Tag Archive | "Culture"

Ten Useful Korean Dating Terms

By Sang Kim and Jenna Gibson

If you’ve ever been in Korea around Valentine’s Day (or Peppero Day, or Christmas), you know that Korean dating culture is no joke. To help you navigate the world of relationships in Korea, we’ve compiled a list of 10 useful Korean words to describe different aspects of dating and relationships.

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금사빠 – geum sah bbah

금방 사랑에 빠지다  / 금방 사랑에 빠지는 사람 (falling in love right away)

Similar to the phrase “love at first sight,” this abbreviated word is used to describe someone who falls in love very easily and quickly, but this phrase is different in a way a person falls in love too quickly and it does not last very long.

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품절남/품절녀 – pum jeol nam/pum jeol nyuh (sold out man/woman)

The literal translation is a male or female that is “sold out” and no longer available. This word is used when someone you find charming or popular is getting married or is already married.

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모쏠 – mo ssol

모태쏠로 (“solo from birth”)

Someone who was never in a romantic relationship in their entire life.

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초식남 – choshiknam (“herbivore man”) / 건어물녀 – gunomullyuh (“dried fish woman”)

Originated from a Japanese word 草食系, this word literally means “herbivore man.” It was initially used to describe men who are more sensitive and gentle/docile like herbivores, but now it is mostly used to describe guys who are not interested in dating or marriage. They would rather spend time and money on their self-improvement, fashion, and hobbies.

There many debatable theories behind why guys become 초식남. Some of the reasons include concerns for lack of personal life/hobbies when in relationships or once married, fatigue from relationships, financial affordability, or they simply just have no interest in dating.

Also originated from a Japanese word, 乾魚物女 from a 2003 comic, “Dried fish woman” is a female version of 초식남. This word refers to women who focus more on their career and have no desire to do anything else after work. Typical characteristics of 건어물녀 include, changing into a comfortable sweatpants/shirts after a long day at work, relaxing, watching TV and being a couch potato at home. They have no interest or desire in socializing (including dating) and would rather stay home alone.

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볼매 – bol mae

볼수록 매력있다 (the more you look, more charm)

This abbreviated word is used to describe when someone who has hidden charms. They might not be the most attractive person, but once you get to know them they are more attractive and charming.

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돌싱 – dol sing

돌아온 싱글 (returned single)

Someone who has gotten divorced and has “came back” to being single.

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밀당 – mil dang

밀고 당기다 (push and pull)

Every relationship needs a little push and pull. In the context of relationships, 밀당often means “playing hard to get.”

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썸 – ssum

Taken from the English word “something,” this describes the special something between two people who seem to have feelings for each other but haven’t taken the plunge and started dating.

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뇌섹남/뇌섹녀 – nwae saek nam/nwae saek nyeo

뇌가 섹시한 남자/여자 (“sexy brain man/woman”)

Someone who is attractive because of their smarts can be described as a뇌섹남 (male) or뇌섹녀 (female). This means a man or woman whose brain is sexy.

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남사친/여사친 – nam sa chin/yeo sa chin

남자 사람 친구/ 여자 사람 친구 (“male/female person friend”)

Literally translated, these two words mean “male person friend” and “female person friend.” You can use this to emphasize that the person is just a friend who happens to be a man or a woman, as opposed to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

If you liked this list, check out the other posts in our series of useful Korean words: 10 Useful Korean Slang Terms and Ten Korean Words that Don’t Exist in English.

Sang Kim is the Director of Public Affairs & Intern Coordinator. Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.

Image from 김문규’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons. Graphics by KEI’s Jenna Gibson.

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As Chinese Tourists Continue to Drop, Korea Turns to the Middle East

By Jenna Gibson

As several KEI analyses have shown, South Korea’s tourism industry  has been one of the main casualties of China’s economic retaliation over deployment of the THAAD missile defense system. New estimates from the Korea Tourism Organization show that China’s retaliation could cost Korea up to 5 million tourists this year, five times as many as when the MERS outbreak significantly dampened tourism in early 2015.

In June 2017, Korea saw a 36 percent drop in tourist entries, due in large part to a 66.4 percent decrease in Chinese visitors compared to June 2016. At that time, Chinese tourists made up 48.8 percent of all entries into Korea – a figure that’s now down to 25.7 percent.

But the numbers also reveal some good news that illuminate an important avenue for future growth in Korea’s tourism industry. While Chinese visitors continued to drop, the number of tourists from the Middle East have jumped significantly, recording a 71 percent increase from June 2016 to June 2017.

And, perhaps more importantly, tourists from the Middle East spend significantly more during their time in Korea than those from other areas, according to a study by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute. Their recent survey of tourists in Korea showed that Middle Eastern visitors spent an average of $2,593 each during their trip, followed by Chinese tourists at $2,059 each. The average for all visitors to Korea is significantly lower, at $1,625.

In order to cash in on this growing market, the Korean government and the tourism industry are focusing on providing more services for Middle Eastern tourists, including a push to increase the number of halal certified restaurants around the country. Just this month, 117 more restaurants received their halal certification, bringing the total to 252. In addition, many popular tourist attractions have added prayer rooms for their Muslim visitors, including Nami Island, Lotte World, and Coex Mall, as well as Incheon International Airport and Busan’s Gimhae International Airport.

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Part of the drive for more tourists from the Middle East choosing to visit Korea is the explosive popularity of Hallyu across the region. Take Iran, for example. There, fascination with Korean culture started back in the mid-2000s, when the historical drama ‘Dae Jang Geum’ was broadcast on state TV and garnered 86 percent ratings nationwide. In a 2017 report of the most popular shows on Netflix around the world, Iran was only one of two non-Asian countries to put a Korean drama (2012’s Love Rain) on the top of their queues.

In June, CJ E&M, Korea’s largest media company, said it will be opening a Turkish unit to increase its presence in Turkey, where locals can’t seem to get enough Korean cultural content. Considering that the filming sites of many popular Korean dramas have become popular tourist destinations, this increase in the popularity of Korean TV shows could lead to overseas fans travelling to Korea to see the spot where their favorite drama couple fell in love.

With the Korean tourism industry continuing to focus on enticing Middle Eastern visitors as well as tourists from all parts of the world, there is certainly an opening to offset some of the losses from the drop in Chinese tourism over the last year or so. But there is still a long way to go – even with the huge increase in visitors, Middle Eastern tourists still only make up around 1 percent of entries into Korea.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. 

Image from yadem.hayseed’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Five Documentaries About Life in North Korea

By Jenna Gibson

Life in North Korea is largely unknown to much of the outside world. The following five documentaries provide insight into the lives of North Koreans and the challenges faced by those who try to escape.

1. Under the Sun (Available on Netflix)

This is Pyongyang, presented virtually without comment.  By Russian documentarian Vitaly Mansky, Under the Sun was originally begun with the sanction of the North Korean government. Throughout filming, Mansky was able to hide additional footage, which eventually made up the final documentary. It shows the main subjects, a young girl and her family, recording scenes over and over, with a government official off-screen directing every word, every movement, every smile captured by the camera.

If there is one critique of this documentary, it is that the lack of explanation makes this film inaccessible for viewers who are not well-versed in what’s going on in the DPRK. When I mentioned this to a Russian-American friend, however, she pointed out that this film was made with a Russian audience in mind – an audience that would immediately recognize some of the details in staging that Americans may miss. In any case, this is certainly an interesting and unique look into what the North Korean regime wants the outside world to see.

2. Crossing Heaven’s Border

This Emmy-nominated documentary by a South Korean journalist follows the desperate journey of North Korean defectors fleeing to freedom. It’s one thing to read that defectors have to endure a harrowing journey, it’s another thing to watch them crawl through miles of dense jungle, desperately trying to escape detection.

The journalist released a book of the same name a few years later, giving more of the backstory of how he decided to follow this journey, and the difficulties he and his crew endured (not to mention the defectors they were trailing).

3. The Lovers and the Despot

Truth is stranger than fiction, particularly when North Korea is involved. And this may be one of the most bizarre stories of all, involving a kidnapped actress, her unsuccessful savior, and a movie-loving dictator.

Kim Jong-il was notorious for his love of movies, and directed many films over his lifetime.

In 1978, he decided that he needed new talent to star in his projects, and decided to lure prominent South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee to Hong Kong, where she was kidnapped by North Korean agents. Her ex-husband, South Korean director Shin Sang-ok, attempted to find her, and wound up in Pyongyang as well.

The most fascinating piece of this film is the actual recorded conversations between Kim Jong-il and his captives, which the two secretly recorded in part to prove that the crazy story of their disappearance truly did happen. This is a must-see for casual or more serious DPRK-watchers.

4. I am Sun Mu (Available on Netflix)

This film shows a very different side to the plight of the North Korean people – following a defector artist who is pushing back against the regime. Sun Mu (a psedonym that means “no boundaries”) was once a propaganda artist in North Korea. Now, after having escaped, he has turned his art into satire against the regime.

The film follows Sun Mu as he prepares for an art show in China, a bold and dangerous proposition considering the close ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. This documentary is must-see for casual and professional North Korea watchers alike.

5. Frontline – Secret State of North Korea

Using secret footage smuggled out of North Korea as well as defector and expert interviews, this film is aimed mainly for a general audience that may not know much about North Korea. A lot of the focus is on how North Korea has changed, including the emerging black market. This project is a great introduction into life in North Korea today.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Clay Gilliland’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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5 Interesting Documentaries about South Korea

By Jenna Gibson

Historically, local documentaries have not been that popular in South Korea – the first commercially successful documentary in the country was 2008’s “Old Partner,” which shattered domestic records just by attracting 100,000 viewers in the first few weeks after its release. Since then, more independent films have begun to crop up, telling real-life stories about different aspects of Korea. The five films below represent some of those stories.

1. Twinsters (2015)

Imagine waking up one day after living 25 years as an only child and finding out that you have an identical twin. This scenario is not just for dramatic soap operas – it really happened to two Korean adoptees. Twinsters follows Samantha Futerman, who grew up in the United States, and Anais Bordier, who grew up in France, as they get to know the twin they never knew they had. While this film is about the two women and their growing relationship, it also touches on broader themes related to international adoption and what culture and heritage means for these adoptees as they get older.

Available for streaming on Netflix.

 2. Reach for the Sky (2015)

The hyper-competitive Korean education system is not a new subject, but Reach for the Sky approaches it from a somewhat new angle – Repeaters. These students choose to spend a full year after their high school graduation focused only on improving their college entrance exam score with the hopes of getting into a better university. The film follows a group of these students throughout their repeating year, telling through them the story of a society where the name of your university can determine the course of your life.

Available for purchase (DVD and streaming) here: http://reachfortheskydoc.com/#

3. My Love, Don’t Cross that River (2014)

 This touching film about an elderly couple and their 76-year marriage was a smash success, becoming the most commercially successful independent film in Korea’s history. Slow-moving but never dull, the film lets the couple’s love speak for itself – like when 98-year-old Jo Byeong-man throws leaves on his wife while raking their yard, her exasperated response indicating that this has happened many times before. In this way, the film successfully portrays themes of love, family, and endurance without any need for narration or explanation.

Available for purchase (DVD and streaming) through Amazon Video.

4. The Battle of Chosin (2016)

This PBS special retells the pivotal Korean War battle of the Chosin Reservoir through the eyes of troops who fought there in 1950. Often known as the “Forgotten War,” the experiences during the Korean War nevertheless played a key role in shaping how Americans approached the world for the next 50 years. This film helps put the Chosin battle, and the experiences of the soldiers who fought there, into this wider perspective.

Available on the PBS website.

5. Even the Rivers (2015)

A brief but helpful introduction into some of the challenges faced by multicultural children in South Korea. Based on interviews with students, parents and teachers, this film touches on the ways Korea has become more multicultural, and what that means for the children who are growing up and going to school in a country that was, until very recently, entirely homogeneous.

Available to watch free on Vimeo – information on the film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eventherivers/

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Image from Epping Forest DC’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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For Koreans Its About More Than Valentine’s Day

By Junil Kim

Known equally for inducing both sighs and groans from hopeful and jaded people worldwide, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner on February 14th. If the mere thought of Valentine’s Day is more headache-inducing than swoon-worthy, you could consider the wider array of South Korea’s romantically themed holidays. It doesn’t take an exhaustive look into Korean pop culture to realize that Koreans are a fan of romance, as evidenced by these various holidays.

Valentine’s Day

Unlike America and other Western countries, Valentine’s Day in South Korea is largely a holiday when Korean women give chocolate to men, though it is similarly celebrated on February 14th. This tradition is similar to Japan’s version of Valentine’s Day, when Japanese women give “giri-choco” as a platonic gift and “honmei-choco” as an affectionate gift to male acquaintances. Due to this tradition, retailers will primarily target female shoppers. Couples will still typically celebrate the holiday together and it is not uncommon and sometimes expected for men to also treat women on Valentine’s Day.

White Day

White Day, which is celebrated a month after Valentine’s Day on March 14th in both South Korea and Japan, is the man’s turn to shower gifts on romantic partners. Although not a strictly kept tradition, the “rule of three” in reciprocal gift giving is normally applied to White Day, where the man should give a gift roughly three times the value his lover gave him on Valentine’s Day. As the name implies, gifts are typically white in color with white chocolate being the classic gift of choice.

Black Day

For those that are not as romantically fortunate, Black Day on April 14th is celebrated (or cursed) by Korean singles. Singles will traditionally congregate together and eat jjajang myeon, a Chinese-style Korean noodle dish covered in black bean sauce. The holiday is celebrated more in jest than in actual sorrow, though Black Day purists will assert that the day is reserved only for those that did not receive any gifts on Valentine’s Day and White Day. Despite restaurants and matchmaking services that pounce on the downbeat holiday, advertising for Black Day is lightyears away from the ever-present marketing efforts of retailers during Valentine’s Day and White Day.

Pepero Day

Perhaps the most baffling of South Korea’s romantic holidays is Pepero Day, which is named after the famous Korean chocolate covered snack. Due to its unmistakable stick shape, Pepero Day is celebrated on November 11th (11/11). Yonhap News reported that as much of half of Lotte’s annual Pepero sales come from the holiday. Convenience stores in particular benefit greatly from the holiday and display giant gift baskets of Pepero adorned with stuffed animals and fancy wrapping. Ambitious lovers will also make elaborate homemade versions of Pepero by dipping thin candy breadsticks in chocolate and covering them in decorations. The day and snack is also the source of some mild controversy due to its obvious similarities with the Japanese Pocky snack and associated holiday, which is also on November 11th.

If these holidays sound a bit excessive, keep in mind that there are other monthly couples days that occur on the 14th of the other calendar months. Although days like Kiss Day (June) and Hug Day (December) may not be as widely celebrated, Americans can rest easy this Valentine’s Day knowing that there is only one major romantic holiday to worry about.

Junil Kim is the Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Graphic by Jenna Gibson, Director of Communications, Korea Economic Institute of America. 

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Happy Halloween: Korea Shows a Growing Interest in the Spooky Holiday

By Jenna Gibson

 

Halloween as we know it in the United States is still not widely celebrated in South Korea. Trick or treating is limited to kindergarten parties and English hagwons, and you’re unlikely to see many jack-o-lanterns or skeletons decorating peoples’ homes.

But in recent years some parts of the holiday have been gaining momentum. In fact, according to a poll by online retail store Gmarket, 72 percent of Koreans are interested in attending a Halloween party – with 82 percent of those in their 20s saying they were interested in participating in festivities.

The problem? Despite the interest, 69 percent of respondents admitted that they had never actually celebrated Halloween.

Things may be looking up for the spooky holiday, though. This year, many stores, including Seoul’s Coex Mall are holding special events and sales for the holiday. Dunkin Donuts is releasing a special “Party Pack” featuring bat- and mummy-shaped donuts, and Holly’s Coffee has included a Halloween theme for its annual “friends and family sale.” For the first time, amusement park Lotte World will be turning its folk museum into a haunted house and holding a special “Halloween Hip-Hop Night Party” on October 30 that will run until 5:00am on the 31st.

The Seoul city government is even getting in on the fun, hosting a Halloween dance party along the Han River where guests are encouraged to dress in traditional Korean outfits (hanbok). According to a city official, this party is a way to “interpret Halloween – a Western festivity – in a Korean way.”

Online, the Halloween spirit continues. “해피 할로윈” (“Happy Halloween”) was a global trending topic on Twitter throughout the day, thanks in part to SM Entertainment, which held its annual Halloween party this week featuring many of the biggest names in K-pop decked out elaborate costumes.

 

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Clearly there is plenty of interest in Halloween among Koreans, but there are certainly some obstacles that remain. One scary part of Halloween in Korea has nothing to do with ghosts and goblins – it has to do with the outrageous prices for kids’ costumes. A JTBC News video shows outfits online going for upwards of $500. A store-bought Elsa costume for Frozen fans will run close to $100. One concerned mother explained that she felt pressure to buy these expensive costumes for her child because other mothers would be doing so.

One other interesting obstacle could be cultural difference. In Korea, summer is the season for horror. Most horror movies plan their releases for July and August with the idea that scary stories can give people a chill to help cool them down during the hot summer months. On the other hand, because of pagan and Christian religious traditions of honoring the dead in late October and early November, most Westerners consider fall to be the time to celebrate all things haunted.

Clearly there is a lot of interest among Koreans in learning more about Halloween and celebrating the holiday. But with more and more outlets embracing the spooky theme, perhaps we will see Halloween become mainstream in Korea in the near future.

Jenna Gibson is the Associate Director for Communication Technology and Programs at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. KEI intern Juni Kim contributed to the infographic in this post.

Photo from tracy ducasse’s photostream on Flickr Creative Commons.

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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.