Learning Korean Buzzwords

Dj Jaemin Park and Teacher Hyunwoo Sun introduce new Korean buzzwords every week at Catch The Wave’s “Hey Korean” segment! Photo by TTMIK.

Hi everyone! This month, I’m excited to introduce you to new Korean buzzwords, which I learned from my favorite radio program for learning Korean, Catch The Wave’s “Hey Korean”!

I already wrote an article about the program in September 2016, but in October, Arirang Radio celebrated a new season and also welcomed a new host! Dj Jaemin Park now hosts the program while TTMIK’s Teacher Hyunwoo Sun still remains as the regular guest for the Wednesday segment.

In the new season, Dj Jaemin and Teacher Hyunwoo help listeners learn Korean by introducing nouns and verbs, as well as exciting new “buzzwords” or slang expressions.

Every week, CTW tackles a “mission word”. Listeners are invited to participate in the show by sending sentences they made using that word. Dj Jaemin and Teacher Hyunwoo give their feedback to these messages during the first part of the show. The topics in each episode vary widely and so the conversations between the two are always very interesting!

The second part of the show is all about Korean buzzwords. These are new words/phrases that express new ideas or trend topics. These words are not yet found in Korean dictionaries. Even Dj Jaemin is sometimes unfamiliar with the buzzwords that Teacher Hyunwoo brings. The challenge I find in this segment is that very rarely will they spell out the buzzwords. I can’t always determine the correct spelling by their pronunciation and so I have to be diligent in searching the expression on the internet, or I might try typing a hashtag on Instagram to see if anything similar comes up. I recently found a “slang dictionary” website, Openslang Dictionary, which gives me additional explanations.

The buzzwords are mostly derived from existing Korean words, and sometimes English loan words, and therefore learning about the buzzwords also means learning about the original base words. So most of the time, tuning into one episode of “Hey Korean” results to me learning more than three new Korean words! I’m not sure if Dj Jaemin and Teacher Hyunwoo realize this!

It’s not really important to use the words in daily conversations, but it is helpful to know their meanings as they are currently found in news and social media. The buzzwords give a glimpse of the emerging culture and society – as these words were invented because of the need to express a concept/idea that did not exist before.

I listed below my favorite buzzwords presented in the show from October 2016 to January 2017. You might recognize some of them if you follow news or watch a lot of variety shows or Korean dramas.

Some video recordings of Catch The Wave’s Korean Buzzword segment are available at TTMIK’s website. Please click here if you want to watch past episodes. The full recordings sans the song selections are available at Arirang Radio’s CTW’s website. To check it out, please click here.

And now, my Favorite Buzzwords (so far…):

Broadcast Date: October 12 2016

재능기부 (jae-neung-gi-bu); literally means “talent donation”, 재능 = talent, 기부 = donation;

This expression means working for free. As pointed out by Teacher Hyunwoo in the episode, if someone asks a person or friend for “재능기부” but that other person did not offer to contribute his/her time or expertise beforehand, then it might lead to an awkward situation.

Signage at a Korean restaurant saying “혼밥 환영” or “eating alone is welcomed”.

혼밥 (hon-bap); comes from the phrase”혼자 밥먹기” (hon-ja bap-meog-ki), 혼자 = alone, 밥먹기= eating;

This expression means eating alone or dining solo (in a restaurant). In Korea, the notion of eating alone is still somewhat embarrassing. Eating out is usually associated to some form of social activity, like dining with family, or going on a date with a girlfriend/boyfriend, or celebrating with a group of friends/coworkers. But recently, more and more people are living alone and these people may not have enough time or energy to prepare meals for themselves, and so solo diners are now becoming more common. You may find restaurant signs in Korea that say “혼밥 환영”, which means “eating alone is welcomed”. Naturally, the restaurants will have tables/seats set up for single customers and have smaller portions of food available from the menu.

Broadcast Date: October 19 2016

금수저 (geum-su-jeo), literally means “golden spoon”;

흙수저 (heuk-su-jeo), literally means “dirt spoon”;

금 means gold while 흙 means soil/dirt. 수저 is simplified to just mean spoon in the translation but the word actually refers to the combination of spoon(숟가락 /sud-ka-rak) and chopsticks(젓가락 /jeot-ka-rak), which are the usual eating utensils in Korea.

The English expression “silver spoon” means wealth. And to have been “born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth” means to have been born into a wealthy or influential family. The Korean expression 금수저 or “golden spoon” is similar to this, and refers to a person with inherited wealth and so this person does not have to work hard to earn money or gain popularity. In the episode, Teacher Hyunwoo and Dj Jaemin talked about some Korean idols or actors being described by entertainment news as금수저, which can somewhat appear to be undermining the person’s talents and efforts. The opposite expression is 흙수저 or “dirt spoon”, referring to a person who does not have any inherited wealth or privileges, and must therefore work their way from the bottom to the top.

Broadcast Date: October 26 2016

Promotional poster of the drama, W, starring actor Lee Jong Suk. He literally was a 만찢남 in the drama.

만찢남/ 만찢녀 (man-jjit-nam/man-jjit-nyeo); comes from the phrase “화책을 고 나온 자/자” which literally means “a guy/girl who came out of a manhwa/comic book”. These expressions refer to people who are almost perfect in appearance that they seem to be characters from a book. Just imagine Lee Jong Suk’s character in the Korean drama, W. These expressions though are not used when referring to a person’s attitude or personality.

개취 (gae-chwi); short form of the phrase “향”, meaning personal preference/taste. Usually used as a simple explanation of one’s choices or actions. As pointed out by Teacher Hyunwoo and Dj Jaemin, many arguments can be quickly settled by this one word.

Broadcast Date: November 09 2016

비주얼 깡페 (bi-ju-eol-kkang-pe); literally means “visual bully/gangster”; 비주얼 = visual, 깡페 = bully;

This expression is used to describe someone who has such a handsome appearance that he unintentionally does “harm” to others by making them look ugly in comparison. Can be used to describe anybody with strikingly good looks!

2(jung-i-byeong); literally means “2nd year of middle school disease”; 중= middle/ high school, 2 = 2nd level,병 = illness, disease;

This expression can be simply translated to puberty or adolescent years. But it can also be used to describe someone who is exhibiting bad behavior such as being too sensitive, childish, critical, or rebellious. It can be a rude word when used to describe an adult, as it will be equivalent to saying he/she is immature.

Broadcast Date: December 14 2016

Youtube screencaps of BTS’s Dope MV. Rapmon used the buzzwords 삼포세대  (sam-po-se-dae), 오포세대 (o-po-se-dae), and 육포세대 (yuk-po-se-dae). Photo grid by Noreen.

삼포세대  (sam-po-se-dae); can be divided in 3 parts: 삼 = the number 3; 포from포기하다 (po-gi-ha-da) = to give up; 세대 = generation;

This word refers to the generation, or any person belonging to it, that has given up on 3 aspects in life: dating, marriage, and having children. This means that these people had chosen to live alone and instead of starting a family, they just chose to continue supporting themselves. A variation of this expression is오포세대 (o-po-se-dae), “오” meaning the number 5. This is used to describe people who have given up on 5 things in life, which are: dating, marriage, children, employment, and home ownership. A Wikipedia article shows up to 7 things that are sacrificed by the current young generation in South Korea due to social and economic pressures.

When I heard this buzzword in Hey Korean, I was reminded immediately of BTS’s song 쩔어/Dope. In Rapmon’s part, he sings about this present generation as being described as a 삼포세대(sam-po-se-dae) or 오포세대 (o-po-se-dae). Then he makes a smart word play and proposes he’s in another type of generation. Because he likes beef jerky, or 육포 (yuk-po), then  he must be in the 육포세대 (yuk-po-se-dae) or beef jerky generation!

Number 6 in Korean is pronounced as 육(yuk) and the actual term 육포세대 (yuk-po-se-dae) refers to people who have given up a 6th aspect in life – that is, social life or interpersonal relationships. The 7th and last aspect is hope.

Broadcast Date: December 21 2016

덕업일치 (deok-eob-il-chi); this expression can be divided into 3 parts:

덕 from the Japanese expression “오타구/otaku” which can be referred to as 오후/오/후 (o-duk-hu/o-duk/duk-hu) in Korean, meaning “nerd, geek”;

업 from 직(jik-eob) meaning job or occupation; and

일치 from the word ”언행일치” (on-haeng-il-chi), which is an idiomatic expression meaning consistency of one’s words and actions;

So, 덕업일치is a person whose job matches with his/her obsessions. In the episode, Dj Jaemin gave an example of a sneakerhead working at one of the biggest shoe brand companies.

Broadcast Date: January 25 2017

치느님 (chi-neu-nim); combination of 2 words: 치킨 (chi-kin; = fried chicken) and 하느님 (ha-neu-nim, = god); literally means “chicken that we respect/love/revere so much”; Used to express the idea that fried chicken is a cure-all!

A related expression to this is 유느님 (Yoo-neu-nim), which is a nickname for MC/TV celebrity Yoo Jaesuk, who is respected by all and can do no wrong.

뇌섹남/ 뇌섹녀 (ne-sek-nam/ne-sek-nyeo); is derived from the phrase “뇌가 섹시한 남자/여자”  which means “a man/woman with a sexy brain”. These people are smart but not geeky. Sometimes, they are also very attractive. This concept was popularized by many TV programs such as tvN’s Problematic Men, where guests and casts solve puzzles while talking about certain topics.

In an episode of Running Man, brain-sexy idols (Super Junior’s Kyuhyun, John Park, BTS’ Rapmon, and Wondergirl’s Ye-eun) were also invited and they took IQ tests to rank their intelligence. Among the RM members, Yoo Jaesuk was ranked as smartest! He is indeed a 뇌섹남 who is also worthy of the nickname 유느님. 🙂

Yoo Jaesuk, nicknamed 유느님 (Yoo-neu-nim), during filming of Running Man’s Ep.265, aired on Sept 20, 2015.

That’s all for now. I hope you learned a lot. How many of these buzzwords do you already know? Which one is your favorite? Please leave us comments below.

If you want to learn more buzzwords or if you’re curious about the other episodes, please remember to check out Arirang Radio’s CTW’s AOD page or TTMIK’s lessons page.

We want to hear what you think!

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