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What are some notable common Korean customs?

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Quick Answer

Notable Korean customs include gimjang, which is preparing kimchi each winter; jesa, which is the ceremony that reaffirms relationships between ancestors and descendants; and the Confucian tradition of the oldest son taking over as head of the family. Another custom occurs during weddings, where the couple first has a traditional Western ceremony followed by another ceremony with traditional costumes.

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Gimjang occurs early each winter, and the process for fermenting cabbage to make kimchi passes from generation to generation. Korea experiences three or four months of winter when very few vegetables grow, and preparing kimchi provides families with a vegetable for those times. Koreans eat kimchi along with rice, vegetables, fish and meat at most meals.

Koreans believe that when people die, their spirits remain with their families for four generations, and the ancestors bestow blessings on their descendants. Koreans practice jesa on special holidays including Lunar New Year's Day, Korean Thanksgiving Day and the anniversary of the ancestor's death.

Korea's government rewrote inheritance laws, giving equality to both sons and daughters, to combat preference for sons under the Confucian tradition. Korean families traditionally live with three or four generations in one household, but the government encouraged people to have fewer children in the 1960s and 1970s so that the parents could work and contribute to the economy. Some young couples choose to move out of family homes and live on their own.

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