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December 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Similarities Found Between Cultures of Korea and Manipur

Ahanthem Romita Devi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages, Manipur University, India. She received her PhD in Psycholinguistics from University of Delhi in 2012. She has worked in Delhi as a Guest Lecturer in University of Delhi and as an Assistant Professor in Uttar Pradesh Technical University before joining Manipur University. She has experience in teaching Linguistics, Professional Communication and Korean Language. Her research interest include Korean Language Teaching and Learning, Psycholinguistics, Language documentation. She has also worked on contrastive study of Korean and Manipuri grammatical patterns.



This paper seeks to highlight the importance of cultural concepts while teaching-learning Korean as a foreign language. The compilation of certain similar features found in both Korean and the Meitei culture is a result of the on going teaching process of Korean culture to the students of B.A. (Hons) in Korean in Manipur University. It is crucial to understand the nuances of the linguistic as well as cultural concepts of Korean to make the Korean language skill development a meaningful one.

Keywords:- culture, linguistic, similarities.


Role of culture in language learning

Every community is bound by its own unique culture which is a reflection of the ways of life of that particular community. Language contributes to the communicative aspect of any culture, keeping in mind that communication takes place in verbal and non-verbal forms. This further implies that both, language and culture are closely related to each other. Language, therefore, cannot be taught in isolation because language is seated in culture.

Many linguistic concepts come with cultural connotations especially the non-verbal aspects of expressions like paralinguistics form of communication. In reality much of the human communication takes place through non-verbal forms as compared to verbal or speech forms. It may sometimes be also the case that one cultural concept in one language may not be verbally expressed in the other.

Therefore, a deeper study of the comparison of the native culture of the learner and the target culture forms one part of area study to be able to enable the learners imbibe important terminologies of the target culture.


Importance of learning cultural concepts while learning Korean

Learning any new language automatically introduces the culture of that new language from the very first lesson. It becomes vital to introduce all the basic nuances of the target culture from the very beginning with the sole purpose of minimising any errors made by the learners while learning the new language. The following are few aspects of culture related topics which are taught from the beginning lessons.

  1. Greetings - The first and foremost part of teaching Korean culture begins with teaching various ways and methods of greetings. It ranges from gestures, body language to proper greeting expressions, like the formal and informal expressions of greeting, namely annyeonghasaeyo and annyeong respectively.
  2. Seasons and climate - The next interesting topic to be introduced is the seasons and climate of Korea. Teaching these concepts is crucial as many climate and season related activities emerge to apprise the students about the lives of Koreans living in Korea. For instance, the activity called phiseoreul khada means going away for a vacation to avoid the summer heat, is one of the important activities that is undertaken during summer. Closely related to climate is the food culture of any community. Human beings adapt to the environment around them and accordingly form suitable food habits. This is one of the reasons why food culture comes after teaching the weather and climatic conditions of Korea.
  3. Social gatherings - Each and every community in the world have specific occasions where friends and family gather to either share good moments or to offer help during hard times. Therefore, certain terms related to marriage ceremonies and death ceremonies emerge while teaching types of gatherings in the Korean society.
  4. Other concepts - These include acceptable or unacceptable behaviour inside one’s home, in the classroom, at work, while talking to seniors and teachers and so on. What maybe acceptable in one culture maybe forbidden in the other culture.  Generally Korean cultures forbid wearing shoes inside the house when entering from outside. But it maybe considered fine in other cultures.
  5. Folklore - Folk literature becomes a very interesting tool in such circumstances where the folklore of the target language as well as the folklore of the learners can be used to achieve a holistic understanding of the new concepts of the target language. For this purpose, the folk literature can be put to three different uses. It can be used to teach culture specific terminology, customary terms and concepts and cultural beliefs and value systems. Through Korean folk stories the students learn about the concept of hyohaeng which means filial piety and is derived from Confucianism. This is very important cultural concept regarding the duties of children towards their elderly parents which one has to abide by. Through this term the students learn about the important duties of the eldest son in a family. Apart from folk literature, folk songs like Arirang can also be used effectively for the same purpose.


Similarities between Korean and Manipuri cultures

It generally becomes easier for the learners to relate to certain part of the new culture which are found to have something similar in their own native cultures. To facilitate better understanding, some basic similarities between cultures of Korea and Manipur are listed below.

1.Greeting - Even though Korean greetings are done with a bow depending on the situation, which is not found in Manipuri culture, the current study will highlight the similar ways in which we greet each other by using verbal expressions. Korean way of greeting sometimes use the expression bap meogeoseoyo literally meaning have you eaten food but carries the sense of hope all is well. Similarly, in Manipuri culture too we sometimes use the phrase chaak charbra literally meaning have you eaten food but implying that whether all is well or not.  Both the cultures have seen very difficult times in the past where having a proper meal felt like a luxury. Therefore, it became a way to greet generally to ask if one has had that kind of a luxury, implying that whether things have been going on well.

2. Difference between the methods of offering formal bow in Korean and Manipuri culture in a formal ceremony by a male and a female is also found to in both the cultures. A male bows differently in both the cultures as compared to the manner in which a female bows during ceremonies. It is an interesting part of the practical class, where students get to practice the permissible way to bow in the Korean way.

3. Food culture may be very different but both the cultures have rice eating communities and eat fermented food especially fermented soya bean (doenjang in Korean and hawaijar in Manipuri).

4. One of the gestures that are prohibited in both the cultures is that of using left hand to give or to receive anything. If done so, it is considered to be rude especially if the counterpart is a an elder or senior.

  1. It is an accepted norm in Manipuri society to leave shoes outside while entering someone else house. Another similar behaviour in both the cultures is that the eldest in the family is always served first and the rest of the family waits until the eldest member starts having the meal.
  2. Both the cultures pay utmost importance to the elderly while proceeding with any matter at hand. It can be seen in various forms of honorific forms used while addressing a senior. For instance, honorific form the verb to eat in Korean is deushida, which has an equivalent form in Manipuri called luk haba instead of chaba.
  3. As the learning progresses folk stories, myths, superstitions, legends can be used to make the Korean language learning an interesting one. For instance, the Korean folk story of Kongjui-Patjui has a similar story line with Cinderella, where after the death of the main character’s mother dies early, how the step mother ill-treats her and eventually succeeds in achieving the happily ever after life. This particular Korean folk story can be compared with Meitei folk story about Sandrenbi-Cheishra, which share a similar plot with the Korean folk story. Mostly, folk tales teach about good eventually triumphing over and evil and how one should never leave the right path no matter how difficult the situation is.
  4. Superstitions or taboos also make an innovative area where comparative study of these cultures can make an interesting learning material. For instance, in Korean culture it is forbidden to cut nails at night because it is said that if one cuts nails at night then a rat might eat it and turn into a monster, which will eventually transform a part of that particular person. Similarly, In the Meitei community too, it is forbidden to cut nails at night as it will bring bad luck or make one very sick. These accidental discoveries made during the learning process helps both the educators and the learners in trying to bridge the gap between the target culture and the native culture. It is also important to note that, Korea has achieved big heights when it comes to development and by studying their culture, we can also learn a lot of good things and adopt them in our own culture to at least set the tone towards upward movement on the development chart. Punctuality is one such virtue which emphasizes on the importance of something so valuable called ‘time’.


Advantages of using similar concepts

There are two advantages of using equivalent concepts both linguistically and culturally while teaching Korean in Manipur.

  1. It brings the learners closer to the target culture making them feel more in tune with the new concepts and notions.
  2. It also makes the learners more sensitive towards both the cultures namely, the foreign culture as well as their own culture. Sometimes it is the case that the students are caught unaware of certain parts of their own culture. It is during such moments that the students have to identify similar or different aspects of both the cultures by comparing them and figure out what they do not know about their own culture. This helps in highlighting tradition, customs and rituals of their own native culture while learning the Korean culture.



This kind of an approach to language teaching helps in curtailing the ‘foreignness’ feeling while learning new terminology and gives a positive boost towards their own native culture. Even while teaching Korean culture online, it keeps the students a little motivated to re-orient their thinking process by reflecting on their own culture while learning about a new one. It gives an opportunity to reconnect with our own traditional knowledge and gives us many options and ideas as to how to maintain our own culture and develop it further through the methods and techniques given in the Korean culture.



세종 학국문화 1 & 2 (2017). ISBN 979-11-85872-70-4 (세트)


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