Similarities between Korea and Japan

Following on from my list of Differences between Korea and Japan, which was the previous post


 Comics and cartoons are big industries

 Much trumpeting of the achievements of Japanese-American and Korean-American artists

Body language

 Making V signs at the camera

 Bowing

 Very little kissing and cuddling in public (or even in private in Japanese married couples, apparently)

 Come here and go away with hand in the opposite direction to British or American (in common with many other countries)

 A cutting gesture across your throat means that you are fired

Business and economy

 Local search and social networking companies are more popular than Google and Facebook

 Every company has cartoon characters (though the Korean ones are generally not cute at all)

 Famous for cars, computer chips, TVs and cameras

 The world’s biggest producer of ships at some point

 Business cards very important. They should be given and taken with two hands, studied carefully, put down on the table during the meeting, put into a dedicated business card holder, and not written on in front of anyone.

 Very strong links between business and government, including cheap loans to chosen areas for growth

 Conglomerates make loads of things you’ve probably never heard of back home, e.g. Mitsubishi pencils and Samsung cars

 The first burst of growth was partly due to American spending during a local war (the Korean War in the case of Japan and the Vietnam War in the case of Korea)

 Were granted privileged access to the American market due to political support during the Cold War

 Korean economy directly based on the Japanese model

 Big steel companies

 Most conglomerates have their own banks

 Lots of salaryman puke (but only in Korea is it usually pink)

 Emphasis on hard work more than efficiency

 Handing on of management to the younger generation of the family even when the family no longer own a majority of the shares (like News International)


 Prejudice against Chinese, even those who have lived there for generations (although probably more prejudice against Koreans in Japan)

 Chinese the largest minority

 Respect for traditional Chinese culture, but little respect for modern China

 Chinese food is either very cheap or very expensive

 China seen as both the biggest possible market and the biggest possible competition

 Much slagging off of China for ignoring copyright and producing cheap crap, apparently with no sense of history or irony

 Marine border problems with China (as well as with each other)


 Little sympathy when people from their country get killed in foreign places that they consider dangerous

 Little crime, mainly due to social pressure

 Powerful gangs (many yakuza in Japan are actually Korean)

 Few drugs


 What university you go to decides your life

 University is a break between the pressures of school and work

 Obsession with good university, including deciding which university to go to before deciding what to study there

 Most kids go to cram school

 TEFL diplomas unknown and MAs much more useful, even ones with no practical teaching component


 Babies strapped to the body

 Sleeping in the same bed, or at least room, as your parents

 Young kids spoiled

 Women around childbirth and very young babies are meant to very rarely leave the house

 Women are meant to avoid all physical movement before and after childbirth

Food and drink

 Microbrewers mainly influenced by German beer

 Eat-all-you-like buffet boom

 Rice is the main cereal

 Bread tends to be sweet

 Lots of pickling

 Plum brandy (umeshu in Japanese)

 Shochu/ Soju

 Different words for cooked and uncooked rice

 Curry (kare) that tastes like 1970s British tinned curry/ school meals curry

 “Western food” like omurice (omelette full of lots of rice, usually flavoured with ketchup)

 Not much speaking during meals

 Chopsticks

 At least some dishes that you help yourself to from the centre of the table

 Standards that appear at almost every meal (e.g. kimchi in Korea and miso soup in Japan)

 Soy sauce

 Sweet red bean jam and red bean cakes

 Little distinction between the three meals of the day, apart from the many people who now have bread and/ or cereal for breakfast

 MSG (invented by Japanese company Ajinomoto)

 Pouring drinks for each other, including pouring for more senior person first

 Rice usually in a separate bowl

– No clear distinction between sweet foods and savoury ones

Geography and weather

 Mountainous countries where most people live on the crowded plains

 Cold dry winters and hot humid summers

 Nearest to China, Taiwan, North Korea and Russia


 Doctors tell you little about what treatment they are giving you and why

 Always given far too many drugs

 Chinese medicine quite popular

Holidays and celebrations

 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays are big things with special celebrations

 Tanabata popular in both

 Valentine’s Day is when women give, not receive, and there is also White Day on 14 March (invented by the chocolate industry) when men are supposed to give stuff back

International relations

 Foreign relations dominated by the Americans, Chinese, Russians and each other

 Holidays in Hawaii, Guam and Saipan

 Weddings in Hawaii

 Emigration mainly to Hawaii and California

 American troops on their soil, and feeling very dubious about it

 Anti-Americanism popular at both extremes of the political spectrum

 “Model minority” in US

 Citizens kidnapped by North Koreans

 Biggest prejudice towards other Asians

 Ethnic Japanese and Koreans can get working visas more easily (e.g. ethnic Koreans from the former Soviet Union, Korean adoptees from America, and Nisei Japanese from Peru and Brazil)


 Large proportion of Konglish the same as Janglish

 si/ shi, di/ji, a/u, O/ or, b/v and r/l aren’t distinguishable in Japanese and Korean

 Postpositions rather than prepositions

 Counters (like many Asian countries)

 Many medical and scientific words borrowed from German rather than English (usually through Japanese)

 Both languages are kind of tonal but not really

 Vocabulary changes with formality

Men and women

 Limited career prospects for women

 Women have to wear uniforms in companies where men don’t, e.g. in banks

 The nape of the neck is traditionally considered one of the most sexually provocative parts of the body

 No tradition of men opening doors etc

 Women do more drink pouring

 Western food much more popular among women than men

 Women generally more well travelled than men, and more likely to study English


 A natural rightwing majority (although this is masked in Korea by the continued reactions against the dictatorship periods)

 Most newspapers rightwing (in common with most of the world)

Religion and superstitions

 Number four is bad luck because it sounds like the word for death (also the same in China)

 Chopsticks stuck into rice and passing things from chopsticks to chopsticks are taboo because they remind people of parts of a Buddhist funeral ceremony

 Very little religious conflict, though further back Confucians often tried to lessen the influence of Buddhists

 Most 19th century reformers were Christian

 Zen an important Buddhist sect

 Telling your fortune by blood group (apparently also in China)


 Suicide rates quite high

 Need to pay no refundable “key money” and have a guarantor when renting a flat

 Baseball is big

 Cheap cigarettes

More on this:

English made in Japan/ Korea and used in both

Similarities between Japanese and Korean Part One

Similarities between Japanese and Korean Part Two


  1. Lily said,

    November 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    An interesting list :)
    I suspect that the “yakuza <- Korean" point ought to have a little dotted line drawn up to the "prejudice against Koreans in Japan" (I mean as a cause of winding up in marginal employment like gangs, not as a cause of prejudice, though you do get a bit of a vicious cycle there).

    As for "Biggest prejudice towards other Asians," surely you don't mean that Koreans and Japanese are more prejudiced against Vietnamese or Chinese or each other than against black people, for example, because I am very sure that's not true. (At least, when it comes to true tests like making friends or dating or marriage. Cutting remarks may be more likely to keep it in the extended family, as it were.)

    What sounds are "a/u" supposed to represent? Not the IPA values; do you mean "a" as in father and the schwa sound?

    "Number four is bad luck because it sounds like the word for death (also the same in China)" To clarify, this comes from Chinese and occurs in both languages because of the vocabulary that they borrowed from Chinese.

    "Most 19th century reformers were Christian" I believe this is overstating the case for Japan. A few of them were.

  2. alexcase said,

    November 8, 2011 at 1:11 am

    /a/ and /u/ aren’t phonemic symbols in British English. I mean bat/but, hat/ hut.

    I’d agree with the comment about Christian reformers, although I was mainly thinking of liberal reformers and in that case they did have a suprising influence in Japan given the minimal influence of the religion nowadays when compared with Korea.

    The prejudice one is debateable. Certainly black Americans are top of the dating tree among some groups of Japanese girls, and some African guys seem to be doing quite well as well… However, if you can find me a Thai in Japan or Korea who thinks “Things would be much worse if I was black” I’d be willing to reconsider!

  3. Jeffrey said,

    November 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm

     Much trumpeting of the achievements of Japanese-American and Korean-American artists

    Says who? Examples?

    Though living in city on the West Coast with a sizable nisei and sansei population (similar to Chinese-Americans, the even larger Korean-American population pretty much keeps to itself), I don’t see or hear anything about Japanese-American artists.

    Otherwise, the numerous similarities you list aren’t particularly remarkable. In fact, given the history of NE Asia, it’s sort of like finding similarities between Canadians and Americans, leaving out the Quebecois of course.

  4. alexcase said,

    November 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    So, you can’t think of any Japanese-American artists whose main claim to fame is being bought by Japanese companies in the bubble years? Not much of an art fan, then?

    No idea of status amongst Japanese-Americans, this is about Japan itself.

    Never said the list was remarkable, it’s just a list.

  5. David said,

    May 2, 2018 at 3:38 am

    Basically, it sounds like the comparisons are just from the writers experience. I’m Korean and some of it sounds like made up and it is suppose to be comparisons between Japanese and Korean but most of them it can apply to any other countries; basic knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: