BH Discuss: Do K-pop and K-Drama fans abuse the Korean language?

Above is a spoken-word poetry performance by young poet Stephanie Yun in which she speaks about struggles with her Korean American identity and connecting with her Korean heritage and the problem she has with K-pop and K-Drama fans decorating their language with random Korean words. In case you can’t watch the video below are a couple of the most important exerts from the poem but make sure you check out the real performance if you can.

“Annyeong! Wae?! Oppa neomu saranghae!”

They swallow Hangukmal, fervently

Sucking context out of meaning

Like sucking flavour out of gum

Just maybe their breath will lure Korean men and women to their lips

The best alternative for idols they will never meet

And the conclusion

So, to the f**kers who insist that they’re just appreciating my culture:

Stop treating our language like merchandise from your favourite TV show

Being able to read English subtitles does not make it yours to keep

If you earnestly care about our culture,

Tie up the loose ends in your understanding

And trim the fragmented scraps from your tongue by taking the time to learn our language properly

We’ve previously written about the idealisation and fetishisation of Koreans and Asians as groups of people but this raw and impassioned performance raises some important questions about the way that many Hallyu fans use and talk about Korean language and culture. Using fragments of Korean scattered throughout sentences has become a normal part of fandom for many K-pop fans but it can be grating, irritating and even offensive to Koreans, Korean speakers and people of Korean heritage.

On one hand, the use of Korean words in this manner could be seen as a positive sign that Korea is starting to gain greater cultural influence across the world but on the other, the misuse and appropriation of the culture and language has the potential to be offensive or damaging to those who belong to it.

Due to many different historical factors, Korea has a very widespread diaspora. As Yun so eloquently points out in her piece, for many people of Korean heritage, she talks specifically about her experience as a Korean American, the struggle to find their own identity somewhere in between their Korean culture, language and identity and the culture, language and identity of the country they were born in or moved to can be very difficult. Are K-pop and K-Drama fans trivialising this by using broken Korean or insisting that they are experts in Korean culture?

Of course Korean is not the only language that this happens to. French, German and Japanese are just a few languages whose words have been used by English speakers for different purposes in order to sound cool at various points. On top of this, English words are also heavily used by modern South Koreans; scattered all the way throughout 21st Century Korean, often in ways that would be unrecognisable to native English speakers.

Korean terms which have no direct translation into English such as aegyo (애교), makjang (막장) and han (한) can be very useful for the discussion and understanding of Korean pop culture products but does the scattering of random words and phrases which have direct English counterparts (sarang (사랑) , annyeong (안녕), wae (왜) etc.) really add anything to the communication? Does the Korean language at that point just become an accessory or a piece of merchandise ripped from its original context as Yun argues? Is this a problem and should K-pop fans do something to discourage it?

Let us know what you think. When we shared this on twitter it got a really interesting response so it would be great to be able to facilitate a real conversation about it!

Related reading

The idealisation of Korean men

I Love Korean Boys: The Problem of Fetishization

We Don’t All Have A Korean Fetish!

BH Discuss: Is cultural appropriation a problem in K-pop?

  • 8Dv

    LOL
    This happens to many countries. Bitching about it won’t change much.
    Like, Japanese words often used in a mocking manner. I don’t know why make such a big fuss about it, it doesn’t only happen to Korea.
    If I would get angry at foreigners about all their assumptions about my country (and the misuse of Portuguese words), I would be in distress by now.

    • http://astromantic.net/ astromantic

      I sort of think that the point you’re trying to make invalidates her feelings; I don’t think it’s fair to apply how you personally feel about the perceived misuse of your language/assumptions about your country (which I’m sure are totally unfair) to how she feels regarding hers. You both have every right to feel the way you do, and she has every right to bring it up.

      • 8Dv

        No.
        Just like she is Korean-American, I am a Japanese-Brazilian, so I can understand the I’m not Korean nor American feeling she may have. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not something we can really change. It happen all over, for Japanese language it is much stronger, I think it’s amusing seeing how people misuse Japanese language, too as well as Portuguese, but it is something that exists and have since globalization.
        Also, I’m unsure if the people who use the Korean language like that is really trying to offend at all, it’s not like they’re anti-Koreans, so I don’t see the big deal. Yeah, it’s annoying when you come from that culture but it seems like she also doesn’t understand the people who say things like that.
        I, myself, do not use Korean words at all *even though I can read in Korean/write* if not needed *aka speaking to a Korean person*, but I think the people who do, do not even know they’re offending Koreans (possibly do).
        Anime fans are way worse. They say they like Japan, this and that, But do they even try to understand the culture? No. Because all they care is anime. And they think only because they watch anime they know everything about Japan, so I guess she feels this way about Korea.
        And you made an assumption about me. You didn’t understand my point at all! I meant my last sentence in a way that how most people from their countries also do through that, still it’s something you have to live with because it won’t stop. And you made it feel like Korea is something special, when in my case (that I’m Japanese) Japan and Korea aren’t far apart. (in their case, the hallyu wave that just became stronger since some years ago, Japan is going through this for quite a long time, so yeah). And I know this, I obviously don’t know how she feels because only she will know. What I’m trying to say is that she sounded offensive about the way she put it, just be chill about it and accept that with your country’s entertainment getting recognized abroad, of course things like this are prone to happen.

        • http://astromantic.net/ astromantic

          “What I’m trying to say is that she sounded offensive about the way she
          put it, just be chill about it and accept that with your country’s
          entertainment getting recognized abroad, of course things like this are
          prone to happen.”

          And if she chooses not to be “chill” about it and wants to address it in any manner that she chooses (a slam poem or otherwise), she has every right to do so.

  • foladisqus

    Very interesting article. I think a lot of people who say these things don’t mean any harm (at least I think so). On the other hand, it’s a very thin line between exoticism and fetishism to use these terms so loosely. So I can see how people can feel annoyed about it. As a learner, I feel scared sometimes to even try to speak what I’ve learned if I see other Koreans for fear of being reprimanded for saying something wrong or offending somebody for this very reason. Thoughts?

    • Lizzie

      Hi,

      From my personal (slightly limited) experience as a fellow Korean learner, I would say go for it!

      I don’t know where you live but most Koreans living outside Korea really do not expect to meet non-Korean people who can speak Korean and so they will probably be happy to see that you’ve been trying to learn their language. For that reason I’ve also found that a lot of Koreans won’t set their expectations very high for your level of fluency so don’t worry too much about making mistakes (and most people can tell the difference between someone who has learned a few phrases from dramas and someone who has taken the time to really study the language). Just make sure you always use polite speech (except if you are talking to young children for some reason…) and most people will be willing to talk to you

      The only thing I would say is to be mindful of the difference between Korean people from Korea and people of Korean heritage but if you meet an overseas Korean national, from what I’ve seen, most will be happy to talk with you. You could always ask beforehand and if they don’t seem willing then just respect their wishes and continue to speak in English.

      It’s hard to muster up the courage to speak to someone in a foreign language (believe me I know!) but it’s really worth it if you want to improve.your skills. So just take a deep breath a go fo it! :) (Worse that can happen is you make a little mistake)

  • http://waegukin.com/ The Waegukin

    To expand a bit on what i said on twitter –

    As a spoken word piece and as a personal statement, I think it’s great. But as a policy for how Hallyu fans should use Korean words, it’s problematic.

    I understand her personal irritation. When you know a lot about any topic, it’s irritating to listen to dilettantes blather about it. As a student of Korean, I know how irritating it can be in that context, as well – somebody recently posted on twitter something like, “The next person I hear use the word “chingu” in an otherwise English sentence I’m going to punch in the head.” I get that. As well, it’s personally distressing for her, for reasons she mentions in the video.

    But should anyone change their behaviour because of it? I don’t think so. Firstly, as I said on twitter, language is exchanged at points of cultural contact. It’s natural and inevitable. Often this takes the form of a dominant language/culture erasing or replacing a non-dominant one, and there are issues there, but in this case, it’s the opposite – it’s a dominant language (at least as used by one small sub-culture) absorbing words from a non-dominant one. That’s not a bad thing.

    Secondly, this is exactly the sort of increased awareness of Korea and exporting of “soft power” that the Korean government has consciously aimed for by encouraging and promoting the Korean wave. And I think the majority of Koreans would be proud to know that American teenagers were using Korean words, even if it is distressing to some gyopo.

    Are teenyboppers who throw the odd saranghae into their sentences and thus fancy themselves cultural experts annoying and shallow? Of course they are. But that is the nature of being a teenybopper. Maybe they’ll grow up, become more interested in the language and culture, and learn more about it. Maybe they’ll move on to other things. But I don’t think they need to be sat down and given a stern talking-to – what they’re doing is natural, not especially damaging, and exactly what they have been encouraged to do by the Korean government.

    • Lizzie

      Hi Waegukin, thanks for the comment!

      I’m not actually sure what I think about this (which is why I posted it as a discussion) but you raise some good points.

      That distinction between Koreans (in Korea) and gyopos and people of Korean heritage is quite important I think. It’s definitely true that a lot of (probably most) Koreans in Korea and definitely the Korean government with all the money they’ve been spending on soft power would be happy about that. But a lot of diasporic and overseas Koreans might feel differently if they meet people that only want to be friends with them because they Korean and therefore like this idealised notion some K-pop fans have in their heads (emphasis on “some”).

      I am in the category of people you describe who have put a lot of time and effort into actually learning the Korean language so I will also accept that my viewpoint may be slightly biased.

      One thing I would say though is that calling them ‘teenyboppers’ is a little bit inaccurate (although understandable if you haven’t spent much time around K-pop fans), a large percentage of fans (and many of the ones who act like this) are in their late teens, 20s and older. So part of me feels like they should know better, I can understand this behaviour from a 15 year old but a 25 year old? A 35 year old?

      I agree that for many it’s just a phase or whatever and it’s not a huge deal in reality. And you are definitely completely to be expected as a result of the Korean government’s Hallyu efforts. On top of that, these are still people who have invested a huge amount of time and energy in the pop culture of a different culture which is no bad thing.

      It’s probably not THAT important, it’s probably not THAT harmful but it would be nice to see a little reflection on it every once in a while.

      • http://waegukin.com/ The Waegukin

        We’re not in disagreement. And I agree that it’s an interesting issue worth discussing (and an interesting piece). I defer to your knowledge of k-pop fandom – as you know, I come to this stuff from a different place, and you know a lot more about it than me. And I agree that people should be a bit more self-reflective by their twenties.

        One thing I did want to clarify about my comment was my reference to “some gyopo” – I meant gyopo as plural, i.e., “distressing to some people of Korean descent”, not as a dismissive reference to the performer. I think from your comment that you understood that, but my phrasing was confusing.

        There is probably some point to be made there about throwing Korean words into your conversation, although I’m not sure what it is.

  • OlivRose

    She has a very valid point and I understand where she’s coming from. From a pragmatic perspective though, I live in Korea and I see a whole lot of bastardization of English pretty much EVERYWHERE. Do I get offended and angry, no. Mildly irritated at times, yes. I think it’s not just a thing localized to the Korean language. Anyway, I appreciate the poem, but I also have my own perspective to offer in the matter coming from the reverse of English being misused and exoticized in Korea…
    ETA: I was one of those people who would use Korean words like 왜 and 안녕 with my friend who was also interested in Korean pop-culture. However, both my friend and I have gone on to live and work in Korea and are both active students of the Korean language. Being able to slip Korean words into English conversation was a great way for me to start feeling comfortable with the language which was so unlike my own. ^^

  • miyichan

    I admit to sometimes using Korean words and phrases when conversing with fellow fans in English. To me, it seems harmless and fun. However, as the article points out, Koreans may feel insulted or offended. As a Chinese-American, I merely switched positions in my head. How would I feel if I spotted another person spouting out Cantonese with no regard to context? How would I react? To be honest, it was slight discomfort. Even in that hypothetical situation, there was a level of annoyance to think about my family’s language and culture tossed into someone else’s palms, hands that did not try to know the true meanings or history of it.

    All I can say is, make the effort to learn more about the culture. You cannot change your identity, but you can change your mindset.

  • jm91

    Admittedly I don’t think of this as a big deal. With the way the world works these days–globalization and all this modern technology–it’s inevitable. Yeah, I get the point that it’s irritating in someway. I am not Korean myself but I have been studying the language. So I do feel annoyed sometimes reading facebook statuses using or romanizing korean terms in the wrong way. However, I understand that it is an unavoidable aftermath of the rising popularity of the Korean culture. For the Koreans–native or not–it depends on them on how they should intake this after-result. Whether it’s good or bad, I believe that’s relative.

  • bigmamat

    Really…A Korean has the big fat cojones (see appropriating another language) to write a poem complaining about Americans misappropriating and butchering their language?! Not understanding their culture? And you guys are debating it like it’s anything worth addressing? Seriously, I’m at a loss for words. Well maybe I’m not. The award winning Stephanie Yun was obviously being judged by a bunch of people that think in the name of political correctness they needed to cheer for her deeply flawed and disingenuous rant. Obviously Miss Yun hasn’t been keeping up on current events in her homeland. I understand Miss Perfect Example of Han might be feeling put out because she’s from the Cali Korean community but this isn’t the right rant. I also understand that she might feel justified in holding Americans a bit more responsible for backing down on the whole misappropriating language and culture thing. However, it just doesn’t hold up knowing what I know about English, America and Korea. Now if she’s butthurt because Asians have it tough in the U.S. then I am behind that rant 100%. She’d be singing to the choir. So, knowing what we know about English, American and Korean culture I can’t debate a rant this wrong. Koreans have no right to complain about someone misappropriating their culture.

    • David Kim

      Don’t involve the whole country in this girls rant. I am Korean myself and it’s just this one b**ch, we have one in every country. Get over it. Seriously, no one even cares that much except the older generation that can get irritated or angry just a bit.

      • bigmamat

        Why out of all these comments did you decide to respond to my 3 month old rant?

  • yuki kokoro

    I think it doesn’t help anything to lump every language users in the same box. Somebody who can’t type a sentence without changing all their ‘love’ by ‘sarang’ is different as someone who is learning the language and can’t help to use what vocabulary they are exposed to. Even if you are not learning the language per say and you are just an avid fan of Korean drama, you will still pick up stuff unconsciously. I remember vividly saying aiyoo all the time when I was watching too much Taiwanese drama. It was hard to stop myself when I noticed it. When I stopped watching them, I naturally stopped.

    English is my second language and I use English words all the time. I think it’s normal. Everyday, for a long period of time, I’m exposed to English. When I read blogs, when I look at wikipedia, when I’m on tumblr or twitter. Even when I watch Korean drama subtitled in English. That English words would magically not seep in my vocabulary is beyond impossible in my opinion. It’s particularly hard for words that doesn’t have an equivalent in my native tongue. I think it’s exactly how words migrate from a language to another. Why English has words like ‘résumé’ or ‘table d’hôte’? The same way there is also ‘kimono’ and ‘kamikaze’. When cultures are mixed, awesome things can happen, not only negative things.

  • Magpie_Mind

    I think the main issue is the appropriation of culture that happens in this context. If someone decides that your cultural heritage is “trendy” and decides to try it on for size, it can be immensely frustrating, especially for those who have to navigate connections between multiple cultures that they would recognise as part of their heritage. You feel as if you are not fully part of one or the other, yet someone can casually pick it up and claim their expertise or familiarity on a few incredibly commodified cultural exports. Anyone trying to familiarize themselves with another culture with even a modicum of sincerity would also find that behaviour irritating. It would be a mistake to say that all Hallyu fans are like this, as it’s not necessarily the fans that should be condemned but the individuals who claim a culture they only have a shallow understanding of. I remember having to put up with someone who wanted so badly to make everyone believe that they were closer to being really Korean by exclaiming in the middle of our Korean class that they insisted calling their parents ‘엄아’ and ‘아빠’ even if their parents didn’t understand. This person was distinctly non-Korean.

    Having been in a similar situation to Yun, I’m sure the main point is to communicate the frustration of having to deal with people of such shallow understanding. Obviously we cannot expect everyone to be sincere and change their behaviour instantly, but we can always confess our frustrations where we can and try to get a bit more understanding from the most ignorant.

  • Le Meow

    oh please…this happens everywhere

    people in korea literally rape english lol

    yeah you do feel frustrated at times , but that doesn’t mean you go on ranting about it ..korean is not the only language in the world that goes bad this way !

    kpop / k drama is going international . when we watch stuff we just unconsciously pick random korean words and that just helps us learn some of your language.. its just the start ! u can’t possibly expect a non-korean to just speak your language only if they know it perfectly

    you should just try appreciating the fact that maybe people r impressed with your culture and try putting in some effort to know about it?

    i like it when peeople from another country , try speaking my language even if they twist it horribly ! k-pop went international n didnt expect such a thing to happen?

  • sujina

    This is something that has really bugged me about the whole k-pop/k-drama wave, possibly even more so than the fetishization of Korean people. To me, it’s the most annoying thing to see a fangirl spurting out the same couple of Korean phrases over and over. We get the point- you’re a fan of a Korean group, and maybe by using some words in Korean, you might feel closer to them, right? However, as someone of Korean (and English) descent and as someone who is studying Korean culture, nothing annoys me more than this. If you’re going to associate yourself with the language, do it right. Don’t treat Korean as some kind of special badge, or “merchandise” as Stephanie said. It adds no value whatsoever to your words when you pepper your non-korean language with the same Korean words over and over again.

  • Mooie

    I dunno… I have 2 feels to this topic… I mean, I’m learning Korean on my own and it’s really hard, but I really like how I’m trying to practice the phrases when I learn something and sometimes, I’m just don’t know enough to keep speaking in Korean and therefore change to English. But I can also understand how some Kpop fans really take it to the extreme: Wanting to feel like they are Korean while using short phrases learned from drama but not taking the time to learn the language. I guess it really has to do with what perspective your taking… Are you dedicated to the language, or are you just using it for your own self-fulfillment. Because personally, I feel like I’d being misunderstood if I fell in that category of crazy Kpop fan, because I’m not just interested in Kpop, but the whole culture itself, and wanting to be a part of it, i feel, shouldn’t be discriminated just because you’re inserting Korean phrases into your everyday language.

    And like a lot of people here say, language is forever changing. English has changed so much because of the insertion of many different language. You could also go into the topic of how the English language is “degrading” as some people argue, but then again, English evolved from Anglo-Saxon, which can’t be understood today (less you have experience in this field). But that’s the beauty of language. As the post said above, the Korean language also has a heavy usage of English, and I don’t see why there is a problem with trying to insert Korean into the English language. It’s not to say that sometimes, some of us could really abuse the language, but I feel like we should be given a chance and not have fingers pointing at us because we’re some Korean wannabes.

  • loukitty2000

    I am just as she said a fan. One that is now very offended. I wish I could take time to learn korean culture but unfortunately I don’t. It would problem take me 5 years to earn enough money for plane ticket just to visit. I want to say a lot but I’m just saying this. Our country has come a long way and to find something so simple and make it wrong is laughable to me. I do understand where she is coming from but her poem is hypocritical it goes the same way for soo many people and cultures including koreans. I feel sad that her herself truly hasn’t learned anything. It so much more things to truly care about then what phrase or word a person takes out of context.

  • Emma

    I can understand, in some ways, the annoyance some people feel when kpop and kdrama fans pepper their conversations with random Korean words, but on the flip side as someone who has an affinity for languages I find this a little trivial. Language is an extremely fluid entity, it takes in parts of other languages and spits out something you wouldn’t expect. I mean, the English language has Germanic origins with a heavy French influence, is that considered appropriation of German and French language too?

    I’m personally trying to learn both Korean and Mandarin, and have previously learnt French and German, so there are times in conversation when words of a different language will pop up. From my experience (and I have to say, my experience with the kpop fandom has been a pretty amazing one), many of the kpop fans I’ve met have been studying Korean, either by themselves or through study, so their use of the language online is practice for them. There is, of course, that element of the kpop fandom that have a very superficial interest in the Korean language and culture, but in reality they’re in the minority and are generally best ignored.

    Can you stop people misusing the Korean language? No. In much the same way that you can’t stop people from misusing English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German…you get the picture. Is there a lot of point getting worked up about it? Not really, I mean, you could go off on a rant at some teenager on tumblr for tagging some post with ‘saranghae’ but all that results in is you getting all worked up and probably ends in someone getting bullied somewhere along the line.

    Plus, there has to come a point where we realise that we live in a global community now, and have done for a long time. Culture and language is bound to shift and change with the changing times, and with more people exposed to new cultures, appropriation will occur more often.

  • Seriously live with it

    What I would say to those who are annoyed….
    Is “english speakers using random korean words” different from “korean speakers using random english words”? No. So we’re even. I get that you’re irritated but you may want to realize that some english speakers find it weird for koreans to use english words inappropriately too. Why don’t you try telling your own people the same thing and tell us how they react to it? ^^

  • MimiLoveless

    clearly Stephanie Yun has issues and they are more than language/cultural issues. That girl needs a therapist. Can we take a minute to look at some famous photos of Koreans “appropriating things of a different race?” And that’s just the mildly racist things I found. You have Korean artists taking a page from American rappers and rockers in fashion and language.
    Personally, I am happy when another culture takes interest and does their own spin on something that was uniquely from the States. Why shouldn’t it be the same for other cultures. If other cultures are showing interest in Korea to a point of appropriating the language, then wouldn’t that be to the benefit of Korea? I mean imagine the tourism that can generate for the country. Or bring new avenues of business be it entertainment or otherwise to the country. Clearly some people just need to be angry. In south Florida ( where I live) you have non Latino people speak certain words in Spanish all the time and Latin people don’t get mad about it. They get excited and happy that someone wants to speak their language even if its just epithets or calling guys ” Papi” which would be Latino version of “Oppa” …take a lesson from Latinos. Be excited even if people are using only things they picked up from K Drama and try to relax.

  • Seti Tesefay

    As much as I understand her point ( i do agree using the few Korean phrases you know repeatedly is annoying), I fail to see the gravity of it. I have been a fan of Kpop and K-drams and K-indie and I hear English used in the wrong context and just used to sound cool and not right.Also, there are many adaptations of English words into Korean (with Korean pronunciation and spelling). Although, i love the K-hip hop, k-pop, and Korean R &B scenes, i see incidents of lack of understanding of the history of these genres and African-American culture. I think the spread and the usage of different languages are common everywhere. Shakespeare forever changed the English language by infusing Latin into the language. Language had always been adopted and changed. Although, I can understand Ms. Yun frustration with Korean being used as an accessory, it is not a new-phenomenon and it will always part of the development of language in society.

  • Alias

    I understand her point like those before me have mentioned, but in the world that we live in today, this happens a lot. Not just with languages, but with trends also. Isn’t K-pop now following some American trends and turning it into their own style? But still, that doesn’t change the root of where it came from…Korean hip hop groups copy American hip hop with their clothing and attitudes.
    I think that Americans copy some Korean words because truly, that is all that international fans have and the Korean language is something mystifying and intriguing in itself. K-pop is growing in America and that’s just one of the first steps to sparking a genuine interest in the language for some people.
    Plus, there’s that little habit that we tend to use when we pick up certain words when we watch stuff…not only are we unconsciously collecting information about the people that we are watching, but we are also spreading bits of the Korean language to other people who are optimistic enough to gain an interest in Korean culture…so it can also help too.

  • Curioser and Curiosor

    … I admire her passion for the culture she so proudly claims; I appreciate her indignation about being marginalized for being “too Other to be American, but not Other enough to call my skin my own”; and I applaud her demanding that dilettantes actually do the necessary work to make their claims of cultural/linguistic affinity meaningful.

    That said, there are a few things I find distressing here:

    — that this poem clearly demonstrates how deeply accepted and internalized the racialized concept of identity are: a concept that equates skin color with culture and presumes that because you look a certain way, you must speak/be the way racial stereotypes dictate you be.

    — that this acceptance only serves to perpetuate the very marginalization the poet decries

    — that this includes perpetrating that marginalization on possibly (probably) well-intentioned, even if naïve, amateurs who may merely be guilty of letting their excitement about a casual pass-time spill over in their verbal utterances.

    Let them enjoy the thrill of intoning “Annyeong! Wae?! Oppa neomu saranghae!” The true dilettantes will just sort of drift away and neither Koream language, culture or identity will be the worse for their passing interest. However, the curious and driven WILL learn more if their interest continues to grow and thrive – they will care enough to do the work and experience the humility that comes with inhabiting that very very marginal place that is “new language acquisition.” They will also experience the joy of gradually learning more everyday and be sustained by it. And it is likely that the more they learn, the less you will hear them erupt in random clichés as they discover just how rich and beautiful the language and its culture, oral and literary, are beyond the k-pop threshold that first sparked their interest.

  • Emilia

    No, no, no. I do not believe she has a valid point. I completely disagree with Yun’s rant. I’m French. Do you know what the Koreans have done to the French language? They pepper their sentences with French and English, without knowing what the words mean or without being able to associate it in context. Koreans baking baguette and selling it to the world as if it were French-made? The Americans have taken French words and completely misuse them. All. The. Time. How about the German language? What has the world done with the German language – appropriating it when they want (doppelgänger, schadenfreude, the list goes on) then MAKING UP WORDS for TV commercials (hello, VW?). How about Russian? What about the use of Arabic words in the French and Spanish languages? I guess we should give EVERY FREAKING CULTURE a platform to rant like Yun, right?

    I wholeheartedly resent the implication that the appropriation of words of another culture’s language is BAD or that is exclusive to the Korean language. Shouldn’t people be glad that someone is taking an interest in their language and culture, even if through the entertainment industry? And for that matter, go take a look at the exterminated Native American tribes and the loss of their rich languages and culture. Or for a current view, how about the Irish – who were repressed by the English so much that the younger generations don’t know Irish as well as their elders. Hey, what about Wales and Scotland? Anyone speaking those languages today? Be freaking grateful that your language is alive and people care enough to appropriate words, even if it is fueled by K-dramas or K-pop, even if it is being mis-contextualized. The fans mean well, for the most part. So what the hell are you complaining about?

  • MiNo

    I think that someone using the words “annyeong” and/or “Saranghae” should make one happy. Happy that people embrace the language, language is love and language is beautiful. Don’t be mad that we use the words. Teach us more! We are talking it because we want to know! We want to learn! We want to embrace the culture and love the language… I’m sorry if I ever sounded mean to a person for asking if they could talk their parents language, I’m so sorry, but is it wrong for us to ask? What did we do wrong upon asking? You could just say no and if we’d ask why, just explane why and we’d know. It’s not like you are the only ones who are asked if they knew how to talk in “their” native tongue, we’ve also been asked, and never have I heard anyone complain. Do not get me wrong, I’m not here to hate, I just want to stand up to what I think is right. I love the Korean language and use all the keywords I have learned to expand my vocabulary and I actually plan to live in korea when I grow up. I’m only fifteen… Why should I be dispised by a korean person for engaging in the culture that they have. Why not embrace the love that is given to you, your country, “your” language and your culture.
    I’m sorry for talking in another language, for embracing another language, for sharing what I’ve learnt about this language, for doing nothing but engaging in the other language and culture, my bad.

  • Sa Lee

    I actually am not sure what to think of this. On the one hand I kind of understand that people are concerned that their language might be abused. On the other hand I don’t see a problem with using words/sentences from another language if it isn’t insulting.
    I myself am living in Austria and have Arabic roots and I never felt insulted by people using words/sentences from the Arabic language because for me that’s just a way to show that you are interested in a language (which is most of the times connected to a culture) which is in my own opinion never a bad thing. Even people who just like to learn swearwords to insult others in another language are free to do so. Although in my opinion this is rude, I never felt offended by those people.
    That’s kind of the same for me with the Korean language. Although I’ve learned most of the words through dramas and kpop, I am so happy that I get to learn something while enjoying myself and doing things that I like. I am a person who likes to learn languages but often doesn’t have the time. So using words that I have learned in my everyday life helps me a lot to remember those words and with time I also feel more and more confident with the pronunciation. Because I can get very self-conscious when speaking other languages.
    So I don’t think using Korean Words is bad, but I wouldn’t necessarily use it when I get to know a Korean person (I guess I would feel too shy to talk in front of someone whose mother tongue is Korean) because I would be afraid to be rude in any way possible.
    Moreover I think this is kind of a personal thing and dependent on the person one should (re)act. The best way is probably just to ask the person if it would be OK to use some words or to talk about this whole issue in general. It would break the ice on the one hand and on the other hand you would both learn more about this appreciation/appropriation thing.