Despite the sharp political differences between North and South Korea, both countries have a common culture. This is based on a Confucian hierarchy and etiquette. Confucianism is more a social and political philosophy that is linked to a series of obligations and ceremonies, than a religion. Respect should be shown to forefathers and elderly. For example, it is not approved for a young person to take a seat rather than an older person. Also, as an older person enters a room, you should stand as a youngster. Order and learning is very important and ostentation is of no importance.
There are some days of importance. The hundredth birthday of a baby and the sixtieth anniversary are extensively celebrated. In the teachings of Confucius, women and children hold a low ranking. A woman must obey her husband and, if she is old, her son.
As a tourist it is not expected that you know everything, but showing respect in certain situations goes a long way. For Koreans, saluting is a sign of respect. Try to avoid indicating anything with the left hand. Even when Koreans shake hands with someone older, they support the right arm with the left hand.
When entering a house and traditional restaurants, shoes should be removed at the entrance. Koreans, especially North Koreans tend to keep their distance from people they do not know. That does not mean that they are impolite, and will always help if you ask for directions. In restaurants and nightlife people are very obliging. In interviews they will not go into issues such as the political situation, though as a tourist, any discussions with Koreans usually go through your guide anyway.
Korea has its' taboos, as does every place. One is that the Koreans - like the Chinese - should avoid using the word four (sa) because it can mean death. In some Korean buildings there will even be no fourth floor. Instead, the floor is indicated by the letter F. Koreans rarely refer to people as 'my friend', unless that person has been known to them for a long time and very well, everyone else is known as a good acquaintance. Friendship is no frivolous thing and is something intended to have longevity. If you as a foreigner return to North Korea for a second or third time, there is a chance that you will get the privilege of becoming an 'old friend'. The chance is increased if you're friendly and display respectful behaviour.