If you spend your time scrounging around comment sections for Korean webtoons, YouTube videos, and other parts of the online ecosystem, you’ve probably seen your fair share of words that you absolutely couldn’t figure out. They weren’t in dictionaries. They weren’t in Google Translate.
But they were absolutely everywhere else. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. You probably just encountered a word that’s been flipped around per a text-speak trend that’s been around since the 2000s.
If you watched the 2018 Olympics in South Korea,* you might not have noticed what everyone was wearing, let alone known that there’s a popular slang term for it. Because puffy winter jackets don’t tend to stand out when everyone is wearing them. Especially when it’s really, really cold. But if you go back and watch old clips of the 2018 Olympics on YouTube, suddenly you’ll see them. You’ll see them everywhere.
Increasing your reading comprehension in Korean is one of the biggest challenges that any Korean language learner faces. Why? For one, reading in a new language is undeniably difficult. And if you don’t love reading to begin with, you might be even less interested in studying in a way that you don’t enjoy.
But for students who are teaching themselves or trying to augment their in-class studies, the biggest issue actually lies in figuring out what to read — and where you can get it. Finding resources like beginner level stories to practice your Korean can be really, really hard.
It’s even harder when your Korean level isn’t high enough to search through Korean-language sites. You might not even know what you’re looking at because your vocabulary is limited. I’ve been there; I’ve done that. I’ve battled through those language learning trenches, which is why I’m here to tell you the good news: There are many different ways to find resources to increase your Korean skills through reading!
Just about every webtoon and K-drama I enjoy has at least two of the following features:
A plethora of misunderstandings and ill-timed arrivals
Quirky characters and mysterious pasts
Beautifully dramatic confessions of angst and love
Usually, they have all three. But the last feature, confessions (고백 / go-baek) of angst and love, is particularly fun because it can happen in so many different ways.
All right, so let’s talk about how to confess your love in Korean. There are three main categories of confessing: liking, loving, and “seeing” someone in a romantic or sexual light. And to make matters more interesting, there are also direct and indirect ways of confessing.
For those of you who can’t read hangeul, I’ve written the phonetic pronunciation of the Korean words where necessary. Shall we begin? Continue reading →
Like my previous post addressing the useful Korean prefix 되, this post identifies another Korean prefix that functions like the Latin-based English prefix “re”. For example, English has words like replay, reorganize, and recycle; Korean, too, has prefixes that can help you figure out what a word means. Unlike 되, this one comes from a Chinese character or 한자.
재 (as a prefix) = again
What’s the difference between 되 and 재 as prefixes? 되 is natural Korean, which means it does not originate from a 한자 or Chinese character. 재 does: 再.
재 = 再
Additionally, 되 seems to have broader usage than 재, which almost exclusively means “again”.
Let’s take a look at some Korean words that reflect this specific usage and 再 character, and then we’ll examine other possible 한자 and associated meanings for 재. Continue reading →
If you’re an English speaker who pays close attention to language traits, you’ve probably learned or realized that a vast majority of English verbs beginning with “re” are words that talk about doing something over again. Shall I reword, rephrase, or reorganize that thought?
re = originally a Latin prefix meaning “again” or “back”
remove = to move something back or away
reverse = to go backward
Similarly, Korean has its own prefix that functions like the Latin-based English prefix “re”. Korean uses 되~; English uses re~.
Hidden in the interesting Korean phrase 짐승만도 못한 놈 is a Korean grammar construction that’s useful in a variety of situations – but I guess the original sentence is useful, too, if you want to insult someone… Continue reading →
I’m planning to take TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) in November, so cue the intensive studying! But first, I need a study strategy.
For TOPIK, the highest possible level is 6, and the beginner level is 1. There are two versions of the test: the first version evaluates people who may have around a 1 or a 2, and the second version evaluates students from 3 to 6. The score is valid for two years, at which point you must retake it to re-authenticate your Korean proficiency level. Continue reading →
셈이다 was one of those Korean expressions that just wouldn’t stick with me. Each and every encounter sent me back to the dictionary. Finally, my S.O. explained it to me in such a simple and helpful way that I’ve never had to look it up again. Let’s break it down.
Firstly, it usually shows up as ~은/는/을 셈이다. This enables a Korean speaker to attach a verb phrase to the front of it, i.e. 농담을 하는 셈이다 or 결혼할 셈이다.
Secondly, 셈이다 itself is actually a noun + verb.
셈 + 이다 (to be)
Thirdly, 셈 is the noun form of the verb 세다 (to calculate or count). Just remove the ~다, add ㅁ, and you get 셈, or the “act of calculation/counting”.
When 셈이다 is used, it usually means that two things are being compared or equated. They are considered to basically be the same thing. In English, we might say something like, “I counted him as one of my friends.” The person in question and the identity of friend are one and the same (And coincidentally, if it helps you remember it, the pronunciation of 셈 and same are similar).
This is essentially verbal equation.
Example from Naver dictionary:
담벼락하고 말하는 셈이다.
You might as well talk to a stone wall.
Here, the speaker is equating talking with their subject to talking to a stone wall. If you remember 셈이다 in its base form of “to calculate or count”, then you can remember its meaning more easily!
It started off as one of those far-fetched ideas. “Hey, it’d be cool to write a script for a Korean drama someday. Hey, what if I made the plot for my book into a webtoon?”
This isn’t a plot from one of my books, but sure – it could be remade into a K-drama someday. In the wise words of that kid from Angels in the Outfield, “It could happen!” Who knows? Why limit myself with fears of failure?
The title: ㄹtalk (aka Real Talk. Somewhere in the distance, my friends are all cringing at my never-ending obsession with puns)
The plot: A young Korean scholar from the late 1800s accidentally time-travels to modern America and masquerades as an exchange student. With the help of an American college student majoring in Korean Studies, he navigates college life in the U.S. and learns “real English” until he can figure out how to get back to his own time and country.
I won’t pretend to be the world’s best artist. I’m better with writing words than drawing faces, and sketching noses is my arch enemy. It’s been a lot of trial-and-error trying to find an art style that won’t drive my innate perfectionist mad. And I’m not sure where this webtoon will take me, or even quite sure where I’ll take this webtoon.
But that’s the fun of it.
It’s an open and uncertain adventure, and I hope you’ll join me here. Better yet, if you have a Naver account and like my work, please do rate the webtoon and leave comments. It means a lot.