Thursday, July 13, 2017

#64. 먹튀 -- Dine and dash

The Korean internet has been pretty heated the past couple of days.

A news story broke two days ago, which simply stated that a business CEO has been called in by the prosecutors on the charge of blackmailing a celebrity. It was said that the CEO demanded about $160,000 USD from this celebrity, telling her that if she doesn't comply, her nude video will be released to the public. This outraged the Koreans, and the CEO was called by all sorts of names, the milder of which included "인간 쓰레기" (human trash).

Soon enough, the name and the face of the CEO was released, as well as the name of his business (As an aside, the Koreans are very very good at internet sleuthing. They are often able to track down a person much better than the police, even!) The CEO, no longer having anything to lose, requested an interview with the Korean media and told his side of the story.

This is 손태영 (Tae-Young Son), the CEO of Coffeesmith, a coffee franchise in Korea. He is 48 years old.
According to him, he and the celebrity were dating for about a year and a half. During this time, he claims that he spent over a million dollars USD on his girlfriend ($180k USD for moving costs, $90k USD for her credit card payments, $50k USD for her rent payments, $270k USD for shopping costs, $40k USD as cash present, $180k USD for vacation costs, $90k USD for various gifts, and $50k USD for miscellaneous grocery costs). For whatever reason, he believed that they were going to marry, so he was not stingy with his money.

He then said that when he proposed to her (Koreans don't always propose; in his case, he says that he just asked her whether they were getting married or not), she stopped responding to his calls. And so, in a burst of anger, he messaged her telling her that if she did not give him back everything he had given her, he would destroy her career. He then said that after he regained control of himself, he returned the $160k USD his girlfriend had sent.

In time, the name of the celebrity became known too, although how the Korean internauts found out, I will never know (of course, it has not been officially confirmed, but she also hasn't denied it). The identity of the celebrity was particularly ironic, because she appears as a panel member in a gossip show called "용감한 기자들 (brave reporters)" where entertainment reporters share the juiciest gossip of the celebrities that they know of while not releasing the names of the celebrities. She generally appears in the show while shaking her head at these terrible celebrities!

Her name is 김정민 (Jung-Min Kim), aged 29. She is suspected to be involved in the blackmail scandal currently raging through Korea.

So a debate started raging between the Korean internet users. Who was in the wrong?

A part of the Korean internet users think that the CEO was in the wrong. The celebrity was never obligated to marry him, and he should have been grateful that a beautiful 29-year-old even dated a 48-year-old like him. Koreans are fairly sensitive about age, and when a man dates a woman significantly younger than him, they are often called "thieves," or "도둑놈" in Korean ("도둑" means "thief," and "-놈" is a diminutive suffix, which conveys the feeling of disdain).

Another part thinks that the celebrity was wrong and led him on for the money. It's an extreme version of dine-and-dash. In the past two days, her action has been condemned as being a "먹튀," which is a shortened form for "먹고 튀다."

"먹-" comes from the verb "먹다" meaning "to eat."
"-고" goes between two verbs, conjugating the first verb. "A -고 B" means to do A then B.
"튀다" is a verb meaning "to run away." This is slang of the more standard verb "도망가다." The word "튀다" is used to describe the bounce of a spring, or the scattering of popcorn when they are being popped. Both actions are very quick, and this is where the slang derives, that you are quick as a popcorn or a spring when you're running away.

So since this celebrity "ate" a lot of the CEO's money then "ran away," she has committed an act of "먹튀," which has a very negative connotation. According to the CEO, there is a lawsuit underway, in which he has sued the actress for having committed a marriage fraud, and in which the actress claims blackmail.

In the meantime, the celebrity posted an instagram update (although quickly deleted afterwards) that simply said: 

"Thank you. I'm so sorry, and also grateful. I will be strong and I will work harder. I will not disappoint unni (it's unclear who she is referring to) who believed me, and those who encouraged me."

 It seems that many Koreans are of the opinion that she is simply trying to achieve some 정신승리 through this post, unfortunately.

Here are some more examples of when you can use "먹튀" in a sentence, though:

During a video game, one user drops an expensive item on the floor, and another user grabs it and disappears off the screen. In your astonishment, you might exclaim:
저사람 지금 아이템 먹튀했어! (That user just did a 먹튀 on an item!)
You might have invested some money into a questionable venture, and although the result of the venture dictates that you should have gotten some money back, they never contact you, nor can you contact them. You might complain to your friend:
나 투자했던거 먹튀당했어 (Someone pulled a 먹튀 on what I had invested.)
So you use "먹튀하다" when the subject is the one doing the stealing, and "먹튀당하다" when the subject lost something due to fraudulent behaviour.

While the word "먹튀" itself has some vulgar nuances, it is widely known in Korea, and you can use it with anyone!


  1. Thank you for the informative post! I hope you can continue to cover more current events in Korea.
    Also, I just want to let you know that the instagram photo might not be at the exact position you've intended it to be :D

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I will definitely cover more interesting current (and past, too!) events in Korea. As for the instagram photo, it looks ok on my computer =/ It might be that this female celebrity chose a terrible photo to put on her instagram?!

    2. Oh I thought it was meant to be positioned after the colon but on my screen it comes 2 paragraphs earlier ^^ Or I couldn't see whatever you meant to put after "that simply said"

    3. Oh man, you're totally right! I had not even thought to check the actual text, thank you so much! :)

  2. Funny thing is, on the exact day you posted this, I experienced 먹튀 in a bar after a many left me to foot a bill we agreed to go dutch on :/ I told my Korean friend who told me, 먹튀당했구나. Not the best way to learn a new word, but at least I'll never forget it!

    Actually, using this word I've noticed that a lot of Koreans are clueless as to what it means :P But I guess it's slowly picking up.

    1. Ugh, that really sucks, hopefully you never run into them again (unless it's to get your money back).

  3. Very interesting. Trying to learn what dine and dash means because I Korean television.

    1. Thank you! It is indeed a very popular topic in Korean media...