1st Edition

The Language of Hallyu More than Polite

By Jieun Kiaer Copyright 2023
    170 Pages 57 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Language of Hallyu will re-examine the language of the Korean Wave by looking at popular K-content. In doing so, it will expose the meanings that get lost in translation, hidden under subtitles.

    Over the past decade, hallyu (the Korean wave) has exploded in popularity around the globe. K-films, K-drama, and K-pop were once small subcultures, known mostly by Korea’s East and Southeast Asian neighbours and Korean diaspora. Now, K-content has entered the international mainstream. Consequently, interest in Korean language has grown, while interest in language learning in general has decreased. Many textbooks emphasise that Korean is a ‘polite’ language, but this book will highlight that this is not the case.

    The Language of Hallyu examines popular K-content, including Parasite (2019), Minari (2020), Squid Game (2021), and Pachinko (2022). The author introduces language stylistics to explain how Koreans style their language to suit every occasion. She argues that they do this via a process of visual scanning and social tuning, whereby visual clues are assessed in tangent with an individual’s sociocultural awareness. The author concludes by highlighting the danger of the jondaemal/banmal (polite/casual speech) divide, demonstrating that Korean language is so much more than polite.

    This book will be of interest to students and researchers in Korean language and culture, particularly those interested in linguistics and pragmatics.


    List of Figures ix

    List of Tables xii

    Acknowledgements xiii

    Romanisation Conventions xiv

    Prologue 1

    1 The One-Inch Barrier 3

    Hallyu Takes the World by Storm 4

    Korean-Language Curiosity 6

    The K-Wave in the Oxford English Dictionary 7

    The Power of K-Tweets 9

    Translation Tribulations 9

    Hierarchical Hindrances 11

    Sleuthing for Clues 11

    More Than Words 12

    Book Overview 13

    2 Language Stylistics 17

    Into the ‘Language Wardrobe’ 18

    Ending Stylistics: Age, Status, Environment, and Intimacy 19

    Linguistic Routines 20

    Particle Stylistics 21

    Interjections 22

    Gangnam Style-istics: English for the Vain 22

    Summary 28

    Linguist’s Corner 28

    3 Address Matters 31

    Think of Me as a Friend 31

    Address Ambiguity 32

    vi Contents

    Nameless Faces 32

    Address Terms: The Fossils of the Korean Language 33

    Nunchi: Visual Scanning and Social Tuning 34

    One Big Happy Family? Using Kinship Terms With Non-Kin 35

    Address Terms in Parasite 36

    Address Terms: An Easy Remedy 37

    Suffixes: a/ya , nim , ssi 39

    Why Don’t You Call Me Hyeong? 39

    The New Oppa 40

    Job Titles 41

    Director Bong vs Song Kang-ho 42

    Seonsaengnim: A Safe Haven 42

    Linguistic Injustice 43

    Linguistic Capitalism: Ajumma □□□□□□ vs Samonim □□□□□□ 44

    Second-Person Pronoun Problems 46

    Embodied Learning: Gganbu □□□□ 47

    Summary 48

    4 Negotiations: A Tug-of-War Between Power

    and Solidarity 50

    You Sounded Different on the Phone 50

    All’s Fair in Tug-of-War 50

    Negotiation Theatrics 51

    Who Initiates the Shift? 52

    Beware of Banmal 54

    Consequences of the Wrong Tuning 54

    Why Change Speech Style? 55

    Stylistic Shift: School vs the Workplace 55

    Transparent Language: Speech Style Shifts in Squid Game 56

    Background Check 57

    On the Periphery: Korean Diaspora and Non-Native Korean

    Speakers 60

    Negotiation Online 60

    Summary 61

    Linguist’s Corner: The Half-Talk Shift 61

    5 Social Media Stylistics 65

    The History of Korean Texting 66

    The Basics of Korean Texting 67

    Social Media Endings 69

    Stickers With Text 70

    Punctuation Playfulness 73

    Contents vii

    One Decision, Three Emoticons 73

    Emoji and Politeness: Case Study 74

    Group-Chat Convention 77

    Emojis and Gender 77

    Summary 79

    6 Bodily Speaking 81

    Eye Contact 83

    Bowing 86

    Nodding 88

    Posture 88

    Scratching One’s Head 88

    Silence 89

    Nonverbal Expressions in Orchestration 90

    Moving Away from the Generalisation of East Asian

    Gestures 90

    Summary 92

    Linguist’s Corner 93

    7 Privately Speaking 95

    Age Matters 96

    Not Your Average Friend 96

    Banmal in K-media 96

    More Than an Ending 97

    The Other Side of the Coin 98

    Banmal in the Workplace 99

    The Difficulty of Being a Younger Boss 101

    Gapjil 102

    Banmal Inefficiency 103

    Subtitle Submersion 104

    Summary 105

    8 Formally Speaking 106

    Korean Politeness 107

    Jondaemal 109

    Calling Names 110

    Jondaemal in the Military 111

    Jondaemal in Extraordinary Attorney Woo 111

    De-generalising East Asian Address Terms 113

    Translator Tribulations 116

    Changes in the Workplace 118

    Summary 119

    viii Contents

    9 Interculturally Speaking 120

    Diaspora Communities 122

    Interactions With Americans 123

    Interfamily Issues 125

    Cross-Cultural Space 126

    Foreign Voices in Korea 128

    K-Wave Fandom Communication 129

    Summary 131

    10 Women’s Words 133

    A Woman’s Work Never Stops Except When Eating 133

    Linguistic Inequality 135

    The In-Law Burden 136

    Every Household Should Have Four Sons 138

    Socioeconomic Stakes Are High 139

    Does Language Make Society Unequal or Does Society Make

    Language Unequal? 141

    Epilogue 143

    References 146



    Jieun Kiaer is Professor of Korean Linguistics at the University of Oxford. She publishes widely on East Asian translation, with particular emphasis on Korean translation. She also works on Hallyu and the impact of popular culture in the development of language. Her publications include The Routledge Course in Korean Translation (2018); Translation and Literature in East Asia: Between Visibility and Invisibility with Jennifer Guest and Xiaofan Amy Li (2019); Korean Literature Through the Korean Wave with Anna Yates-Lu (2019); On Translating Modern Korean Poetry with Anna Yates-Lu and Mattho Mandersloot (2020); and Pragmatics in Korean and Japanese Translation (2022) with Ben Cagan.