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  It is generally surmised that Paleolithic man began to inhabit the Korean Peninsula about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, although it has yet to be confirmed if they were the ethnic ancestors of present-day Koreans. Some Paleolithic men lived in caves, while others built structures on level ground. They lived on fruit and edible roots and by hunting and fishing.

Neolithic man appeared in Korea around 4000 B.C., with signs of their active presence around 3000 B.C. being found across the peninsula. It is believed that the Neolithic people formed the ethnic stock of the Korean people. Neolithic people dwelled near the seashore and riverbanks before advancing into inland areas. The sea was their main source of food. They used nets, hooks and fishing lines to catch fish and gather shellfish. Hunting was another way to procure food. Arrowheads and spear points have been found at Neolithic sites. Later, they began to engage in farming using stone hoes, sickles and millstones.

 
Korean traditional house with giwa,
black-grooved tiles for the roof.
  Namsangol Traditional Village in
downtown Seoul

Rice cultivation started during the Bronze Age, generally thought to have lasted in Korea until around 400 B.C. People also lived in thatch-covered pits, while dolmen and stone cist tombs were used predominantly for burials during the period.

As agriculture became a principal activity, villages were formed and a ruling leader with supreme authority emerged. Law became necessary to govern the communities. In Gojoseon (2333 B.C.-108 B.C.), a law code consisting of eight articles came into practice, but only three of the articles are known today: First, anybody who kills another shall immediately be killed. Second, those who injure another's body shall compensate in grain. Third, those who steals other's possessions shall become a slave of their victim.

Traditional Korean houses remained relatively unchanged from the Three Kingdoms period through the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Ondol, a unique Korean underfloor heating system, was first used in the north. Smoke and heat were channeled through flues built under the floor. In the warmer south, ondol was used together with wooden floors. The major materials of traditional houses were clay and wood. Giwa, or black-grooved roof tiles, were made of earth, usually red clay. Today, the Presidential mansion is called Cheong Wa Dae, or the Blue House, for the blue tiles used for its roof.
Ondol, a unique Korean underfloor heating system, was first used in the north. Smoke and heat were channeled through flues built under the floor. In the warmer south, ondol was used together with wooden floors. The major materials of traditional houses were clay and wood. Giwa, or black-grooved roof tiles, were made of earth, usually red clay. Today, the Presidential mansion is called Cheong Wa Dae, or the Blue House, for the blue tiles used for its roof.

Traditional houses were built without using any nails but rather assembled with wooden pegs. Upper-class houses consisted of a number of separate structures, one for accommodation of women and children, one for the men of the family and their guests, and another for servants, all enclosed within a wall. A family ancestral shrine was built behind the house. A lotus pond was sometimes created in front of the house outside the wall.

The form of the houses differed from the colder north to the warmer south. Simple houses with a rectangular floor and a kitchen and a room on either side developed into an L-shaped house in the south, but would become U-shaped or square-shaped with a courtyard at the center in the north.

From the late 1960s, Korea's housing pattern began to change rapidly with the construction of Western-style apartment buildings. High-rise apartments have mushroomed all over the country since the 1970s.

 
Traditional Korean costume   Traditional Korean costume

Koreans began to weave cloth with hemp and arrowroot and raised silkworms to produce silk. During the Three Kingdoms period, men wore jeogori (jacket), baji (trousers), and durumagi (overcoat) with a hat, belt and pair of shoes. The women wore jeogori (short jacket) with two long ribbons which are tied to form an otgoreum (knot), a full length, high-waist wrap-around skirt called chima, a durumagi, with beoseon, white cotton socks, and boat-shaped shoes. This attire, known as hanbok, has been handed down in the same form for men and women for hundreds of years with little change except for the length of the jeogori and chima.

Western wear entered Korea during the Korean War (1950-53), and during the rapid industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s, hanbok use declined, being regarded as inappropriate for casual wear. Recently, however, hanbok lovers have been campaigning to revitalize hanbok, and have created updated styles which are easier to wear.

Traditional hanbok is usually worn on special days like the lunar New Year holidays and Chuseok (Thanksgiving) and family festivities such as Hwangap, which marks one's 60th birthday.

Of the three basic elements of life - house, clothing and food - the change in dietary habits has most significantly affected Koreans. Rice still remains the staple of most Koreans, but among the younger generations, many prefer Western-style food.

 
Housewives making Kimchi, Korea's
famous red-pepper cabbage dish
  Traditional Korean full-course dinner

Rice has been usually accompanied by various side dishes, mostly seasoned vegetables, soup, pot stew, and meat.

A traditional Korean meal is not complete without Kimchi, a mixture of various pickled vegetables such as Oriental cabbage, radish, green onion and cucumber. Certain types of kimchi are made spicy with the addition of red chili pepper powder, while others are prepared without red chili peppers or are soaked in a tasty liquid. However, garlic is always used in Kimchi to add to its flavor. In late November or early December, Korean families engage in gimjang, or preparation of kimchi, for the long winter season. Until a few decades ago, the kimchi prepared for the winter was placed into large vessels which were stored underground to retain the flavor.

With the emergence of apartment houses, electronic appliance makers are now manufacturing refrigeration units exclusively for Kimchi. In addition, Kimchi factories enjoy a brisk business as an increasing number of families buy Kimchi instead of preparing it themselves.

In addition to Kimchi, doenjang (Korean soybean paste), with its anti-cancer attributes, has attracted the attention of modern-day nutritionists. Koreans used to make doenjang at home by boiling yellow beans, drying them in the shade, soaking them in salty water, and fermenting them in sunlight. However, only a few families go through this process at home these days while the majority buy factory-made doenjang. Among meat dishes, seasoned bulgogi (usually beef) and galbi (beef or pork rib) are most favored by both Koreans and foreigners.

Source: www.Korea.net
 
 
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