The Multi-Coloured Spectrum of Korea

 Julia Lachica 

Owing to its continued popularity since the mid-2000s, South Korea has been reflecting its culture through its music, movies and most definitely its TV dramas. This has allowed fans to express themselves through South Korean food and fashion.

In contrast to South Korea’s colourful culture, North Korea has maintained a muted front for decades. With no mainstream media to influence their society, they depend on the ruler of their country. In North Korea, there are no TV dramas or K-Pop to swoon over. There are only rules on top of rules.

Here are some differences between the contemporary cultural scenes in North and South Korea.


South Korea is now one of the countries spearheading fashion. From their unique sense of style intertwined with their music and TV dramas, South Korea has been deemed a fashion haven for many.

Many millenials in South Korea get inspiration from their mainstream media, mixing it with their own style. From formal wear to street-style, you name it, Seoul has it; they also have the freedom to dress up as elegantly or as extravagantly as they wish. With the Hallyu wave being their inspiration, South Korea has truly become a paradise for fashion icons.

Fashion for South Korean young ladies Credit: fafinder

However, fashion in North Korea is perceived as uniform and dull. Colourful or coloured garments in general are often just for those who are to be seen by the public eye. People who hold jobs such as entertainers or waitresses are to be seen in coloured outfits or something that makes them look wealthy. Ladies who work in such industries are also seen in stiletto heels, despite the fact that they have to stand for painstakingly long hours.

North Korean fashion

Those who are not in such favoured jobs are to wear military-style uniforms, traditional Korean wear or anything that is not too outstanding. Anything that carries Western influence is strictly prohibited, such as graphic T-shirts, jeans and even dirty shoes.


Credit: Instagram @MihaelaNorocPhoto


Some of the cuisines in North Korea are similar to the dishes in South Korea; the difference lies in how they are prepared and served. Dishes such as Pyongyang noodles or Nang Myeon are commonly found and eaten in both the North and South served together with kimchi, a side dish

Pyongyang noodles or Nang Myeon is cold noodle dish made with chewy buckwheat noodles available in both North and North Korea

North Korea prefers to season their dishes lightly and present them in a very plain manner, accommodating to the living conditions of the citizens. Most dishes are also served with either corn or potatoes, as rice is a food for the wealthy.

Compared to North Korea, South Korean dishes are much more colourful and packed with spice. Traditional dishes in South Korea are further elevated through food innovation and tradition rolled into one.

South Korean Bimbimbap can be distinguished by its raw beef topped with raw egg yoke served in a hot stone pot


(North Korean) Pyeong-yang bibimbap includes sautéed beef instead of raw beef, mung bean sprouts instead of soy bean sprouts, diamond shaped egg garnishes and shredded roasted seaweed. Since beef was precious in North Korea, people often used pork instead of beef.


South Korea’s Kimbap is the the country’s version of Japanese sushi, normally packed with spinach, pickled radish, fish cakes, and sliced omelette. Credit: Amanda_wong@flicker


Korea’s food is a reflection of their history and culture. Traditional dishes such as bibimbap and kimchi have been eaten by locals for centuries, making and eating it the way they made and ate it in the past.

Looking at both countries, it’s clear how mainstream media can shape and influence generations over time. Individuality is moulded by the freedom citizens are given over time. The vibrancy of society is dependant on what citizens are shown and allowed to have.





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