go on two blind dates a week.
They should know. Of the top four matchmaking companies in Korea (there are 2,500 companies in the country), Duo has a 63.2% marketshare.
10. Plastic surgery
Whether it's a lantern jaw, wide forehead or long teeth, there's no feature doctors can't beautify in the Asian capital for cosmetic surgery.
Russians, Chinese, Mongolians and Japanese flock to South Korea on plastic surgery "medical tours," not only for the skill of the surgeons, but for the good deals.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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