Wednesday, March 14, 2018

#118. 마크정식 -- A best way to a man's heart is through his stomach (feat. GOT7)

Special thanks to Jess from Paris, who suggested that I do a food-related post!

Pardon the cliché beginning; my family was quite poor when I was growing up. There was never enough money to get anything beyond the absolutely necessary. Forget the designer-brand clothing (even when I was a child, the Koreans were sensitive to designer brands, which make you appear wealthy, or so they believe!) and the adorable stationary (a must-have for every schoolchild in Korea); I was a happy child if I could share a small 컵떡볶이 on my way home with a friend, which was a rare occasion.

If I remember correctly, this 떡볶이 (rice cake in spicy chili sauce) in a small paper cup (컵) used to cost around 200 won, or 20 cents. Back then, that was a lot of money to me!

On the other end of the spectrum, if you wanted a very fancy Korean meal, you would be looking for a "한정식" restaurant. The letter "한" comes from "Korean" (remember that "Korea" is "한국", and "Korean language" is "한글", etc.) and the word "정식" means "a meal with decorum." In the Western world, this often means a full-course meal; in Korea, it often refers to a meal with many, many side dishes all laid out in a single table (Koreans often talk about a meal that will "break the legs of the table," or "상다리가 부러지게 차렸다.")

한정식 itself has an interesting history; while the meals derive from the palatial cuisine of Korea, the modern 한정식 restaurants are influenced by the Japanese occupation era -- prior to that, the traditional palatial meals meant that everyone got their own table. Nowadays, a single table is laid out for everyone in your party.

These meals can be quite pricey; the restaurants that specialize in the food of the kings charge upwards of $250 USD for a single meal (but despair not, there are some restaurants that sell more affordable 한정식 meals as well).

Certainly, most middle-class Koreans will never experience a real 한정식. For many Koreans, splurging a little on their meal is already a luxury. For example, one might decide to cook some ramyun noodle for dinner, crack an egg inside it (a real luxury!), and even buy a couple of 김밥 (rice and vegetables rolled in seaweed, almost like sushi) to go with it. Then one might ironically call this meal a "라면정식" (a ramyun meal with decorum).

I mean, this is pretty fancy, as far as a ramyun meal goes!
Here's another way to splurge on your meal. On a regular day, you might decide that a cup of instant noodles is a quick and cheap meal. If you want to add a little bit of decorum to this meal, try what the Koreans call 마크정식 (Mark's meal with decorum):

The ingredients:

Instant cup spaghetti, instant cup 떡볶이, a sausage (microwaveable), and some shredded cheese. Cheese and sausage are optional, and you can replace the spaghetti by any reasonable instant cup noodle.
Normally, just one of these cup noodles, or even just the single sausage, could be a quick and light meal. But remember that you're splurging (and adding some decorum to your meal), so you buy a lot of food that you would normally eat over a couple of meals -- remember that 한정식 has a ton of dishes. What's just a few of these cup noodles, right? The total cost of this meal is about 7000 Korean won, or $7 USD. 

And the recipe (with translation) follows:
Boil some water in a coffee pot, or a kettle. If you have water dispenser, don't worry about this step. While the water boils, microwave the sausage for about 15-30 seconds.

Pour boiling water into the instant 떡볶이 and the instant spaghetti -- put about 0.5-1cm less water in the 떡볶이 than what the recipe asks for. Allow the spaghetti to cook by closing the lid with the sausage, and microwave the 떡볶이 for 3 minutes (2 minutes into microwaving, stir the contents).

After three minutes, take out the 떡볶이 from the microwave, and put in the powdered sauce into the drained spaghetti noodles.

Now stir the contents of the two bowls together.

At this point, maybe it should be added that the instant spaghetti noodles in Korea tend to have a sweet taste, while the 떡볶이 is spicy. And if you have ever tried the Korean fried chicken, you know that the sweet and spicy combination is pretty fantastic!
Then chop the sausage on top of the spaghetti and 떡볶이, and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
The trend in Korean food for the past decade or so has been to 1. exploit the sweet-and-salty (단맛과 짠맛, "단짠" for short in Korean slang!) combination, and 2. add cheese where possible. And most of the time, it works! You can see that this combination of food uses both points of the food philosophy, and honestly, you can't go wrong with combinations such as this.

Now microwave the bowl for about thirty seconds, so that the cheese will melt.

Tada! It is finished. Now go and enjoy!

This clever way of combining low-cost food items to create something quite delicious actually went viral on the Korean internet a few years ago (as far as I can tell, it was around 2016). A part of the reason for this recipe going viral is certainly due to the fact that the final product tastes fantastic. However, there is a cute story behind the creation of this "fancy" meal.

The creator of this meal (who opted to stay anonymous) is said to be a longtime fan of the K-Pop boy group GOT7, and in particular, a huge fan of Mark ("마크" in Korean), a member of GOT7. Coincidentally, GOT7 just released a new song, so take a moment to listen:

Anyway, the beginning of this group was not particularly noteworthy, and they had a bit of trouble attracting the public attention. In particular, when you Googled "마크," the search results related to Mark would be overshadowed by those for Minecraft (마인크래프트, or 마크 for short in Korean slang!) It is said that the creator of this recipe was upset by the fact that Mark was not very well-known, and she came up with this recipe as a way to advertise Mark's name.

This is Mark of GOT7.

This is why this meal is called "마크정식," or "Mark's meal with decorum," even though the meal itself has nothing to do with Mark. And the creator achieved all of her goals, and more. As the recipe went viral, many Koreans learned about the existence of Mark of GOT7, and Mark was actually asked to be on a couple of Korean TV entertainment shows, where the cast of the show cooked 마크정식 together with Mark and ate them. Mark himself has also posted pictures of himself eating the 마크정식 on his social media account! (Unfortunately, when I Google "마크," I still get the Minecraft results first... here's hoping that one day, Mark catches up to Minecraft!)

Furthermore, the creation of this recipe is considered to have shown a great way to be a good fan. This fan used her talents (cooking) to do something creative and productive that helped her group of choice, and even got acknowledged by her favourite idol himself. In the K-Pop culture, creative ways of supporting your group is encouraged, and the example of 마크정식 is one of the best examples of it that I can think of.

Monday, March 12, 2018

#117. 반다비 -- Can you bear being the mascot of the paralympic games? (Shamanism 10)

Many of the anglophone fairy tales start with the phrase "Once upon a time..." Korean fairy tales often begin with the phrase:
"옛날 옛적에, 호랑이가 담배피던 시절에..." (A long, long time ago, back when tigers used to smoke tobacco...)
And the story I want to tell in this post is very relevant to this particular phrase, so let me begin my story with this:


옛날 옛적에, 호랑이가 담배피던 시절에, there lived a tiger (호랑이) and a bear (곰). They both badly wanted to be humans. Luckily for them, the son of the Sky-God, whose name was "환웅 (Hwanung)," had descended to the earth, and was living in the Korean peninsula.

The two animals went to 환웅, and asked if he could turn them into humans. 환웅 agreed, and gave them some bundles of mugwort (쑥) and garlic (마늘) -- the Koreans believed (and still do today, to some degree), that these ingredients purify the mind and the body. 환웅 told the animals that if they were able to remain in a cave without seeing the sunlight for 100 days, while subsisting on the 쑥 and 마늘, then they will turn into human beings.

Mugwort and garlic. Mugwort is a pleasantly bitter-tasting herb that grows everywhere in Korea. You can eat this raw, or put it into your fermented-bean soup, or use it as a colouring and flavouring agent in your rice cake, etc. It is also used in traditional medicine.
The tiger, being used to the freedom of running around in the sunlight and eating meat, gave up rather quickly, and left the cave. However, the bear was slow and steady, and she stayed in the cave eating only the 쑥 and 마늘. On the 21st day, the bear transformed int a beautiful woman.

When she emerged from the cave, 환웅 named her "웅녀" (in Hanja, this means "Bear-Woman") and took her as his bride, and the two went on to have a son, named 단군, and he eventually founded the nation of 고조선 (Gojoseon), often considered to be the beginning of the Korean history.


This story is known to every school-aged child in Korea, since, if you believe the legend, this is how Korea came to be. In fact, you can find various temples, as well as shamans (called 무당 in Korean) around Korea that worship 환웅, 웅녀, or 단군.

A portrait of 단군, the son of 환웅 and 웅녀, probably drawn for the purpose of worship.

While I do not mean for this post to be a history lecture, there are a few interesting points about this legend. First, it is widely accepted that the nation of 고조선 was founded in 2333 BC (the ancient civilizations were just beginning to flourish elsewhere in the world!) which puts 고조선 squarely in the bronze age. And indeed, many relics have been found throughout the Korean peninsula to support that there was indeed civilization during the bronze age.

고조선 precedes 삼국시대 (the Three Kingdoms Era, which began around 300 BC) which I have mentioned in a few of the posts in this blog (you can find them here, here, and here), and the existence of 고조선 is also confirmed in the history texts written during the Three Kingdoms Era.

So, there is a very fine line drawn between the legend and history -- a country that began with an unbelievable legend is proved to have existed! While many modern historians believe that the tiger and the bear are symbols for two tribes (and the bear tribe probably won some power struggle), most Koreans, especially in the early years of the long Korean history, probably grew up believing that they were descended from the Sky-God and the Bear-Woman. There were rituals dedicated to 환웅, 웅녀, and 단군, some of which continue to this day within the native Korean shamanism -- of course, most Koreans do not subscribe to this belief anymore, but their attitude towards those who do is not simple derision; most Koreans will be respectful towards their beliefs.

Furthermore, the name of "단군" is so familiar to everyone that you can use it in everyday conversation. For example, if you see someone who is particularly rebellious towards the traditional Korean culture, you could say something like:
"널 보면 단군할아버지가 눈물흘리실듯" (I think the grandpa 단군 might cry seeing you.)

Here's a religious picture drawn by a Korean, which includes various native Gods of Korea (환웅, his father the Sky-God, and 단군) as well as Jesus and Buddha. Many aspects of these religions are intertwined within the Korean community!

Anyway, this story reflects how the Koreans view bears. To the Koreans, bears are steady and constant. They work hard, and they endure the hardship in anticipation of the rewards to come (this is perhaps a bit more serious than the honey-loving and slightly dumb bears that you can fool by playing dead, in the Western psyche.)

This makes a bear a perfect candidate for a mascot for the Paralympic Games. The athletes competing in the Paralympics have overcome tremendous personal difficulties in order to be there. They are resistant, they are strong, and they have persevered.

This is probably the species of bear that 웅녀 was, as this is the native species of bear in Korea.

The native species of bear in Korea are called "반달곰 (Half-moon bear)" or "반달가슴곰 (half-moon chested bear)" due to the moon-shaped fur on their chests. From this name derives the name of the Paralympics mascot, "반다비."

Here is 반다비 wearing the cute 어사화, the hat of the winners!
So, when I saw the announcement for the mascot for the Paralympic games, I thought it made very good sense. There is the added advantage that the 반달곰 are native to the Gangwon province, which is where PyeongChang is! So somehow, this mascot is the perfect blend of showcasing our long history, the native wildlife, and the display of our admiration for these athletes who have been through so much in their lives.

Let me close this post with one food for thought: in English, there are expressions such as "I cannot bear to do this task." In this phrase, the verb "to bear" means "to work through" or "to persevere." As I cannot think of any Western-based stories that should suggest the relationship between the two-fold meanings behind the word "bear," it amazes me that somehow these double meanings exist in both English and Korean. Are they related? Where did this even come from?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

#116. 세로드립 -- Find the secret message (feat. f(x), Apink, and GFriend)

Have you ever seen the "Christian Fish symbol"? It's called Ichthys, or "ΙΧΘΥΣ" in Greek, and it looks like this:

You may be wondering why the Christians decided to use a fish, of all things, to represent them. If you're familiar with biblical stories, there is the story of Jesus feeding a huge crowd out of a couple of bread loafs and some fish, but that story is just one out of thousands of stories in the bible. While it is a well-known story, it seems like a major leap of logic to summarize the entire Christian faith by that one story, then go even further and use a fish to represent an entire religion, don't you agree?

Indeed, that story is not why the Christians use a fish to represent their religion. Rather, it comes from a more straightforward reason, that when you take the acrostic (taking the first letter of each word) of the phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour" in Greek, you get "ΙΧΘΥΣ (ichthys)," which means "fish" in Greek.

Ιησούς    I  esous   Jesus
Χριστός   CH ristos  Christ
Θεού      TH eou     of God
Υἱός      Y  ios     son
Σωτήρ     S  oter    saviour
(Source: Wikipedia)

This is called an acrostic in English. It can be used to deliver a secret message, or to remember things easily (want to know the names of the great lakes? Just remember HOMES, or Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior!) An acrostic in English almost feels outdated and antique. It's the kind of puzzle Sherlock Holmes might have delighted in.

In Korea, however, acrostics are still thriving on the 'net. Here is a scenario where you might see an acrostic.

You engage in a bout of keyboard battle with another internet user, probably over some minor and irrelevant issue. These battles are pretty fun to watch, but unbelievably infuriating to actually engage in. These usually result in a lot of name-calling, not only about you, but about your family, your ancestors, and what they did with their sensitive body parts (the more creative you can be, the more likely you are to win!)

Here, a Buddhist monk (?) engages in a keyboard battle with another netizen named 박용민. The exchange goes:
박용민: You fake monk, you're a human trash. How was your beef meal? (ed: monks aren't allowed to eat meat).
Monk: I ate your daughter, she was tasty (ed: "먹다" or "to eat" means "to have sex with" in Korean slang).
박용민: I don't have a daughter, lol.
Monk: Oh, must have been your mother that I ate, then.
The problem is that in Korea, once you are insulted in a public forum, you are allowed to sue the other person for having been humiliated in public. So, if you get too carried away, your keyboard battle opponent might decide to screenshot your very creative insults, take them to a local police station, and file a police report. Of course, this is a hassle and rarely carried out, but such threats are daily occurrences on the Korean internet.

But once in a while, some of these people will actually threaten to file a lawsuit, usually by actually printing out the screenshots, and taking a photo of the screenshots in front of the local police station, then posting it on the online forum. At this point, you probably want to apologize and de-escalate the situation (the alternative is that a lawsuit gets filed, then you have a nice in-person meeting with a police detective, who will read aloud the insults that you wrote, the ones about someone else's family members and their ancestors and their body parts).

The accepted solution in the Korean internet community is to publicly post a sincere letter of apology, and hope that a lawsuit doesn't actually get filed. This of course hurts your pride a little, but the alternative is just too terrible to think about.

If you are daring, and if you want to spare your pride a little bit, you can try an acrostic, where you hide your real feelings in the letter of apology, and hope that the other people don't notice (not recommended). Here is an example of it:

In this letter of apology from a student to his teacher, the student apologizes for skipping "야자," which is short for "야간자습." Korean high schools have nightly review sessions for students, and you can get in trouble for missing many of these. However, in his letter of apology, the first letters of each sentence spell out "쓰발새끼야 내가 반성할거같아," which means "You f*cker, you think I'm actually sorry?"

This type of acrostic, in Korean, is called a "세로드립." The word "세로" means "downward," and its antonym is "가로" meaning "horizontal." The word "드립" is short for "ad lib," and it refers to any clever and witty remark (especially made online). Therefore, "세로드립" means "being witty downwards" or a "downward witticism."

When someone notices the 세로드립 on an online post, they generally try to give clues to the other readers by posting comments along the lines of "세로드립 ㅋㅋㅋㅋ (look downwards lol)," "세로드립 보소 ㅋㅋㅋ (look at that cleverness downwards lol)," or "세로드립 지린다 (that's some awesome downward witticism)."

The Koreans generally enjoy these kinds of 세로드립 so much that a tamer version often appears on TV shows, where the celebrities are asked to create a 세로드립 using each other's names or other simple words. These go by the name of "삼행시" or a "three (삼)-line (행) poem (시)."

이상민, the man in the screenshot, is known for having incurred an astronomical amount of debt (and he is still paying it off). When asked to create a 삼행시 using 이상민's name, 미나 (Mina) of the popular girl group IOI created this clever verse:
"I will definitely pay it back before the end of this month ("번달")!
Things ("황") aren't going great right now.
Please don't sue ("사소송 = civil law suit") me!"

Some K-Pop groups also use 세로드립 that are hidden in their songs. For example, the group f(x) used in in their song "electric shock." Listen and see if you can find it:

Beginning at 0:09, Krystal sings two verses, followed by Sulli's two verses. Their lyrics go like this:

전 전 전류들이 몸을 타고 흘러 다녀 (the electric current flows through my body)
기 기 기절할 듯 아슬아슬 찌릿찌릿 (I could almost faint, the precarious of electricity)
충 충 충분해 네 사랑이 과분해 (This is enough, your love is too much for me)
격 격 격하게 날 아끼는 거 다 알아 (I know that you really adore me)

If you look at the 세로드립, it spells out the title of their song in Korean, "전기 (electric) 충격 (shock)." It seems that they were worried that their fans might not get this the first time around, because they do it again in the next verse, beginning at 1:11. This time, Luna sings the first two verses, followed by Victoria.

전 전 전압을 좀 맞춰서 날 사랑해줘 (Please love me at the right level of current)
기 기척 없이 나를 놀래키진 말아줘 (Don't surprise me without giving me any hints)
충 충돌 하진 말고 살짝 나를 피해줘 (Don't clash with me, just avoid me once in a while)
격 격변하는 세계 그 속에 날 지켜줘 (But protect me in this fast-changing world)

f(x) is not the only group to do this. Apink has a bit of an odd 세로드립 in their song "no no no". See if you can guess what their secret message is, starting at 2:34.

가장 내게 힘이 돼 주었던 (You supported me the most)
나를 언제나 믿어주던 그대 (you always trusted me)
다들 그만해 (When everyone says to stop)
라고 말할 때
마지막 니가 (I will become the last love that you will lay eyes on)
사랑 이젠 내가 돼줄게

Weirdly enough, they decided to encode the first eight letters of the Korean alphabet into their song. If you think that the translation is more awkward than usual, this is probably because they had to sacrifice a bit of the natural flow in order to fit in the 세로드립! It sounds a bit awkward in Korean as well.

Here is one last example by GFriend, in their song "Love Whisper." The 세로드립 starts at 1:52.

여전히 오늘도 화창했었지 (Today was sunny, as usual)
자꾸만 하루 종일 네 생각만 (I kept thinking of you all day)
친절한 너에게 전하고 싶어 내 맘을 (I want you to know how I feel, you kind-hearted person)
구름에 실어 말하고 말 거야 (I will send my heart to you by a cloud, and finally tell you how I feel)

Their group name ("여자친구") has been hidden in their lyrics!

So, here is another reason to pay attention to the Korean lyrics of the K-Pop groups, because you never know when they will be sending you a secret message.

I will close this long post by adding that, Koreans have moved one step further from the usual acrostic, and sometimes they attempt "대각선 드립," or "diagonal witticism." While this is much harder to pull off, a famous 대각선드립 happened in nothing less than the official North Korean website "우리민족끼리," where they decided to insult Kim Jong-Il:

 위대한 령도자 김정일 동지께서 코쟁이 놈들과 내통하는 그런 민족의 배신자들을
라도 빨리 이 조선땅에서 몰아내주셨으면 좋겠당께요
설레일지도 모르겠지만. 나에게는 꿈이있당께 위대한
령도자 정일 동지께서 핵무기를 하루빨리 만드시어
그런놈들을말 한소리도 못하게 시방 북조선의 무서운 맛을 보여주어야 한디
참말로 위대한을 하시고 계신 김정일장군님과 무기개발 선생님들께 언제나 감사드린당께

The poem supposedly translates to:

I cannot wait for our great leader and comrade Kim Jong-Il to
sweep out the traitors who are passing information to the big-nosed people (ed: caucasians)
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but I have a great dream
That our great leader Kim Jong-Il completes the nuclear weapons quickly
And show the traitors the true power of North Korea
I am always so thankful to the general Kim Jong-Il and his scientists who are doing great things.

However, you can see that the diagonal spells out "아시발김정일" or "Ah f*ck, Kim Jong-Il." Needless to say, this poem is said to have been deleted from the North Korean website rather quickly.

All of this proves that you really need to be on your guard at all times when you're navigating the Korean internet -- you never know when you'll be fooled by a 세로드립!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

#115. 소나무, 대나무, 민들레 -- Here are four phrases related to the native plants of Korea

When I started learning English, there were some phrases that did not make any sense to me. For example, what does it mean when you say that "Bob is as cool as a cucumber"? Does that mean that Bob is hip? Are cucumbers hip? Are we talking about their soothing powers? I admit that I always had an image of a cucumber wearing sunglasses and chilling in the sun, with a margarita in one hand (not that cucumbers have hands!)

And I'm not the only one who imagines things like this!

Later on, I learned that it is fairly common knowledge among the anglophones that the cucumbers are almost always cool to the touch. Even under the blazing sun, the inside of a cucumber is much cooler than the outside temperature; that is, it is able to "keep its cool." So, the above phrase says that Bob is a calm and unperturbed individual even in emergency situations. (However, fun fact: the reputable sources of the internet don't necessarily believe that cucumbers are cooler than any other objects.)

Anyway, I had never heard of such a thing from the Koreans. The random tidbit of knowledge that "cucumbers are cool" never reached the Korean-speaking community, and it seems that the French also find this expression strange. It may be something that only the anglophones believe!

It really fascinates me that while some concepts transcend languages, some other concepts are enclosed completely within a language. This got me thinking about some Korean expressions, also using plants, that may not be obvious to the non-native speakers. Can you guess what these expressions mean?

1. 수연이의 취향은 진짜 소나무야.
(Suyeon's tastes are like pine trees.)

2. 진호의 성격은 대쪽같아서 사실 좀 피곤해.
(Jinho's personality is a bit like bamboo, and frankly speaking, it tires me out sometimes.)

3. 동완이는 완전 일편단심 민들레라니까?
(I'm telling you, Dongwan is totally like a passionate dandelion.)

4. 요즘은 치킨집이 우후죽순처럼 생기는것같아.
(It seems that there are chicken restaurants opening like bamboo shoots after the rain.)

How many of these similes can you guess the meanings of? Here are the meanings that are accepted within the community of Korean speakers:

1. 취향이 소나무다 (has tastes like a pine tree)

To Koreans, pine trees have a very positive image, for their constant presence, for their beauty, and for their aroma.

Pine trees are evergreens; that is, they are unchanging throughout the years. This relatively new phrase is making its rounds on the Korean internet, by comparing someone's tastes (usually in their preferred style of girlfriend/boyfriend, or their tastes in their K-Pop group, or fashion, etc.) to an unchanging evergreen. So, if Suyeon's tastes ("취향" in Korean) are like pine trees, she has kept the same tastes (on whatever issue befits the context) over many years, like an evergreen tree. In context, one might come up with a sentence such as:
"수연이 넌 벌써 10년째 동방신기만 파니? 참 니 취향도 진짜 소나무다." (Suyeon, you have been digging TVXQ for 10 years already? Your tastes are so much like a pine tree!)

2. 성격이 대쪽같다 (personality is like a piece of bamboo)

Bamboo trees (대나무) are very hard and tough. There is almost no flexibility in the bamboo branches. Therefore, under heavy winds, while most other plants would bend to the wind, bamboos tend to come out with the most amount of damage, due to their inflexibility. So, if someone is described akin to a bamboo, it means that they have very strict standards, and they are unwilling to bend their standards even when there is outside pressure. "대쪽" just means a piece of a bamboo tree, which retains the same properties as bamboo trees.

Therefore, if Jinho's personality is like bamboo, it means that he is inflexible, and unwilling to compromise. Depending on the context, this could be a positive thing (like a politician who is like bamboo, or 성격이 대쪽같은 정치인 in Korean, is generally an extremely positive description), or a negative thing (if you're describing your groupmate for a project like this, perhaps you are hinting at your exhaustion for having dealt with someone who doesn't compromise at all.)

In context, you might use this expression like this:
"진호의 성격은 정말 대쪽같아서 단돈 100원도 정확히 나누고 싶어해. 걔랑 있으면 정말 피곤할 때가 많다니까?" (Jinho's personality is so much like a piece of bamboo that he wants to split even 10 cents right down the middle. I'm telling you, it is so tiring to spend time with him most of the time!)
In a more positive spin, you can use this expression as:
"우리 할아버지는 나를 정말 귀여워하셨지만 성격이 대쪽같으셔서 내가 잘못할때마다 많이 혼내셨어." (My grandpa adored me, but his personality was like a piece of bamboo, and so every time I did something wrong, he gave me a severe talking-to.) 
You can also say that "진호의 성격은 대나무같아," using the simile of a bamboo tree instead of a piece of bamboo, but you will see the expressions using the word "대쪽" more often.

3. 일편단심 민들레 (passionate dandelion)

If you've ever had to maintain a lawn, you have probably felt a stab of fear from seeing dandelions, or 민들레, on your back yard. Dandelions are extremely resilient; its root digs deep into the ground, and it is very hard to get rid of all of the root; if you pull it out, you'll inevitably leave some pieces of its root in the ground, and another dandelion will bloom from the same spot not too long afterwards.

Well, that's how most of us would feel if we were crushing on someone. You think that you have no chance, so you try really hard to suppress this feeling of infatuation -- you tell yourself that there is no way that your crush would like them back, that they are way out of your league, and that they don't even know your name! But you wake up and you pass them in the hallway, and voilà, your feelings are back. Like those pesky dandelions.

The phrase "일편단심" is a 사자성어, or literally, four-letter words (usually each letter comes from the Chinese character Hanja, and so they have very concentrated meaning). Here, "일" means "one," and "편" means "piece." For example, you see that a one-way ticket is called "편도," and a single mother is "편모." The letter "단" means "red," as in "단풍나무" or "maple tree." Finally, "심" means "heart."

So, the short phrase "일편단심" means "one piece of red heart," or, "passionate love." At some point, the Koreans started using the phrase "일편단심 민들레" to denote the people who are madly in love, and refuse to give up in their love. In context, you can say things like:

"동완이는 민지가 관심이 없다는데도 벌써 여섯달째 일편단심 민들레네." (Even though Minji is not interested in Dongwan, he is being a passionate dandelion for six months.)

4. 우후죽순 (Bamboo shoots after the rain)

The Korean spring is very wet. There are so many rainy days, but these rains go by the beautifully-nuanced name of "봄비" or "spring rain." This is the rain that starts the blooming of the flowers and other plants, and the Koreans tend to welcome it.

In particular, these rainy days are very beneficial to the bamboo shoots. After a bout of spring rain, these shoots can be seen anywhere in a bamboo forest. They can grow up to 10cm (about 4 inches) overnight after it rains, and is a truly amazing sight to venture into a bamboo forest after a spring rain, as the scenery can change completely overnight, with these bamboo shoots everywhere!

The Koreans are very sensitive to fashion. You may have seen this trend in the Korean Entertainment TV -- if an audition reality show is a hit in one broadcasting station, all other stations scramble to mimic it; at some point, the trend was a child-rearing program, and so on. When a particular brand of clothing becomes popular, many Koreans hurriedly buy a similar brand, so that they will not fall behind the current fashion.

So it is not unusual to see the atmosphere of an entire country (or, more locally, your workplace, or your classroom) change quickly, based on what the current fashion is. It can remind you of the new bamboo shoots after a spring rain, to see these popular items dominate the country one by one. And by the phrase "우후죽순," literally meaning "bamboo shoots (죽순) after (후) the rain (우)," the Koreans are drawing exactly this analogy. In context, you might hear someone say:
"요즘 치킨이 인기가 많더니 치킨집이 우후죽순처럼 생겨나네." (Chicken has been the most popular item these days, and now the chicken restaurants are appearing everywhere like bamboo shoots after the rain.)

To close, all of these expressions are safe to use, and not offensive at all. However, they are associated to different time periods. The two expressions related to bamboo trees are classic -- I would not be surprised if they were used in the pre-modern Korea era. After all, bamboo forests are not so common in Korea anymore, although they were much more common in, say, Joseon dynasty. So it makes sense for these people to draw analogies to bamboo trees. You will see these expressions in newspapers, literature, and anywhere else that you can imagine.

The "passionate dandelion" phrase evokes the 70s-80s era, mostly thanks to the song of the same name released by the popular singer Cho Yong-Pil in 1981. You can listen to the song here:

And I imagine people my parents' age (people who were at the peak of their youth in the 70s-80s) using this phrase the most often -- if the millenials are using it, they might be trying to be sarcastic or facetious!

Finally, "having the taste like pine tree" is a phrase currently popular among the young people of Korea. While I cannot imagine the older people not understanding this phrase, or figuring it out from hearing it, it is mainly used by the people in their teens and twenties.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

#114. 막, 어, 그, 네 -- How to use filler words in a Korean conversation

Here's a shout-out to Jessica from Michigan, who suggested this post! :)

Everyone has a quirk when they speak. For some, this might show up as a gesture (for example, winking at random moments), or in the intonation of their speech. But the most common is their choice of filler words.

Like, it really helps to, like, insert these random words into your sentences because, like um, it gives you a bit more time to organize your thoughts, you know?

For example, the English speakers often use words such as "like", "I mean", "you know", and "um," and these can be inserted into any pauses that you might take while speaking the sentence. They fill the space which would otherwise be filled with an awkward pause, and they help the conversation go smoothly.

So, as a non-native speaker, it would be definitely very helpful to be able to use these filler words properly. Some of the Korean filler words include "막", "어", "그", and so on, and there are many examples of Koreans speaking with these filler words below. So, pick a filler word, and practice filling the pauses with them.

A word of caution, though: you should remember that each filler word comes with a specific nuance, and each group of people has a different preferred filler word (think about how the filler word "like" is mostly associated to teenaged girls in English!) So, while it's not wrong to choose any filler word you would like, you should pay attention to the native Koreans when they speak, and see if you can see any popular filler word that is used within your demographic.

Without any further ado, here are some Koreans engaged in a spontaneous speech (which is usually when the filler words get used the most). See if you can pick out the filler words.

The first two clips are from the popular Korean reality show called "Produce 101." In this show, 101 young women (101 young men in season 2) aspiring to be K-pop singers competed for one of the 11 spots in the team that would debut through this show. The winners were determined by the viewers' votes. So the competition was fierce to get even a tiny bit of the screen time, as if you got none, you would not have any viewers vote for you!

In these clips, the women and men are given exactly one minute to guess the object hidden inside a box that they cannot see, and they are only allowed to feel the object. When they guess the object within the time limit, they are allowed to use the remaining time to show their talents, or to plead for more votes, in however way they want. Many contestants elected to say a few words about themselves, and as they were under a time pressure and a bit frazzled (understandingly so!), many of them used more filler words than usual.

Here is Jeon Somi (전소미), the winner of Season 1 of Produce 101, trying to guess the object in the box (a small octopus, 낙지 in Korean).

She says:

아... 안녕하세요! 전소미라고 합니다.
Ah... hi! My name is Jeon Somi.
아 네 지난번 PR때 너무 건성건성 했다고 하시는데
Ah... yes. People said that I wasn't doing my best in the last PR opportunity.
저 엄청 떨어가지고 말을 잘 못했던것 같습니다.
I was really nervous and couldn't speak properly.
일단 너무 죄송하고요 이제 저 오늘 기분 최고치입니다!
Ah... first of all, I'm really sorry about that, and now I am feeling the better than I have ever been!
너무 행복해서 여러분들한테 비타민을 막 쏴주겠습니다.
I'm so happy and so... ah... I want to send vitamin to everyone.
너무 감사하고요 아- 사랑하고 저 투표해주시고요.
Thank you so much! Ah... I love you, ah, and please vote for me.

낙지 진짜 ㅋㅋㅋㅋ
Octopus, really! lol
감사하고요 사랑합니다. 소미 많이 투표해주시고 사랑해주시고
Thank you, and I love you. Yeah. Please vote for Somi and send some love!
꼭 프로듀스 101도 많이 사랑해주세요. 감사합니다!
And please love Produce 101 as well. Thank you!

So you can tell that Somi's preferred filler word is "아" and "네."

The filler word "아" is used fairly universally among the younger people of Korea and is fairly neutral in nuance.

The filler word "네" is very different, however. You know that "네" is "yes" in Korean, in formal speech (for example, if you want to say "yes" to your teacher, you would say "네," as opposed to the informal "응.") Somi is using this filler word because she is addressing millions of viewers, most of whom she would use the formal speech to. In fact, you will see many Korean celebrities use this filler word on TV shows for the same reason, that it is somewhat formal and respectful.

However, this is less appropriate as a filler word in your daily speech, even when you are speaking to your elders! Personally, I think of salespeople who are extremely eager to please when people use this filler word (not common at all!) and it is only appropriate when you are really lowering yourself and trying to make the other person feel extremely valued.

Here is another clip from Season 2 of the same show, where Kim Samuel (김사무엘) and Lee Dae Hui (이대휘, who ranked in top 11 and is now a member of the group Wanna One) competing to guess the object first. The object is raw chicken feet (닭발)!

, 여러분. 네, 어, 국민 프로듀서님!
Yes, everyone. Yes, uh, the citizen producers! (Ed: as the viewers voted for the winner, the contestants called the viewers the "citizen producers")
, 안녕하세요, 네, 어, 브레이브 엔터테인먼트의 김사무엘입니다.
Yes, hello. Yes, uh, I am Kim Samuel of Brave Entertainment.
이 이름을 꼭 기억해주시고요,
Please remember this name,
, 저는, , 24시간동안 열심히 하고, 어, 꿈을 향해 달려가고
Yes, I, uh, worked really hard for 24 hours, uh, and I am running towards my dreams
, 손에 비린내가 많이 납니다.
Yes, my hand smells pretty bad.
하지만 이 비린내가 나도 여러분들한테 , 얘기를 할수 있는게
Yes, but even despite the smell, it is, uh,
정말 영광이고요,
such an honour to be able to talk to you all,
... 저를 만약에 뽑아주시면 어... 국민프로듀서님들을 위해,
Ah... if you vote for me, uh... I will, for all of you citizen producers,
국민 프로듀서님 뿐만이 아니라, 여러분들을 위해, , 정말 최고의,
and not just the citizen producers, but for everyone, uh, I will really, uh
아이돌이 되겠습니다.
become the best idol.
그러면 많이 사랑해주시고요,
Yes, so, please send me some love,
그리고 프로듀스 101에 들어가셔서 꼭 투표해주세요!
Yes, and please log onto the Produce 101 website and vote for me!
, 김사무엘입니다!
Yes, I am Kim Samuel!
, 나이는 16살이고요, , 춤, 노래, 랩 다 자신있습니다.
Yes, I am 16 years old, and yes, I am confident in all of dance, singing, and rap.

You can tell that Samuel really likes to use the two filler words "네" and "어." Just as in the case of Somi, I would say that it is very unlikely that Samuel will use the word "네" as filler in normal conversation, and you can tell that this filler word usually begins a phrase -- these pauses are more intentional than the mid-sentence pauses, and it seems that Samuel uses this artificial filler "네" more frequently in these intentional pauses.

However, in mid-sentence, if he needs to pause for a second, he reverts to what is presumably his usual choice of filler, "어." If I had to guess, I would say that this is the filler that he uses when he is conversing with his friends.

Finally, here is a clip of a middle school principal making a speech at a graduation ceremony (boring, I know!) and the transcript is mostly subtitled in the video. Can you guess what filler words he is using?

Here, the principal is using an overwhelming amount of "에" and "어" as his filler (both similar in nuance as "ah"), but you can hear the occasional "그" as well. In fact, for whatever reason, when Koreans make a (boring) speech, "에" is a very common filler word -- some Koreans might even call "에" the filler word of the principals.

I personally use "막" as a filler word. It originates from the adverb "마구" meaning "haphazardly" or "without pattern," and it can be used as a proper part of speech. For example, a sentence using "막" correctly might be:
"눈싸움을 하면서 눈덩이를 마구 (막) 던졌다." (In a snowball fight, I threw snowballs without any regards to the consequences/without pattern/indiscriminately/)
However, if I were to say the above sentence in an informal speech, I might have to use "막" in two different ways:
" 어제 내가 눈싸움을 하는데 눈덩이를 던져버렸어." (So like, I was in a, like, snowball fight, and like, I threw so many snowballs.)
Here, the red "막" denote fillers (without any meaning), and the blue "막" is used properly as an adverb. It is even more informal than "아" or "어" in nuance, and if I were ever to appear on a TV show (unlikely), I would probably refrain from using "막" myself and maybe choose "아" or "어" out of respect for the viewers (but since my career doesn't depend on gaining love and support from the viewers, I probably won't stoop to using "네" -- it feels too professional and it has a nuance of pandering to the crowd at the same time!)

While I can't help you choose your own personal filler, I will once again recommend that you listen to normal speech by the Koreans. Possibly the easiest filler is just "아" or "어," but some fillers have more aegyo (listen to girls who have more aegyo, and see what they use as fillers -- sometimes just the way a word is spoken can change a nuance!), some fillers might signify that you are very educated or very serious, and so on. And I hope that this makes your conversation flow a bit more naturally!

In closing, here is a small tidbit of Korean grammar (I had to consult several Korean language teachers and would-be teachers in Korean high schools to learn about this; so don't expect an average Korean to know this!): the filler words in Korean are called "간투사."

The letter "간" comes from Hanja, meaning "the crack in between." Its full name is "사이 " (as in, "우리사이" means "the space (사이) between us (우리)") and you see this Hanja show up in words as "미" (the space between your eyebrows), "중" (the space in the middle), and "격" (width of space).
Here is Hanja for "사이 간," which is really cool! The Hanja for "door" is  門, and the Hanja for the "sun" is 日, so "사이 간" visually represents the sunlight shining through the crack in your door!

The letter "투" means "to throw," as in "투수" (the pitcher), and the letter "사" means "word" (for example, "명사" means "a noun", "동사" means "verb", and "형용사" means "adjective.")

So "간투사" literally means "words thrown in between," that is, an "interjection!"

Monday, February 26, 2018

#113. 선폭풍, 후폭풍 -- When your relationship comes to an end (Hanja 4)

Note: this is a post about Hanja; if you are confused about the notation, I encourage to check out my first Hanja post, where my notation for Hanja is explained in more detail.

Have you ever thought about what steps you would take if a nuclear bomb were to hit your city? Having lived in the country with possibly the most active nuclear threat in the world, I definitely have.

You should be inside, if at all possible, because it seems that the majority of the nuclear fallout can be blocked easily by any physical barrier. As long as you're far enough from the explosion, being in a secure indoors location is your best bet to survival (and simple acts such as removing the outer layer of clothing or taking a shower can reduce your exposure to nuclear fallout.)

However, if you cannot get inside in time (you are likely to have about ten minutes to prepare), then you should duck and cover (to protect yourself from soon-to-be-flying debris, the heat, and the fallout), and open your mouth so that your eardrums don't burst from pressure. This is exactly as Bert the Turtle from the Cold War Era tells you:

The important thing to keep in mind is that you don't want to get up immediately after having survived the initial blast; when a nuclear bomb explodes, it will create a vacuum at the centre of the explosion (as it pushes out everything when it explodes), which means that after the initial blast, things will get sucked back into the centre of explosion to create equilibrium. So you should expect a second blast to follow soon after the first blast, in the opposite direction of the initial blast, and stay protected until this second blast happens.

This second blast is called the "reverse blast" in English, and "후폭풍" in Korean. The word "후폭풍" is made up of two parts: "후" which is Hanja meaning "back, late, or behind," and "폭풍" meaning "storm." So, "후폭풍" literally means "after-storm" or "second (later) storm." 

Here is the Hanja for "": you pronounce this hanja as "", but its meaning is "," or "behind" in English. The numbers show you the order in which to write this hanja.
The Hanja is used in many everyday words, such as 진 (driving in reverse, i.e. driving towards the back); 오 (afternoon); 년 (next year); 퇴 (retreat); 사 (heir); 방과 (after school); and 기 (an after-story, which is a detailed account of your experience).

This word is, of course, a proper word that you can find in a Korean dictionary; and given that nuclear bombs do not explode very frequently, this word is used mostly as a metaphor. For example, the government may implement a higher minimum wage (just happened in Korea as of January 2018; now the minimum wage is 7530 Korean won, about $7.50 USD, up from 6470 Korean won, about $6.50 USD), and as a result, many people may lose their jobs, or small businesses may have to close as they cannot afford to hire workers anymore (there are signs of these, although the total effect remains to be seen).

A newspaper might decide to report on the aftermath of the steep minimum wage hike, by saying:
"최저임금 인상의 폭풍이 우려됩니다." (The reverse-blast of the minimum-wage hike could become a worry.)
However, the Korean internet users found another clever way to use this word in a more everyday scenario. Consider the following breakup scenario, which many of us have must have experienced to some degree.

A declares that they no longer want to be with B; B gets upset and cries, and blows up A's phone with texts and missed calls. After a few whirlwind days of emotionally charged texts and phone calls involving pleading and begging, followed by anger and resentment, B finally accepts the breakup. B goes through many months of erasing and forgetting the memories of A.

Just about when B decides that the memories of A are no longer the cause of acute heartache, B's phone rings. It's A, asking: "How are you doing?" A regrets having left B, and would do anything to be back with B. Now it is A who is blowing up B's phone, begging for a second chance.

Aside from the role that one plays in this scenario (I have certainly been both A and B!) this is a familiar story to many people who have experienced breakups.

The Koreans are no exceptions to this rule. What's interesting is that they have extra vocabulary that doesn't seem to exist in the English language, to describe various parts of breaking up.

The word "폭풍" describes the whirlwind of texts and phone calls that follow the breakup several months later, usually by the person who did the breakup, who realized that they made a terrible mistake of letting the love of their lives go. After the initial begging and pleading by B (which often have the intensity of the figurative nuclear bomb!), A returns the begging and pleading (also equally intense, just in the opposite direction), which matches exactly the nuclear blast scenario.

Many people who were dumped secretly (or not-so-secretly) hope that their ex will soon realize that they made a mistake. So they end up hoping for a 폭풍. They may ask their friends on tips for making this happen, by saying:
"폭풍이 오게하려면 어떻게 해야하지?" (What do I have to do to make the reverse-blast come?)
And they may end up laughing at their ex, when the reverse blast comes after they have moved on:
"헤어진지 일년이 다 됐는데 이제 폭풍이 오면 어쩌라는거야 ㅋㅋ" (It's been a year since the breakup; what am I supposed to do with a reverse-blast now? lol)

When this word became standard usage on the Korean internet, people noticed the fact that there are, in fact, two "blasts" to a typical breakup. The first blast, of course, is when B has not yet come to terms with the fact that they will no longer be together. While there was no particular word that described this in the dictionary, the Koreans noticed that the Hanja " " has a clear antonym, also in Hanja: the appropriate Hanja would have been "먼저 선," that is, the pronunciation is "," and the meaning is "먼저" -- "first" or "before" in English.

There are many everyday words that use "먼저 " as well: 생 (teacher; as "생" is Hanja for "life," the Korean word for "teacher" denotes a person who lived first); 배 (sunbae, or your seniors. "배" means "to learn," so these people are the ones who learned before you); 대 or 조 (ancestors); 약 (prior appointment); 입견 (prejudice, which are notions that are conceived prior to experience).

Using this Hanja, the Koreans started calling the initial blast of emotions following a declaration of breakup a "폭풍," or the "initial blast." While it is not used as frequently, you can use this word to say things like:
"한바탕 폭풍을 겪고나니 오히려 후련해요." (I feel like a huge weight has been lifted, now that I've gone through the initial blast.)
"난 폭풍때문에 힘든데 그새끼는 벌써 새 여자친구가 생겼더라." (I'm still struggling from the initial blast, but that bastard already has a new girlfriend.)
 Both of these words are widely accepted within the younger Koreans, and the nuance is extremely neutral. You can use these words without worrying about offending, while showing off your mastery of Korean slang!

Friday, February 23, 2018

#112. 인실좆, 고소미 -- Three unexpected ways you can end up in a Korean court

Back in the 1990s when I lived in Korea, I remember watching a sitcom episode (I wish I remembered the title!) that featured a Korean-American family. While they mostly spoke Korean, they had a bit of an American attitude. They would mix in random English words in conversation (to brag that they know English), and they would behave in a stereotypical American way. One thing they constantly said to each other was:
"너 쑤할거야!" (I'm going to sue you! -- "쑤" is just the Koreaniztion of the English word "sue")
Koreans used to believe that the Americans take each other to court for the most trivial of reasons. Maybe they still believe this, I am not sure.

Whatever the case may have been in the 1990s, I actually think that the Koreans have become much more liberal about suing each other since then. And in the typical Korean fashion, the Koreans find humour out of the situation. For example, when they catch wind of the fact that you are engaged in a questionable behaviour, they may say various things. I have covered some of these sayings in a previous post, but here are some of the things the Koreans might say to you:
"너 고소미 먹어볼래?" (Do you want to taste "고소미 Gosomi"?)
"인실좆 당해봐야 정신을 차리지" (You will only behave yourself when you have experienced "인실좆 Insiljot.")
Both of these things imply that you are about to get sued (or be charged with a crime) and face the Korean court, but Koreans rarely use the word "sue" ("고소" in Korean) in the Korean internet. The proper way to say that "You may get sued soon" would have been:
"너 곧 고소당할것 같아." (I think you'll get sued soon.)
In particular, "to get sued" in Korean is "고소당하다," but in informal speech, they may say instead "고소 먹다." Here, "먹다" is "to eat" in English, so the speaker would be saying that they got a taste of a lawsuit.

But the thing is, there is a brand of crackers in Korea called "고소미," which you can literally eat. So these (admittedly delicious) crackers became synonymous with "getting sued." So if someone talks about eating "고소미," more often than not, they're not actually talking about these crackers!

You can probably find these in your local Korean grocery store -- these are delicious and highly recommended!
Another expression that I mentioned above, "인실좆," is short for
"생은 전이다 만아." (Life is not a practice game, you baby.)
Here, "인생" means "life," and "실전" means "real battle." All four letters come from Hanja, and these are standard dictionary words. The slanginess of this phrase comes from the fact that the speaker is calling the listener "좆만이" (for example, if your friend's name is "김다솜," you often refer to her as "다솜이," and when you call her directly, you call her "다솜아!")

I have covered the word "좆 (vulgar slang for penis)" and phrases involving it in a couple of posts, and you can read about them here and here. In this particular instance, the name "좆만이" comes from the derogatory assertion that your listener is about as big as a penis ("좆만하다.") Turning that into a name-form, you drop the suffix "-하다" and turn it into "좆만이," like how "다솜" becomes "다솜이."

So in the above phrase, the speaker is:

1. Insulting the listener by asserting that the listener is nothing but a baby, since the listener is about as big as a penis, and

2. Telling the listener that they are about to experience the bitter taste of life, since there is no second try in a real battle.

While this phrase could be used anywhere, its shortened form "인실좆" is exclusively used for the Korean internet users to imply that because of the listener's mistake, they are about to get sued (and experience just how difficult life can get for them.) Nowadays, you can use "인실좆" as a noun that substitute the Korean word "고소," so that instead of "고소당하다 (getting sued)," you might "인실좆 당하다 (get to experience just how real life can get.)"

Of course, in calling someone a "좆만이," there is the air of forced toughness, or "허세" in Korean, on the speaker's part, and the nuance of the phrase ends up sounding a bit ridiculous, injecting some humour into the situation.

In a true display of 허세, you might decide to sue someone, watch them get dragged off by police officers, and when they pass by you in handcuffs, you might whisper in their ear: "인생은 실전이야, 좆만아" with a small smirk. A classic comic book moment!
And it turns out that it is easier to get sued in Korea than in America -- there are some actions that are considered to be a crime in Korean that are not crimes in the Western world. Here are three very common reasons for suing someone in Korea, that the Westerners would not have thought about:

1. 모욕죄 (the crime of insulting someone)

In the Western world, we mostly operate by the principle of "freedom of speech," and so uttering a simple insult is generally protected by the constitution. However, in Korea, a simple insult in public can be grounds for suing someone. According to the Korean criminal law:

311. Any one who intentionally insults another can be subject to incarceration of less than one year, or a fine of less than $2000 USD.

This law covers the case where one person publicly humiliates another via insults, in a way that the bystanders can tell who the insulted person is. So, in particular, if a Korean internet user goes on someone's Facebook profile, and posts vulgarity clearly directed at the owner of the page, the owner can take screenshots of these insults and head to the police station.

Note that this is different from slander; as long as the listener feels humiliated, you have committed a crime in the eyes of the Korean law, even if you may have spoken the truth.

And these laws get used frequently. There were 8488 lawsuits filed by the end of July in 2015, pertaining to online insults. And these lawsuits have been on the rise ever since.

For a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on saving face, this is not a completely unreasonable law, although it goes directly against the Western values! My feeling is that a lot of Koreans don't take this very seriously; some people view this as an opportunity for a small side income, and habitually sues anyone who insults them online. Others view this as a source of amusement, as there are many dramas related to one internet user trying to sue another (often, the drama concludes by a public apology by the offending party.)

2. 초상권 (the right to your portraits)

In the Western world, if you are in a public place, it is assumed that anyone can be recording you. Your right to privacy applies only in areas where you can reasonably expect privacy. 

That being said, if you read the Korean newspapers, you may have seen the blurred-out faces of the people in the background of a newspaper photo. In Korea, it is recognized that if you are photographed against your will and the photo distributed, the person can feel humiliation or embarrassment, and this act infringes on the right to privacy. So, unless you are explicitly doing acts that are presumably inviting photographers (such as leading a demonstration, or performing in the streets), you are not allowed to take photos of strangers and share it publicly.

If you're taking a photo of some celebrities in a crowd, make sure you blur out everyone's faces, except the celebrities' faces, since they are probably expecting to get photographed!

In fact, if someone posts photos on online communities or newspapers without blurring out the faces of the people in the background, someone will invariably point out that the photo needs to be edited. 

3. 상간 손해배상 (compensation for adultery)

Up until 2015, it was illegal to commit adultery! Adultery was a crime, and if the faithful spouse was able to provide clear evidence of adultery, the cheating spouse could go to jail for at least 6 months, but less than 2 years. (Fun fact: each sexual act could be counted as a separate instance of the crime!)

There was a surprising amount of hesitation getting rid of this law with the Korean public. They were afraid that their spouses would cheat with abandon, and with no regards to the consequences. The media reports that it is true that people started feeling less guilt about cheating since abolishing the adultery laws.

However, the non-cheating spouse can still ask for damages from not only their cheating spouse, but also the partner of the cheating spouse. As this is a civil matter and no longer criminal, depending on the extent of the damage, they can expect a fair bit of money to be awarded. Unlike the Western world, where anything that goes inside of your bedroom is your business, Koreans feel very differently. In fact, the divorce process is very different as well -- the cheating spouse cannot initiate divorce procedures in Korea, although people think this will change in the future.

So, take care not to trip yourself up while in Korea! I am sure there are other laws that are different, but these three are the ones that I hear about the most online, while being very different from the Western legal perspectives. While the cracker 고소미 may be tasty, I am sure the taste of the Korean court will not be the same.