Key Korean Prefixes: 재, 재, and 재

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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.

(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


Key Korean Prefixes: 되

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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~.

(as a prefix) = back, again; on the contrary

Let’s take a look at some Korean words that reflect this usage.  Continue reading

단어짱: Usage of 셈이다

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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 ~, add , and you get , 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!

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다.

Korean Slang: 마법의 날, Period

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In a recent story arc for one of my favorite webtoons, 떨어지는동거, a Korean slang is featured as the title. Several chapters in a row are titled 마법, or magic.

Webtoon Magic

But this arc isn’t really about magic. It’s actually about the female protagonist getting her period – which in Korean slang is referred to as 마법. Yeah, that’s right.

Magic gif.gif

Gif from Giphy

Continue reading

Entry-level and Experienced Company Workers: 신입 사원 vs. 경력직

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Recently I came across an interesting differentiation between entry-level workers in Korean companies and employees who might be new to the company but not new to the industry. The former is called a 신입 사원, and the latter is a 경력직 or even 경력직 사원.

But it’s important to draw a distinction between these titles. While it’s quite common for a new hire who has never had a job before to introduce themselves as a 신입 사원 (신 new, 입 entrance/to enter, 사원 employee/worker), it’s unlikely that someone who was hired with experience in the field or industry is going to call themselves a 경력 사원.

Instead, as I encountered in the original sentence from 언어의 온도 by 이기주, they will probably talk about having transferred or moved companies.

“그는 경력직으로 회사를 옮겼고 그곳에서 동료 여직원을 보자마자 한 번도 느껴본 적 없는 낯선 감정에 빠져들었다.”

“He transferred companies as an experienced worker…”

This worker’s value and type of entry to the new company was based on his experience, or 경력. 직 comes from a Chinese character (職) meaning post or position.

Some other office- and company-based vocabulary:

  • 경력서 resume or CV
  • 직장인 office worker (same  hanja as 경력: 職)
  • 회사에 입사하다 to enter a company (as an employee)
  • 퇴사하다 to resign, step down from, quit one’s job or company
  • 퇴직하다 to retire (same  hanja as 경력: 職)
  • 출근 / 퇴근 commuting to work / commuting home
  • 사무실  office
  • 회식 company or work dinner with colleagues and manager

Most office and company-based vocabulary have associated hanja, so look for similar syllables and characters to help you remember their meaning.

For example, 출 is to head out or embark while 퇴 is to leave something or somewhere (발, 학). 경 relates experience (think 험, 력, etc.). 력 refers to ability (능). 실 is associated with rooms (화장). 회 is community or group (사), and 식 has to do with food (음).

Looking for a way to practice this vocab? A great office K-drama is Misaeng, or Incomplete Life. You’ll hear all these words and more in every episode.

The more of these building blocks that you learn, the easier Korean vocabulary will become. It’s a puzzle – all you need are the pieces and you can put the meaning together.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다.

A Street Named Freedom

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I’m working my way through the bestselling book, 언어의 온도, aka The Temperature of Language, and not everything is as it first seems. Take this excerpt:

“몇 해 전, 봄을 알리는 비가 지나간 스산한 저녁이었다. 출판도시에서 일을 보고 차를 몰아 자유로에 진입했다.”

자유. Ja-yu. It means freedom, it means liberty; it’s a word with a relaxed approach to things. In translating this line, I calmly attributed this word to the author’s description of her driving style, but I was still confused by the usage of ~로 and ~에 at the end of 자유.

When my S.O. checked my work and left a corrective comment, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Apparently 자유로 (自由路) is a famous road in Korea, one that runs from Seoul to Paju, which is a city ripe with publishing companies and considered the publishing capital of Korea, just south of the demilitarized zone. It’s known for being a place where ghosts are spotted, and it’s quite literally called Freedom Road. It never occurred to me that it was the name of a street, even though I’m familiar with 로 denoting a road rather than being used as a grammatical marker.

“A few years ago, the passing rains spoke of spring, and it was a bleak evening. I had work at the Publishing City, and I entered through Freedom Road, driving my car.”

There’s even a Liberty Street near where I live, and it’s a common enough name for a road; isn’t it interesting that my mind couldn’t make that seemingly obvious conclusion? This is why I love translation; this is why I’ve served as a translator for Humans of Seoul for two years now. There is always some new nuance to be uncovered, like buried treasure hidden in the silt of everyday conversation.


지금 재생 중

Korean Slang: 어케

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While perusing comments on Korean sites this week, I kept noticing this word, 어케, popping up. Based on the context in which it was used each time, I felt comfortable assuming it was 줄임말 (a shortened form) for 어떻게. A quick google search showed that this word indeed is frequently used in forums as an abbreviation of 어떻게 – but sometimes people confuse it with 오케이. Okay? Not quite. Note that 오 and 어 really are two very different sounds, and proper pronunciation of ‘okay’ dictates the full 오케이 spelling.

Today’s 단어!

어케: 어떻게

I’m not sure you want to start saying this to your Korean friends, however – it seems more like texting slang than anything you might actually say aloud. Also, don’t start using it in formal Korean writing.

If you like using Korean hashtags on Instagram, you can view what others have posted or use #어케어케 when you’re freaking out about something or not sure what to do. 어떡해! 어떡해! Such a quick and easy 단어짱 post!  Continue reading

Korean Slang: 작업걸다

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We’re already on my third 단어! post, where I share interesting vocabulary words I’ve encountered in conversations, shows, and reading materials. I am also happy to answer anyone who submits an interesting, difficult-to-understand Korean word of their own. Time to learn about a dating-related Korean phrase!

Today’s 단어!

작업을 걸다: to hit on someone, to make a move

Continue reading

Korean Slang: 이쪽커플

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It’s the second 단어! post. What’s that, you ask? Sometimes when I encounter interesting vocabulary words in shows and reading materials, I find it difficult to find their meanings – this new series aims to introduce random, interesting vocab to other self-taught students. I am also happy to answer anyone who submits an interesting, difficult-to-understand Korean word of their own.

Today’s 단어!

이쪽커플: gay or lesbian couple

My friend stumbled upon this hashtag on Instagram, and it seems that some members of the Korean LGBTQ community uses this hashtag to identify themselves – for example, on Instagram, mainly self-identified lesbian couples are posting couple selfies under this hashtag. This website defines the term as applicable to and the most commonly used phrase for both gay and lesbian couples.

이쪽: this way, this direction

커플: couple

From the above website, which also introduces other related 용어, or slang terms:

이쪽 : 게이와 레즈비언이 모두 사용하는 용어로 이반과 같은 의미를 가지고 있다. 현재는 이반이라는 용어는 많이 사용하지 않고 ‘이쪽’이라는 용어를 많이 사용한다. ‘이쪽’은 울타리와 같은 의미로 ‘이쪽 사람들’을 찾아 소통하거나 만남을 갖는다.

If you’ve ever paid attention to dialogue in genderswap dramas, you may have noticed that Koreans often use “이쪽” or 그쪽” to indirectly say that they are or are not gay. English has some similarities, where some people might carefully say, “I don’t swing that way,” to say that they’re not hetero- or homosexual, depending on the situation.

Hopefully this 단어! post was interesting and helpful! 열공~

지금 재생 중:

Korean Slang: 엽사

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This is my first 단어! post, so I am excited to introduce my 서울드림 followers to a new blog series as I resume intensive self-study of Korean. I just graduated with a dual undergraduate degree in Korean Studies and International Studies, and I am taking a year off before grad school to work, to write, and to improve my Korean – which means regular 서울드림 posts again! Sorry, 서울드림, my thesis kept me away for too long…

Sometimes when I encounter interesting vocabulary words in shows and reading materials, I find it difficult to find their meanings – this new series aims to introduce random, interesting vocab to other self-taught students. I am also happy to answer anyone who submits an interesting, difficult-to-understand Korean word of their own.

Today’s 단어!

엽기사진 (엽사): funny photo

Continue reading