How different is South Korea from Japan or China?
Korea, China, and Japan may seem very similar to one another on the surface. However, if you have lived in all three countries, you'd know that there are actually a lot of differences. Not only the Korean culture different from the Chinese or Japanese culture but also the Korean economy, food, language, and politics are mainly unique.
Even though China's GDP is more than twice that of Korea's GDP and Japan's GDP combined, China is still considered a developing nation whereas Korea and Japan are considered as developed. (The population of China is more than seven times that of Korea and Japan combined. China is a big country in every way.) There are some similarities between the Korean language and the Chinese language or the Japanese language. But just because you speak one language does not mean you will understand the other languages like the way Spanish and Italian are spoken. (A Spanish speaker will understand some Italian without knowing any Italian at all.)
Then again, there are some similarities. The people of Korea celebrate the New Year in a similar fashion as the people of China and Japan around the same time of the year. All three countries have mediocre football teams (soccer teams). Each of the three countries has a very strong IT industry. Michael Jackson is beloved in all three countries, especially in South Korea.