The contemporary culture of South Korea developed from the traditional culture of Korea which was prevalent in the early Korean nomadic tribes. By maintaining thousands of years of ancient Korean culture, with significant influences from ancient Chinese culture, South Korea split on its own path of cultural development away from North Korean culture since the division of Korea in 1945.

Historically, while the culture of Korea has been heavily influenced by that of neighboring China, it has nevertheless managed to develop a unique cultural identity that is distinct from its larger neighbor. Its rich and vibrant culture left 19 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the third largest in the world, along with 12 World Heritage Sites. The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs.

The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea, especially Seoul, have brought many changes to the way Korean people live. Changing economics and lifestyles have led to urbanization—a concentration of population in major cities (and depopulation of the rural countryside), with multi-generational households separating into nuclear family living arrangements. Today, many cultural elements from South Korea, especially popular culture, have also gained popularity outside of the country especially after the end of the military dictatorship in the early 1990s.