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I have been living in two different worlds, between Korean and American 문화(moon-hwa:culture), since I met my husband. I am a native Korean and my 남편(nam-pyoen: husband) is an American. People say that it is normal for married couples to learn about their partner’s peculiarities in the beginning of 결혼(kyoel-hon: marriage). I started to realize that my husband and I often think and act quite differently, especially in social settings. Despite being married to someone from another culture for over a decade, there are parts of American culture that are still foreign to me.

One of these is the culture of social interaction in America, such as engaging in 한담(han-dam: small talk), or smiling with 시선맞추기 (si-sun-maht-choo-gee: eye contact). I got accustomed to this culture now, so  I don’t need to think too hard on this subject. In fact, I quite often enjoy making small talk with new people in different social settings. To look back, my 내성적인 성격(nae-seong-juk-in-seong-kyuk: introverted personality) might have been attributed to my social relationship skills in the beginning. There was a time that I had to put effort to feel comfortable with this culture since I didn’t grow up without a concept of small talk culture in Korea.

When I was in Seoul, I often took the 지하철(ji-hah-cheol: subway) or buses to go to school since the public transportation system of Korea is incredibly convenient and affordable. Although you would hardly find social interaction inside the subway. People usually look at their phones or doze off. People in a subway don’t talk to each other, particularly if they are a younger generation. Even if you smile to someone, people might respond with a blank face. Or, it is possible that they think that you are 집적 거리다(jib-juk-goe-ree-dah: flirting with someone). Although most people would be friendly and nice once you initiate a conversation in Korean, it can bring an unfriendly vibe to foreigners. It is not natural for most Koreans to initiate small talk with strangers in public. At least, it wasn’t for me.

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All of this may come from different cultural values. When you look at someone straight into their eyes while in conversation, Koreans might take it as 공격적(gong-kyuk-juk: offensive). If you talk to the elderly, it is 무례하다(moo-rae-hah-dah: disrespectful) to look into their eyes while you are talking. Koreans also value less talking, believing that to be the more prudent behavior. Therefore, the culture of small talk may be perceived as being a 수다쟁이(soo-dah-jang-ee: chatty person).

Image by Pixabay

The other difference that I have noticed in American culture is the social value in speaking your mind freely. I think most Americans prefer to speak freely in order to have clear communication and honesty. This individuality is respected in American culture.

It is a good thing to speak your mind clearly, but it can be misinterpreted as arrogance in Korean culture. For example, when a host asks you what you want to eat, most Koreans would say “아무거나요. (ah-moo-goe-nah-yo: anything, please.) It is considered to be 예의바른 (yeo-uei-bah-roon: polite) not to respond with a specific demand or request, However, it is acceptable to pronounce your personal preference to a host in America.

As another example, at work people would understand if you decline a company party or other social gatherings. It depends on the situation, but people at work would not likely 째려보다(jja-ryae-boh-dah: give you a dirty look) nor think you are being difficult. However, you might want to reconsider not joining a social gathering from work in Korea. It is important to participate in social gatherings at work to maintain camaraderie. The ideology of collectivism is still prevalent over individualism in Korea, even if the culture of the younger generation is leaning towards individualism.

My opinions about these two different cultures may be affected by my own personal experiences and personality. Some might disagree with my opinion, but this is how I have been looking at the cultural differences in Korea and America.

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God - Dear Mother (어머님께) (Missing You Dvd's Set) (Eng Sub) - YouTube

Did you know that songs you hum in the shower can tell you how old you are? My favorite shower song is ‘어머님께’ (To Mother) by 지오디 (g.o.d.). This male group band has been loved by Koreans since 1999. They have other popular songs, but I love ‘어머님께’. Somehow, the melody of this song gets stuck in my head when I am in the shower. Today, I am going to translate part of the song for you. You may understand why I enjoy humming the song in the shower.

To help you understand better the context of the song, Ja-Jang-Myeon is not traditional Korean food, but it is one of the most popular dishes in Korea. Koreans consider it 서민음식(Seo-Min-Eum-sik: food that most people eat). It’s affordable and simple food. However, the lyrics indicate that his family couldn’t afford two bowls of the noodle dish for both him and his mother because they were so poor. In this song, he is reminiscing after his mother’s death.

어머님, (Mother,) 보고 싶어요 (I miss you.)

 

어려서 부터 우리 집은 가난했었고 (My family was poor since I was young.)

 

남들 다하는 외식 몇 번 한적이 없었고 (We had never eaten out like all others do.)

 

일터에 나가신 어머니 집에 없으면 (When my mom went out for work,)

 

언제나 혼자서 끊여 먹었던 라면  (I was always left alone and I ate instant Ramen noodles.)

 

그러자 라면이 너무 지겨웠어 (And then, I got sick of eating the same Ramen every day.)

 

맛있는 것 좀 먹자고 대들었어. (So, I snapped at my mom and yelled at her that I wanted to eat something tasty.)

 

그러자, 어머님이 마지 못해 꺼내신 숨겨두신 비상금으로 시켜주신

 (Then, my mom reluctantly took out her secret stash of cash and ordered Ja-Jang-Myeon.)

 

자장면 하나에 너무나 행복해었고 (I was so happy just because of a bowl of Ja-Jang-Myeon.)

 

하지만 어머님은 왠지 드시지않아어 (But, my mom didn’t even touch the bowl for some reason.)

 

어머님은 자장면이 싫다고 하셨어 (My mom said she hated Ja-Jang-Myeon.)

 

어머님은 자장면이 싫다고 하셨어 (My mom said she hated Ja-Jang-Myeon.)

 

야이야아아 (yah-yee-yah-ah-ah)

 

그렇게 살아 가고 (We had been living like that.)

 

그렇게 후회하고 눈물도 흘리고 (I was regretting and shedding tears.)

 

야아이야아 (yah-yee-yah-ah-ah)

 

그렇게 살아가고 너무나 아프고 하지만 다시웃고 (We had been living like that. Life had been too painful, but we laughed again.)

          …

 

Image by Pixabay

Hos did you like this song?

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I was talking to my best friend little after Chinese New Year’s Day. She reflected how tough the last three years had been. She was wishing that this coming year would be a lucky year since she is a dog in Chinese zodiac characters.

In Korea, we celebrate the New Year’s Day by following the Chinese lunar calendar system. Not everyone in Korea believes in신년운세(shin-nyun-woon-sae: fortune telling for a new year), but many people would want to predict fortune, at least for fun.

In Chinese zodiac characters, there are twelve animals representing each year. and these animals circulate in a specific order. For example, this year is a year of pig and it will take another 11 years to be a year of pig again. Your luck of a new year depends on what Chinese zodiac sign you are. For instance, my friend is a dog in Chinese zodiac characters and 2019 is a starting fresh year for dogs after three-years of tough times. As you see, your luck is based on which Chinese zodiac character you are. In other words, the interpretation of harmonious relationships between the zodiac animal of a new year and yours will determine how lucky you will be.

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According to my brief internet research, this year is supposed to be a blessed year for tigers, rabbits, sheep and mice as Chinese zodiac signs. Although this particular year, 2019, is supposed to be a special year for those animals since it is a year of golden pig, which only returns every 60 years. If you are those lucky animals in 2019, I guess you can enjoy your time. However, I guess you have to be cautious and get ready for life hardships, if you are dragons, snakes and horses because those animals will be entering in time of 삼재(sam-jae: bad three years).

What is Bad Three Years?

As I stated, my friend rationalized that she would be lucky in 2019 because her Chinese zodiac sign was out of 삼재(sam-jae: bad three years.) timeframe. She assumed that she would be lucky in the new year because she had supposedly paid her dues for being unlucky for the last three years.  Her Chinese zodiac character should bring good luck in a year of golden pig.

To be honest, I don’t know how 삼재 works and why it counts as a three-year timeframe. Within my knowledge, it basically means three successive bad years in your life based on the harmony between your zodiac sign and the animal of a new year. When your Chinese zodiac character enters in 삼재 timeframe, it is supposed to be inevitable and you have to suffer for three years. Things won’t go well for those who are in 삼재, such as experiencing failure in business, health issues, even horrible familial disasters. Some people who truly believe in this are willing to pay for fortunetellers, so they can avoid life’s misfortunes as much as possible.

I believe this concept is derived from Buddhism. Neither my friend and I am a Buddhist, but we understand the concept because it is a part of Korean culture.

Image by Pixabay

According to the theory, I was supposed to have bad three years because my Chinese Zodiac sign is a dog as well. Did I have successive misfortune during the last three years? Not really. In fact, I think I had the time of my life. I guess it depends on how you see your life.

There are many belief systems in the world. It is universal that people wish good luck throughout all the years. Things happen in life and we sometimes have to go through bad things. However, I truly believe it is dependent on how I see and react to those life problems. Would I let my fortune teller dictate my life or would I dare to be courageous and execute my plans regardless? It is up to me. Believing obliviously what your fortune teller says can limit your life options. Life is made of choices we make every day, and I know I am the only one who can make my luck whether it is a lucky year or not.

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When I visited Korea last time, I met my childhood friends who I hadn’t seen for a long time. As soon as we settled down on the table, we all became chatty as if we were in a talking competition. One of my dear friends started talking about how tiring and unhappy she had been from her work. She said that she had to prepare a big familial event for her boss every day after work over weeks. It was a funeral for her boss’s parents. Her time and efforts on preparing the funeral, of course, was not billed towards her working hours. I was a bit confused after listening her story. I had to ask her why she was the one who had to prepare the funeral, not her boss. She said, “I am a powerless ‘을(Eul)’ who needs to obey to ‘갑(Gap).’ There would be consequences if she said “no” to the given task. Sadly, this is an example of 갑질문화(Gap-Jil-Moon-Haw: The culture of exploiting status and position in Korea).

Image by Pixabay

What is 갑질문화?

Before I explain to you what 갑질문화 is, please allow me to review some legal terms with you. It is common to find jargon such as, 갑 and 을 in Korean legal paperwork. These are pronouns which substitute for the legal parties’ full name. 갑 usually means a potential employer, whereas 을 means a future employee in most legal documents.

However, the meaning of 갑 from the above conversation was stretched to a party who owns 을 in terms of a socioeconomical status. To an extent, 을 can indicate as a slave in the twenty-first century, depending upon the severity of 갑’s unreasonable requests. 갑 tend to be impudent to their subordinates because they think their rank at work (or any other hierarchical environments)  gives them immunity for their ignorant behaviors.

‘-질’ is a suffix indicating an act of doing something.  Therefore, 갑질(Gap-Jil) means 갑 act like they can do whatever they want, including ordering 을 to do something out of their scope of responsibility at work. 문화(moon-hwa : the culture) means a culture. Therefore, 갑집문화 interprets as a culture of playing gap, bossing somebody around.

 

The History of 갑질문화

What is the origin of 갑질문화 ? I believe that it derives from a famous situation on an airline in 2014. This event even has a name, so-called “땅콩리턴”(Ttang-kong-return: “peanut return”) and it shook the Korean peninsula profoundly.

The story begins with an aircraft returning to the original gate before taking off not on a regular schedule because a daughter of Korean Air owner wasn’t quite satisfied with the quality of in-flight service. A flight attendant brought to her an unopened package of macadamia nuts, instead of serving them in a warm porcelain bowl. She overrode 항공법(hang-gong-bup: the civil aeronautics law) by forcefully ordering a pilot to return the aircraft back to the gate, in order to remove the senior flight attendant, who served the unopened macadamia package.

However, the real problem didn’t just end here. Korean Air justified the daughter’s behavior and made the flight attendants apologize to her due to their poor quality of service. The story spread out to every corner of the country. People who heard this story became outraged and furious and wondered how such things could happen in modern times. This event forced many to reexamine their own lives and behavior. Had they been treating others unfairly?

Image by Pixabay

What now?

I believe 갑질문화 is an unfortunate by-product of materialism, which can sicken many other societies in the world. I am utterly saddened that my family and friends, including me, might have been dealing with this ugly part of our culture without realizing it.

Many Koreans are aware of the seriousness of갑질문화 and we all know it needs to be eradicated sooner or later. I am hopeful that this might be a chance for Koreans to turn history upside down in order to make a better place to live. Because, facing the ugliness of truth is usually a good starting point before a new history is written.

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Since we talked about common mistakes made by Koreans in January, we are going to look at more frequent mistakes. Pay close attention to each word I am going to use as examples below since they are mistakes made in written Korean rather than in spoke Korean. I did my best to explain, but I admit that below examples are confusing to understand at first because some of them even deliver the same message without letting listeners know mistakes made by speakers. However, they should be spelled correctly since they may carry different nuances in written Korean. If you are a grammar geek, this post might sound intriguing. If you are not, hang in there. We only have three mistakes to look at this time. You might be surprised by what you learn today.

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  1. 이따 있다

From our January post, you might remember that I once had to take a Korean grammar test for a job. This was one of the questions I got wrong from the test. As a native Korean, I believed in the standard rule of Korean spelling, which doesn’t usually follow a phonetic system. What I mean by that is you simply don’t write Korean words as they sound. As an example, most Koreans, including me, would think the correct spelling of ‘이따’ as below:

여보, 5분 있다 깨워 줘. (yeo-boh, oh-bun-it-dah-kkae-war-jo: Honey, wake me up after 5 minutes.)

However, I was very wrong on the test. The correct spelling should be written as:

여보, 5분 이따 깨워 줘. (yeo-boh, oh-bun-ee-ttah-kkae-war-jo: Honey, wake me up after 5 minutes.)

‘이따’ means later or after a while. On the other hand, ‘있다’ is a verb indicating ‘be’. When I chose an answer for this question, I thought 이따 sounded wrong because it was written as it sounded. However, 이따 was the correct word for this sentence. Let me give you another common phrase to help you understand this better.

이따 전화할게 (ee-ttah-jeon-hwa-hal-kkae: I will call you later.) is correct.

Instead of saying,

있다 전화할게. (it-dah–jeon-hwa-hal-kkae: I will call you later.) is wrong because the spelling of  “있다” is

incorrect.

To be honest, no one would know if you mean to say 있다 전화할게, instead of이따 전화할게 in spoken Korean because they sound exactly same. Thus, either of them delivers the same meaning to the listeners. Just be careful when you write the sentence using the correct spelling, especially in formal writing.

  1. 어떻게 vs 어떡해

You probably noticed that Koreans say these two words interchangeably, since they sound very similar. They even indicate the same meaning whether you say correctly or nor in spoken Korean. However, they should be spelled differently since they are technically different words. In fact, 어떻게 is a single word, which is an adverb indicating ‘how’ or ‘what’.

For instance, you can say:

김밥을 어떻게 만들지? (kim-bob-eul-ugh-ttuk-hae-man-dul-ji?: how do I make Kim-bob?)

On the other hand, 어떡해 is a phrase, which is short for “어떻게 해”. Therefore, 어떡해 can’t be used as a descriptive word.

나 어떡해? (nah-ugh-ttuk-hae?: What am I supposed to do?)

Or you can say,

나 어떻게  해? (nah-ugh-ttuk-gae-hae?: How am I supposed to do?)

However, it is wrong to spell as below because it is not a complete sentence.

나 어떻해 (nah-ugh-ttuk-hae?)

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  1. 가르치다 vs 가리키다

These two words sound different and they mean different. Although this is a frequent mistake that most Koreans make daily basis. I believe many Koreans may be aware that they are using them incorrectly because the difference between these two words have been taught in Korean classes throughout school years.

가르치다 means to teach, to instruct. For instance,

내 친구는 국어를 가르치는 선생님이다. (nae- chin-goo-nun-kook-uh-rul-gah-rue-chi-nun-sun-sang-nim-ee-dah: my friend is a teacher, who teaches Korean.)

Typically, people say:

치다(wrong), instead 가치다 (correct)

 

가리키다 means to indicate, to point out. For instance,

나는 손으로 건물을 가리켰다. (nah-nun-son-eui-ro-gun-mool-eul-gah-ree-ket-dah: I pointed out the building with my hand)

 

Typically, people say:

키다(wrong) instead of 가키다 (correct)

Congratulation! You are still with me and you reviewed all three examples today. I know your brain worked hard to digest all, but don’t get stressed over these examples. Just be aware that there are such mistakes exist out there. Be prepared to make a lot of mistakes until you can engrave them in your head. A language is a tool to communicate, not to test your spelling skills. However, recognizing your mistakes will help you be a better language learner than those who don’t even aware of their mistakes.

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Kimchi is one of most common topics of interest that people bring up when I introduce myself as being a native Korean. Most people I have met expressed their love for the spicy cabbage food from Korea.  Although I admit that Kimchi is a kind of food where you either love it, or you hate it because of its spiciness and rather unforgettable odor. When I was in college, I had a roommate who freaked out because of the strong smell from our refrigerator. I could tell he hated it at first, but kimchi somehow slowly grew on him. By the time when I left the dormitory, he surprised me by asking me where to get them.

I personally like freshly made kimchi because I like the crunchiness from the cabbage. However, fermented kimchi contain a lot more minerals and probiotics than the freshly made types. These strengthen your digestive and immune system. Traditionally, people used to dig the ground and bury big pots of kimchi to get them fermented for a couple months. I think this way is organic and healthy, but it takes a lot of effort.

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In my grandmother’s time, all the housewives in the neighborhood would gather around to make kimchi during 김장철(kim-jang-chul: a special season when Koreans make kimchi, approximately from late fall to early winter). While the women made kimchi, men in the neighborhood started digging the ground to bury it for the fermentation process. At the end of all this intensive labor, everyone could bring their shares to home. What teamwork!

I haven’t watched it, but someone told me that on the TV show MASH they showed how Koreans used to make kimchi in this traditional way.

Image by Pixabay

Nowadays, most young Koreans I know buy kimchi from stores because it takes tremendous effort and time to make kimchi at home. In fact, most Koreans have a 김치냉장고(Kimchi-Nang-jang-go: a specially designed refrigerator for kimchi. With it, they can control the speed and the quality of fermentation process without digging up the ground in the winter.

Since I have been living outside of Korea over a decade, I don’t have easy access to kimchi. My husband and I occasionally want to make some Korean food for dinner, which involves several trips to different stores to buy all the ingredients, including a jar of store-bought kimchi from an oriental grocery store. I am grateful that I can get kimchi in this way, but I often wish I could get different kimchi since there are so many varieties of kimchi.

For instance, I want some 열무김치(yul-moo-kimchi: kimchi made of young radish), and 오이김치(oh-ee-kimchi: kimchi made of cucumber) for 냉면(nang-myeon: a delicious cold noodle dish) which is so refreshing in summer. Or I want some 동치미(dong-chi-mi: a non-spicy kimchi with radish juice) in the winter because 동치미 helps with 입가심(ip-gah-sim: to remove garlicy or other strong food taste after meals).

Image by Pixabay

Regardless of the season, you’ll get the best out of 배추김치 (bae-choo-kimchi: the most common kimchi, made of cabbage) if you grill them first and wrap with barbeque meat, particularly with 삼겹살(sam-gyup-sal: a Korean style bacon). Oh, yum. Try it next time when you happen to go to Korean BBQ restaurants. You won’t regret it.

In fact, my experience in kimchi is probably limited since I am from just one area of Korea. There are more than 30 different kinds of kimchi from Korea. Each providence in Korea has different local produces to make their own authentic kimchi.

Kimchi can leave a strong first impression whether it is a positive or negative, but I strongly recommend you give it a try. I personally need to muster up courage to try some other authentic food as well, but I would never know unless I try it. Who knows? You might be sucked into the “kimchi blackhole” like my ex-roommate.

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You might think, “What kind of a question is that?” “Silverspoon” is a fairly new term, but it has been widely used in Korean society since 2015. It is a sarcastic metaphor to describe a financial/socioeconomic status of people in Korea. 은수저(eun-soo-jeo:a spoon made of silver) and 흙수저(huk-soo-jeo: a spoon made of mud) are, in fact, listed in Korean dictionaries.

What is a Spoon Class Theory?

Spoon class theory is recent, but an actual phenomenon in South Korea. Unfortunately, it is used to (culturally) categorize people by how successful their parents have been. For instance, if your parents are at a high socioeconomic status, then you would be likely be called as금수저 (geum-soo-jeo: a spoon made of gold, indicating 1% of wealthy and powerful people),  or 은수저(eun-soo-jeo:a spoon made of silver).

It derives from an analogy of European nobles, who were fed with a silver spoon by their nannies. The more financially powerful your parents, the more valuable spoon you would be fed with. Therefore, it goes from a gold spoon, silver spoon, and bronze spoon to, finally, the least valuable spoon, so-called 흙수저(huk-soo-jeo: a spoon made of mud) Figuratively, then, if your parents are poor, you would likely get fed with 흙수저.

Image by Pixabay

Why is this theory gaining popularity in Korean society?

부익부 빈익빈(boo-eek-boo bean-eek-bean: the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer)  has been a common sentiment in Korean society for a while, but 주범(joo-bum: the main culprit) of this phenomenon is 청년실업(cheong-nyun-sil-up: the rate of young adult unemployment). Children who have wealthy and powerful parents can get a better paying job faster and easier than those who can’t get help from their parents. This social condition, on top of a stagnant economy, has been plaguing Korea for a long time.

 

What is the background culture of the Spoon Class Theory?

To a moderate extent, it is socially acceptable to get parents’ assistance, even for adult children. Married children may also get financial help from their parents if the parents can afford it. Having rich parents are seen as glorified and worshiped by media. For instance, some Korean parents are willing to purchase homes or cars for their young adult children. Or they will pay for their extended education since higher education is usually associated with promising careers. While this rule doesn’t apply to everyone, of course, wealth and social power are somewhat expected to be inherited to their children. I think this culture exists in many countries, but it is more prominent in Asian countries.

Because parental support in Korea is common, some can start building their life with a little easier and faster than those who can’t get help from their parents. Thus, some Koreans may believe that a person’s life can be affected by their parents’ socioeconomic status.

New Paradigm need to be implemented

There is a Korean proverb saying, 개천에서 용난다. (gae-chu-eeh-seo-yong-nan-dah: you can be successful if you work hard, even if you are from a poor household). However, this proverb may sound too outdated to some of you after knowing the spoon class theory. The phenomenon can be bleak, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be.

No one can choose his or her parents. One’s parents’ socioeconomic status shouldn’t be a major barometer to determine what kind of person he/she is. Instead of considering what kind of spoon I have, it is better to consider what kind of spoon I can make for myself to drive my own life. Furthermore, I believe that to be resilient in life and being wise in utilizing given resources whether they are bountiful or limited, are the keys to success. Life can throw a curveball to anyone at any time.

Image by Pixabay

I cheer for many young people in Korea to have more courage in facing their reality, and to keep fighting for what they want in life. I also hope many people respect everyone’s capabilities regardless of the spoon they eat from.

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I once had to take a Korean language test for work. The test aimed to evaluate my grammar skills in written Korean. I did fine in Korean classes in school, so I blindly thought that I should pass the test. However, I failed the test. I was little embarrassed to tell anyone because I have been speaking Korean all my life even though I am not a professional linguist. As a purpose of taking a test is to help test-takers to learn, I learned a lot from the test. Since then, I try to write accurate Korean even when I text to friends.

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Believe or not, I sometimes use a dictionary to make sure my grammar is correct. Since spacing words incorrectly can change the meaning, my focus in checking grammar is to review spacing words.

  1. 한잔 vs 한 잔

Most Koreans I know enjoy drinking after work. It is common in Korea to grab a beer with co-workers after work and most Koreans find camaraderie from attending 회식(Hweo-sik: employee afterwork gathering/party). If you work with Koreans, one of your co-workers might ask you to have some drinks after work. They might ask you a phrase like “한잔 할래? (han-jan-hal-rae?: do you want to grab a drink?”) It is literally translated “do you want a cup of glass?”, which asks you if you want to have a couple of drinks with them.

Here ‘한잔’ can be used interchangeably with ‘한 잔’by most native Koreans. However, ‘한잔’ is a correct word when you ask someone to join drinking with you.

In fact, ‘한잔’ is one word and it is a noun. It literally means a small amount of beverage, especially alcohol or tea, but it is replaced as ‘drinking’. Therefore “한잔 할래?” is translated as “do you want to drink?

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  1. 마시다 vs 먹다

My husband, who is not a native Korean, often corrects me when I say “물 먹다.”(Mool-mok-dah: eat water) No one had ever pointed out this mistake until my husband did because many Koreans would use 먹다(mok-dah: to eat) interchangeably with 마시다(mah-si-dah: to drink). Especially, when referring to drinking water.

Although my husband is technically correct. 마시다 means to drink, not to eat. You drink water, not eat water. Therefore, I should say “ 물 마시다.(mool-mah-si-dah: drink water)”  Instead “물 먹다. (Mool-mok-dah: eat water)” I would never have noticed that I’ve been speaking incorrectly until this foreigner corrected me.

  1. 안 된다 vs 안된다

This is another common mistake related to spacing words. If you look it up a dictionary, ‘안 된다’ has many meanings, such as:

 should not (do), ought not to, shall not, don‘t, be forbidden/prohibited, be not allowed, be not supposed to, etc.

As you noticed, the underlying concept of ‘안 된다’ is ‘must not’ or ‘be not supposed to.  Let’s take examples:

  • 빨간불에 길을 건너면 안 된다. (Ppal-gahn-bul-eh-gil-eul-gun-nuh-myeon-ahn-doen-dah: you must not cross the street when the red light is on.)
  • 소화가 잘 안 된다. (so-hwa-ga-jaal-an-deon-dah: I can’t digest well.)

On the other hand, ‘안된다’ can be used in a couple of different situations. The first case is to describe when things/situations are not good. For example,

  • 경기가 안 좋아서 장사가 잘 안된다. (Gyung-gi-ga-anh-joe-ahh-seo-jang-sah-ga-jal-anh-doen-dah: business is bad because of bad economy.)

Secondly, 안된다 can be used when you describe how well someone’s child doing (at something). If child/children are not doing well/being successful (at something), you can use 안된다. As an example,

  • 자식이 안되기를 바라는 부모는 없다. (jah-sik-ee-anh-deo-ghi-lul-bah-rah-nun-boo-moh-nun-up-dah: there are no parents who wish bad things for their children.)

Learning from mistakes, whether it is yours or others’, is one of the most efficient ways to learn a foreign language. The good news is that you don’t need to worry about all these nitty-gritty Korean grammars because many Koreans may not even know they are making mistakes every day.

Glossary

  • 회식(Hweo-sik: employee afterwork gathering/party)
  • 한잔 할래? (han-jan-hal-rae?: do you want to grab a beer/other alcohol?)

하다:do

  • 물 먹다.”(Mool-mok-dah: eat water)

물:water

  • 물 마시다.(mool-mah-si-dah: drink water)
  • 빨간불에 길을 건너면 안 된다. (Ppal-gahn-bul-eh-gil-eul-gun-nuh-myeon-ahn-doen-dah: you must not cross the street when the red light is on.)

빨간불: red light

건너다: cross the street

  • 경기가 안 좋아서 장사가 잘 안된다. (Gyung-gi-ga-anh-joe-ahh-seo-jang-sah-ga-jal-anh-doen-dah: business is bad because of bad economy.)

경기:economy

장사: (personal) business

  • 소화가 잘 안 된다. (so-hwa-ga-jaal-an-deon-dah: I can’t digest well.)

소화:digestion

잘:well

  • 자식이 안되기를 바라는 부모는 없다. (jah-sik-ee-anh-deo-ghi-lul-bah-rah-nun-boo-moh-nun-up-dah: there are no parents who wish bad things for their children.)

자식: children

부모:parents

바라다:wish

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This statement might sound inaccurate to some skilled cooks out there, but I believe most Korean food 손이 많이 간다.(sohn-ee-mani-ganh-dah: is a painstaking task). As effortful as it may be to prepare, Korean food has the power to bring people together. I will introduce you some of my favorite Korean food that you can enjoy with your loved ones.

만두(Manh-doo: Korean style dumpling)

This is one of my favorite Korean dishes. I don’t make 만두at home often, but I can proudly say that my 만두 dish is authentic because they are homemade from scratch, including 만두피(manh-doo-pee: Mandoo wrappers). Traditionally, the stuffing is prepared with ground meat, 당면 (dang-myeon: Korean sweet potato noodle) and vegetables. Then, you make thin round shapes of Mandoo wrappers out of flour dough. It takes time and effort regardless of how much 만두 you plan to make. Thus, most Koreans I know, nowadays, buy pre-made wrappers from the store.

After your wrappers are ready to be used, you might want to grab a chair because it is a time-consuming task. Note that one piece of 만두 is usually only one or two bites, and one cup of flour can produce at least 50 wrappers according to my recipe.

I remember my grandmother, my aunts, and my mom used to sit around a big bowl of 만두 stuffing to make hundreds of 만두 for a holiday menu. I joined this club as I got older. If it is going to take time to make food, I might as well enjoy making them with my loved ones.

코리안 바베큐(Korean barbeque: Korean style of grilling meat)

Oh, who doesn’t like Korean BBQ? This mouthwatering sweet and savory meat dish has been loved by Koreans, even by many foreigners. It is also a fun dinner menu option when gathering family and friends. People sit around charcoal grills and 이야기 꽂을 피우다(ee-yah-gi-kkot-eul-pee-woo-dah: have a chat) while waiting for the meat to be cooked.

The Korean BBQ sauce is surprisingly simple to make once you understand the Korean BBQ 맛(maht: flavor, taste). Most items are soy sauce, sweeteners (sugar mostly, but I use honey as a healthier substitute), and garlic as most Korean food uses garlic. Onions, carrots, scallions, and other vegetables are optional, but they are strongly recommended for a flavorful dish. The most crucial part of the recipe is the duration of 양념(yang-nyum: marinade). I usually soak the meat in the sauce overnight.

포장마차(Pojang-macha: a street vendor stall that serves alcohol and food, short for포차)

Though포장마차 is not a food, I chose 포차 for this list as it is an authentic eatery option in Korea. It is basically a street vendor cart covered by a tarp. It is not a fancy place, but it is a place where you can taste local life. 포차 makes a great gathering place with affordable prices.

Unfortunately, I started noticing that포장마차is slowly disappearing due to city plans. As far as I remember포차used to be on almost every corner, but it is hard to find them on the street unless you go to a designated zone where street food stalls stand together.

Photo by Fly High Oyster

김밥(gimbap: rice and several different ingredients rolled in laver seaweed)

My mom used to wake up early to make 김밥on every excursion I had in school. I am not exaggerating if I say most my classmates packed김밥 as a lunch menu especially for a special occasion because 김밥is the most appetizing menu for a picnic day. My friends and I used to sit around and share each other’s 김밥. It is versatile food that you can enjoy with everyone at any place from school to work. One row of 김밥 can make your stomach happy within no time.

비빔밥(bi-bim-bap: a rice dish topped with vegetables, ground meat and eggs)

If Americans do potluck, Koreans do 비빔밥 feast. 비빔밥 can be, of course, served as an individual dish from regular restaurants, but there is another way to enjoy비빔밥 with your loved ones. Although I am not sure this was nation-wide culture back then, my friends and I used to bring one or two ingredients to make 비빔밥 for lunch at school. Isn’t it just fun imagining bunch of teenage girls gathering to make their lunch in a big bowl at lunchtime? Yes, there was a lot of giggling. It was a highlight of a day at school.

I can go on and on how great Korean food is, however, my favorite Korean food is 엄마손 밥상(um-mah-sohn-bob-sang: food made by my mom) that I can’t have enough.

photo by Fly High Oyster

Glossary

손이 많이 간다(sohn-ee-mani-ganh-dah: it is a painstaking task)

  • 손(sohn: hand)
  • 이(ee – serves as an article in the sentence)
  • 많이(mani: much, a lot, many)
  • 간다(ganh-dah: derived from a verb ‘가다’. It literally means ‘go’, but it is interpreted as ‘requires a great deal of care’.)

이야기 꽂을 피우다(ee-yah-gi-kkot-eul-pee-woo-dah:have a chat)

  • 이야기(ee-yah-gi: story)
  • 꽃(kkot: flower)
  • 피우다(pee-woo-dah: bloom)

엄마손 밥상(um-mah-sohn-bob-sang: food made by my mom)

  • 엄마(um-mah:mother) +손(sohn: hand)= handmade/homemade
  • 밥상(bob-sang: dining table)
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If you are studying Korean, I bet you have heard about “정(Jeong: affection, attachment, goodwill etc.)”. The concept of 정 is a topic that you will eventually come across while learning Korean. When you type 정 in a dictionary, it lists words like ‘affection’ or ‘attachment’, but can 정 simply be reduced to one word?

Most Koreans that I know have a hard time explaining 정 to foreigners because it is not a simple concept to digest without fully knowing the cultural background. I personally had a difficult time to put this unique concept into words.

Image by Pixabay

Although the definition of 정 can be different from a person to person, as a native Korean, I infer 정 is a special treatment derived from a personal attachment to or closeness with you. This special treatment is considered you being exclusively accepted into a one’s personal inner circle because the person who gives you정 and lowers his/her personal guards against you.

I believe 정 is largely related to love. However, 정 is a little different notion from a romantic love. When someone says **이러다 들겠어. (ee-ruh-dah-jeong-deul-get-uh: someone may grow on you), it means that this person feels close to you, as a good friend. 정 might also be an emotional seed that leads to a romantic love, but it doesn’t have to refer to a romantic bond.

As most Korean moms do, when my mother shares food with her friends, she ends up adding more foods at the end, saying **하나만 주면 없어.(ha-nah-manh-joo-myeon-jeong-up-uh: There is no affection if I give you only one). In this case, 정 shows love, friendship, or goodwill. In general. I remember most 할머니 (hal-money: grandmother) vendors at traditional markets gave me more food items than what I was supposed to get for price. This 정 might not be easily understood in western mind-set.

**정들었던 강아지가 죽어서 슬퍼.( jeong-deul-ut-dun gang-ah-gee-ka juk-uh-seo seul-puh: I am sad because my puppy I was fond of died.) In this case, you are sad because a dog you have raised has died. In this case, 정 indicates an emotional attachment has grown very deeply and you were very fond of the dog.

Image by Pixabay

정 can be a positive thing, but also can be problematic when a 사(Gong- gwah-sah: public matter and private matter) private feeling is mixed with public matters. For instance, my boss gives my friend a promotion because my boss is personally closed to my friend despite my performance being the best of my team.

**때문에 산다.( jeong-Ttae-moon-ae-san-da: living with/putting up with someone because of the past history, not love.) When an unhappy married woman says this, 정 can be interpreted as a negative comment. For instance, this unhappily married woman has grown sick of her husband over the years, but she stays married to him because either she doesn’t have any other sources to get out of her marriage or she can bear him enough to live under the same roof. It can be interpreted as a blind loyalty, or helpless faith.

정 can have many meanings in different circumstances and I have probably explained to you only **빙산의 일각(bing-san-eou-ill-kak: the tip of iceberg). In short, you can think of  정 as someone inviting you in to their personal world and loving you deeply. What do you think of 정 now?

Glossary

  1. **이러다 들겠어. (ee-ruh-dah-jeong-deul-get-uh: someone will grow on you)
  • 이러다(adverb)= withthe way things are going
  • 정들다(verb)= becomefond of, become attached to
  1. **하나만 주면 없어.(ha-nah-manh-joo-myeon-jeong-up-uh: There is no affection if I give you only one)
  • 하나만=only one thing
  • 주면=conjugated verb of 주다(give)
  • 정 없다= no love, affection, attachment
  1. **정들었던 강아지가 죽어서 슬퍼.( jeong-deul-ut-dun gang-ah-gee-ka juk-uh-seo seul-puh: I am sad because my puppy I was fond of died)
  • 정들었던=past form of verb 정들다 becamefond of, became attached to
  • 강아지가-=puppy
  • 죽어서=conjugated verb of 죽다(die)
  • 슬퍼= casual style of saying of슬프다(sad)
  1. 사(Gong- gwah-sah: public matter and private matter)
  • 공=public matter
  • 과=and
  • 시= private matter
  1. **때문에 산다.( jeong-Ttae-moon-ae-san-da: living with/putting up with someone because of the past history)
  • 때문에=because of
  • 산다=conjugated verb of 살다(live)
  1. **빙산의 일각(bing-san-eou-ill-kak: the tip of iceberg)
  • 빙산=iceberg
  • 의=of
  • 일각=the tip
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