Korean language and culture series: Introduction

When Bella and I first started “electric ground”, we were looking for an outlet to talk as much as we wanted to about Korean dramas, and Korean entertainment in general, because that was our shared passion. However, it’s also true that there are many other blogs that do an excellent job in doing just that (take a look at our growing blogroll!), and indeed, we could have raved and ranted as much as we wanted to in our private email exchanges like we did in the past without sharing our thoughts with the rest of the world.

What finally convinced me to start blogging was when the idea was planted in my little head that Bella and I may actually be able to uniquely contribute to the Kdrama community by sharing our knowledge of the Korean language and culture to help other Kdrama fans better understand and appreciate the dramas they’re watching. There are so many mistranslations and misinterpretations by international fans (including Koreans living abroad) of both the Korean language and culture as they appear in dramas, and I am convinced that these things hinder the viewers from fully enjoying their drama experience.

As a huge fan of Ask a Korean, a blog in which the blog owner sets straight the questions his readers have about the Korean people (and I can vouch as a regular reader of his blog that he KNOWS his stuff, and he also manages to present the info objectively), I was inspired to do something similar to that, but limited to what can be seen in the Korean entertainment industry (with of course, dramas being the major genre). I can’t say Bella and I would be able to step up to the task as well as The Korean himself, but with his disdain for most things Korean dramas, there leaves a major gap that we hope we’d be able to successfully fill.

As we take on this challenge, we are very much humbled by the fact that some of the incorrect information is in fact spread by other ethnic Koreans. For instance, it’s not unusual to hear people say something along the lines of “so-and-so character did so-and-so because that is part of the Korean culture, and I’m sure of it because I heard this directly from my Korean friend.” And indeed, I frequently find that what is said by these “Korean friends” is not always correct, either because of pure laziness to explain thoroughly, insufficient knowledge, or biases they may hold.  (Ask a Korean covered this phenomenon in much greater detail here.) I can’t promise that Bella and I will be completely immune from such shortcomings, but I can promise that we will make a conscious effort to not fall for the trap.

Despite having this goal from the time we first started “electric ground”, it somehow took a back seat as we became swept by our other priorities (namely, fangirling). I was only recently reminded that I should get this “Korean language and culture series” going while I was watching a subbed drama last week. I read a comment on the message board where the poster described the two characters from the said drama as cousins. Surprised by where he got such an idea, I later discovered that the drama subs had translated “ahjussi” as “uncle” (which is, umm, so wrong) and thereby turning the two friends into cousins.

We will continue to run our blog normally with “fangirling” posts and comments. However, our goal is to also do a daily post (I know, pretty ambitious, and realistically, not going to happen) under the “Korean language and culture series” on words or cultural practices that we frequently see misrepresented or simply unexplained. What exactly are “ahjussi” and “ahjumma”? Why do male characters in Korean dramas argue over whether to call their friend’s wife “hyungsu-nim” or “jesu-ssi,” when in English, they both translate to “sister-in-law”?

Some posts will be short (really, one sentence will be sufficient), whereas some other posts will be much longer (and yes, I’m staring at the topics we promised to cover on the “Upcoming Posts” section to the right as I type this). The intention of this series is not to teach the Korean language or culture for you to be fluent in it, or to explain why something is the way it is (unless it is relevant, particularly interesting, or I have personal anecdotes to share). Instead, the purpose of this series is to simply provide some more background info so that those who are interested would have the resources readily available as you tackle your next drama. And those folks who don’t care for this superfluous info and would rather remain in the dark can simply ignore them, of course.

I do request two things from our readers. One, we already have many topics we’d like to cover under this series, but in order to keep them going, we’re always in need of more ideas. Please feel free to ask questions or suggest topics in “Ask B&B“.

Two, as I get older, I realize more and more about how ignorant I am about cultures outside of my own (that would be American and Korean). In any of our posts, if you have something interesting to share about your own native culture pertaining to the topic covered in that specific post, please do share. I’d love to learn about your culture as well!

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9 Responses to Korean language and culture series: Introduction

  1. kcomments says:

    Yes! GO GO GO. ^^

  2. supah says:

    Oh, this is interesting. And yes, for these posts!
    One of my pet peeves is when drama-watchers see something happen in a drama, like say wristgrabbing and they’ll then go on to state: ”all men in Korea grab women by the wrists.” Or something.
    Ehhh… It’s just a drama. Please.

    Speaking of cultures, I may as well share a little something about me; I’m Korean from my dad’s side, Azerbaijani from my mother’s side. And was born and brought up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before moving around Europe and finally settling in England. I’ve never learned Korean and in terms of Asian entertainment would gravitate towards the Hong Kong/Chinese stuff and Japanese stuff. I was kind of strongarmed into Korean entertainment around 6-7 years ago by my two evil older stepbrothers (both of whom are fully Korean) and watched stuff without subs and scarily enough, I kinda understood the language. They kept saying ‘there’s no denying your blood’ and it’s so damn true…

    • kcomments says:

      Ahem…”all men in Korea grab women by the wrists.” that’s once ME! And also ‘throw up wherever they like when they are drunk’, I remember wondering all the street cleaning peeps in Korean wouldn’t mind that? Seriously.

    • blue says:

      @supah,
      Wow, you have an interesting background with all the places you’ve lived and been! Ah, and I see you’ve been exposed to the infamous “it’s in your blood” statement.

      • supah says:

        Thanks Blue, starting out in the east and moving westwards… is what my dad did. There’s a negative and positive in everything and I’ve had a fair mix of both. Kind of struggled to fit in pretty much anywhere and then there’s the identity crises, but I think I’m getting there… hehe!

        That statement — hahah! I know right?

        kcomments: as much as I can claim to be strictly anti-sweeping-generalisations, I know I still make them. We all do… 😉

    • bella012 says:

      @supah- that has to be the most intriguing background ever, do share some more!

  3. joonni says:

    I’m excited about this!

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