고백: How to confess your love in Korean

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


Korean Slang: 마법의 날, Period

my daneo jjang

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

Nabillera: Contemporary Korean Literature in Translation


The Spring 2018 Edition of Nabillera, an online literary magazine that provides translations of contemporary Korean literature, is out, and it’s a great one to check out if you’re new to the scene (or if you’re an old hat, I guess you’re welcome, too).

The Spring 2018 Edition includes short stories and poems as well as interviews with four different Korean authors. It’s great for anyone interested in contemporary literature, Korea, or issues of gender and sexuality; this edition is called “Queer Literature of South Korea“. The previous edition, from Fall 2017, is also available via the “Past Issues” tab on the Nabillera homepage.

Full disclosure – Nabillera was started by a fellow translator/proofreader from my Humans of Seoul translation team, and he has done a fantastic job of selecting contemporary Korean writers to share with an English-speaking audience. I’ve done a little bit of proofreading for some of the translations, but the heavy-lifting is all his and his volunteer team! As he is a full-time college student spearheading a substantial literary translation project, this edition is nothing short of an exceptional achievement – especially since the Korean writers are paid an honorarium.

If you enjoy the work that he and his team at Nabillera are doing, please help support the publication of the next edition.

Enjoy reading!



지금 재생 중

Stuck on the Plateau

Learning another language is an unavoidably humbling experience. Either you find yourself humbled by how stupid you feel but push on with the dream of some day expressing yourself to the fullest – or the feeling of stupidity crowds out everything else until you give up. Continue reading

Bad Language Days™

It’s time to talk about Bad Language Days™.

We all have them. And no, I’m not talking about swearing. I’m talking about the days when, seemingly out of nowhere, your brain shuts down and refuses to function in your second (or third, or fourth) language.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit Bad Language Days happen in my native English, too. Cannot compute. Cannot English. Cannot Korean. Words come to a full stop, and if I’m lucky, this happens before I’m halfway through a word or sentence that I’ve forgotten how to say. A word that I’ve never had a problem pronouncing becomes a mouthful of pain. Continue reading

2018년: New Year, New Goals

여러분 안녕하세요! 늦었지만 새해 복 많이 받으시길~

And just like that, another year has come and gone.

The latter half of 2017 was a terrible year for my Korean language studies, but the rest was fantastic. I was enrolled in my teacher’s specially-designed independent study to write nine-episode fanfiction (mine’s published here). I also started my honors thesis around this time last year, and for several incredibly intense, fast-paced months, I immersed myself in prose, poems, and dusty tomes from the university library.

My thesis centered on The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Shin Kyung-sook (famous for Please Look After Mom and I’ll Be Right There). While I mainly referenced the English edition, I had the Korean (titled 외딴 방) to verify which Korean words were used for what. The nuance of the translation of ‘factory girl’ from Korean words like 공순이, 여공, and 노동자 was a vital part of my analysis. The history and culture surrounding each word is different, and it makes a huge difference in contextualizing meaning and emotion.

This is the nuance of language, the nuance of feeling: the essence of the everyday. Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 9: 너라는 꿈속

둘이 움직이지 않고 서 있었다. 뒤에서 온 기정이는
우연이를 껴안아서 우는 소리를 작게 내고 있었다. 우연이가 기정이의 머리를 쓰다듬자 기정이의 울음이 그쳤다.

“못된 안예림의 복수 땜에 난 널 또 다시 놓친 줄 알았어. 너무 무서웠어, 우연아. 널 또 놓칠 수도 있다는 생각에 진짜 죽을 뻔 했단 말이야.” 속마음을 털어놓고 있는 기정이가 우연이를 계속 껴안고서 말했다. Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 8: 그리고 그는 왔다

 이제 일주일에 두 번씩 나오는 드라마가 3회까지 방송됐지만 드라마에 대한 인터뷰나 관련 기사가 나올 때마다 우연이는 반드시 찾아 봤다. 머릿속에서 키워 손으로 만들어 낸 그 이야기를 티브이에서 볼 수 있었다. 얼마나 좋은지 몰랐다. 그리고…기정이를 다시 보게 된 것은 생각보다 괜찮았다는 생각이 들었다.

이번에는 감독을 만나러 회사에 온 겸 우연이는 티브이를 보면서 우연이가 크로키를 하고 있었다. 지나가고 있는 스탭들은 보통 인사를 하고 계속 걸어갔지만 갑자기 한 명이 우연이 앞에 멈추었다. 어느덧 지나가고 있는 태신이었다. 잠시 후에 태신이가 우연이 옆에 앉았지만 우연이는 상관없이 계속 티브이를 보며 스케치했다. 바로 그 때 티브이에서는 기정이의 라이브 인터뷰를 방송하고 있었다. 태신이도 티브이를 봤다. Continue reading

Hungry for Korean Food? An Interview with Burger15

안녕하세요! I’m excited to introduce my fav new Korea-focused YouTubers and longtime friends who began their channel this year. Burger15 is an enticing new look at the tastiest food in Korea, at real restaurants and cafes, with real people and without gimmicks or glamour. Just two people eating delicious food and telling you about it.  Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 7: 네 생각이 나

“아니, 대체 어떻게 내 방에 들어오게 됐냐? 제대로 대답 안 해? 우연아. 어젯밤 기정이 만났지?” 그린이가 침대에 앉아서 우연이를 바라보았다. 잠을 아직 자는 척하며 대답하지 않은 우연이는 설명하지 못한 채 입을 다물고 있었다.

“알았어. 대답하지마. 남똥이한테 물어봐야지…” Continue reading