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Learn about Korean etiquette

First suggested by 25th World Scout Jamboree United Kingdom Contingent
Learn some Korean etiquette tips that'll be sure to impress with this true or false game.

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You’ll need

  • A copy of the true or false statements

Before you begin 

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. There's also more guidance to help you carry out your risk assessment, including examples. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers 

Setting up this activity 

  • If you want this to be an active activity, put up a sign saying ‘True’ on one side of the space and ‘False’ on opposite side of the space.

Quiz time! 

  1. Gather the group together in a circle and explain that they'll be doing a short quiz to learn about etiquette in South Korea. 
  2. Read out a statement and ask the group to think about whether it’s ‘True’ or ‘False’. 
  3. Once people have decided, they should then move to the ‘True’ sign or ‘False’ sheet, depending on which they think is the correct answer. 
  4. Once everyone has picked a side, reveal whether the statement was true or false.
  5. You can also run this activity to calm the young people by having them seated and voting true or false by show of hands.


True or false?


Always remove your shoes before entering a home in South Korea.


Even if your host says that you keep your shoes on in their home, it’s still generally a good idea to take them off at the area reserved for shoes. In ancient Korea, people would eat and sleep on the floor, so it was important to maintain the cleanliness of the house. In a modern Korean home, there are separate dining areas and bedrooms, but the practice still prevails. You should always remove your hat when indoors. All places of worship and some restaurants may also require you to remove your shoes too. 

You should always call someone by their first name in South Korea.  


People refer to each other formally in South Korea, so unless your close friends you shouldn’t call someone by their first name. Instead, refer to people by their title and surname, until they tell you otherwise. 

People in South Korea always eat their food with their hands.  


Cutlery is always used to eat almost every type of food. It’s best to avoid touching food with your fingers, except when wrapping food in lettuce or cabbage.

Koreans bow to those senior to them both as a greeting and a show of respect. 


Bowing is still the most common greeting among Koreans. The junior person initiates the bow, bending from the waist to an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees from vertical. A less accentuated bow is returned as acknowledgment from the more senior person. To show great respect during a handshake greeting, one may support the wrist of their right hand with their left as they shake. 

The youngest person should be the first one to start eating.   


When having a meal, wait for the elders in the room to hold their spoon first and start eating. Respect to elders has always been an important tradition in Korea. People also show respect for elders by heeding their advice, waiting for their input, using formal language, bowing to seniors, taking care of them in their old age, and conducting ceremonies in their memory after their deaths are some of the ways Koreans show respect for their elders. 

Always use your left hand to receive objects. 


Koreans tend to favour the right hand when touching others, exchanging objects etc. Using the left hand in a handshake can be perceived as bad luck, due to its connotations with negativity and death.  The energy of the right hand is considered more ‘yang’, which is characterised as positive, bright, and masculine. The left hand is more ‘yin’, an inward energy that is associated with femininity, darkness and coldness. For this reason, Koreans tend to favour the right hand when touching others or exchanging objects. Most Koreans won’t be bothered if you use the left hand by mistake. However, older Koreans and those in conventional or formal settings, such as business settings, may be offended. 

Avoid eye contact during conversations.


In Korea, it’s considered rude to look directly into someone's eyes during a conversation.

It’s common to sit on the floor to eat. 


In the past, most Korean households had people sit on the floor to eat their meals. This custom was prevalent under the pretext that sitting on the floor leads to a calm and peaceful state of mind and encourages a sense of belonging. 

You can point at things with your chopsticks. 


It’s impolite to point at anything with your chopsticks, but it is also considered quite rude to point at people in general in Korea. 

Avoid sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl. 


At Korean funerals, such as most Asian funerals, people normally stick incense sticks in pots filled with sand. It’s believed to remove unclean spirits and refresh the body and soul, linking the soul of the departed to the heavens. Sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl is reminiscent of that and suggests that you want the people around the table to die. When you’re not using your chopsticks, lay them on the table.

The number four is considered lucky. 


The number four is often considered unlucky, sometimes even ominous. This is because the pronunciation of the word 'four' and the Chinese character '' (meaning death) are similar. It’s also considered bad luck to select the fourth floor in an elevator - some buildings are even built without a fourth-floor button. 

Writing someone's name in red ink is considered unlucky. 


It’s bad luck to write someone’s name in red ink. Some people can be very superstitious as people often wrote the deceased’s name in red ink on registers and funeral banners. This is because it was believed that evil spirits hate red ink, so it would protect the person.

You should hold your rice bowl to your mouth while eating.


South Koreans never raise a rice bowl to their mouth. During a meal, bowls and dishes should remain on the table.

Objects, gifts and food should be offered and received with two hands.  


In Korea, it can be considered rude to use only one hand when receiving something. Therefore, when receiving something, make sure to take it with both hands. Alternately, you may use your right hand to receive while holding your right wrist with your left hand. It’s inconsiderate to give someone an expensive gift if you know that they can’t afford to reciprocate accordingly. Gifts should always be wrapped nicely in red or yellow paper, as these are royal colours. Alternatively, you can use colours that represent happiness: yellow or pink. 


This activity was all about Korean etiquette. Did you know any of these before playing the game?  

Learning about a country’s etiquette and rules is important, especially if you’re travelling there. Which one surprised you the most? How do they compare to where you’re from? Has this inspired you to learn about different country’s etiquette before visiting? 

Do you think people going to South Korea know these? How could they find out? Is there one you think is most important to remember?  


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

  • Make sure there’s a role for everyone. If anyone doesn’t want to play the game, they can take on another role, such as scorekeeping or reading out the etiquette statements. 
  • People could work in pairs if someone doesn’t want to do the activity independently or if someone may need more support by working together to take part. If someone might struggle with making decisions, their partner could then help them. If needed, let people be in bigger groups to make sure everyone’s supported in taking part in the activity. A young leader could join a group to help people to take part, too.
  • People who struggle with making choices could find all the options a bit overwhelming, so they might need extra support. They might want to work with a friend, young leader or volunteer to be able to help to decide.
  • Make sure to break information up into smaller 'chunks' so no one feels overwhelmed.
  • Take time and have patience while telling everyone what to do. Give short instructions clearly and concisely. If you need to, pause, then repeat the same instruction using the same words. You should allow extra 'thinking' time for some people to process verbal or written information and respond. 
  • Check for understanding by asking the group questions, such as ‘what do you need to do first?’, or having a practice round of a game. If people are struggling to understand or know what to do, you could let any confident young people help explain to each other what to do.
  • For anyone who may not be able to move around your meeting place easily, think about creating response cards for everyone. People can hold the response cards up to show their choice, instead of moving to different parts of your meeting place. If it’s tricky for everyone to hear the feeling being called out while moving around, this game could be played in a circle instead with the cards.
  • For anyone who may not be able to hear the instructions or activity, consider printing them a version that they can read at the same time.
  • Remember some people, including autistic people, might not look at you while you’re speaking. This doesn’t mean they're not listening. Eye contact can be painful for some people and shouldn't be forced.
  • Try to build movement breaks into your activities to help people who may struggling sitting and listening for long periods.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Take a look at our other World Scout Jamboree 2023 activities.  

If there’s someone in your group who is from South Korea, has family heritage there or who has visited and would like to share their experiences, make sure they have chance to do so