Korean Language Blog

Neologism that Reflects the Changing Korean Culture Posted by on Oct 27, 2020 in Culture, Grammar, Korean Language, Vocabulary

Even if I live far away from Korea, I still keep in touch with friends that I grew up with. It is fun to talk to them, but I hear some words that I had never heard when I grew up in Korea. My friends are not in their 20’s, but they still use many 신조어 (sin-joh-uh: a newly coined word) in their daily language. 

At first, it did not bother me much that I did not know new Korean words. I always had a notion that young people come up with new words and they are not real. One day, I was at a point where I couldn’t understand the whole conversation among my friends. On the next day, I studied some common 신조어 and it surprised me that there are many new Korean words that I have never heard. In fact, these new words are not slang. They are legitimate words that Koreans use daily. 


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일코노미 means a compromised economy system for only one person household or one person customer. The number of 1인 가구 (il-in-gah-goo: one person household) is getting larger in Korea since young Koreans have a different mindset of life in general, particularly regarding marriage. 1인 means one person and 가구 means a household. Therefore, the word 일코노미 was created to describe a changing economic phenomenon when businesses started targeting the single consumer household.


  1. 복세편살 

I noticed a lot of new words are 줄임말 (jool-im-mal: an abbreviation). Some are shortened from a sentence. 복세편살 (bok-job-han-seh-sang-pyun-hah-ge-sal-jah) can be translated as ‘let’s live this complicated world simply.’ 복잡한 (bok-job-han: complicated) 세상 (seh-sang: the world, society) 편하게 (pyun-hah-ge: easy, comfortable) 살자 (sal-jah: let’s live). The whole sentence is obviously too complicated to say, so young Koreans took the first letters to say it simply!  


  1. 빨대족

This is one new word that perfectly reflects current Korean society. The number of young people who are over 30 years old, and who are relying on their parents because they can’t support themselves financailly, has been increasing due to 청년실업 (ching-nyun-sil-up: unemployment of the young). 빨대족 is comprised of two words; 빨대 (bbal-dae: a straw) and 족 (jok: a tribe, a race). It can be translated as a young tribe who suck their parents’ financial power.

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  1. 노머니족

The unemployment rate of the young is high in Korea. Also, the economic growth rate in Korea has been slowing down. This phenomenon creates financial insecurity and an uncertain future among young Koreans. 노머니족 (no money-jok) is a new word to describe some Koreans who only spend money for what they need to minimize expenses. 


  1. 싫존주의

Traditional Korean culture can be tricky because you sometimes have to say yes when you mean no. Let’s say your boss invites you to his house. His wife brought a cup of tea that you hate. It is culturally polite to say that you like the tea. However, young Koreans are honest, and they are not afraid to express what they like or dislike. 싫존주의 can be translated as the principle of 싫고 좋음 (sil-koh-joh-um: like or dislike). 

Image by Pixabay


How many new words in your language are you aware of? Or are you one of those who speak new words, forcing others to ask what you mean? I think some of these words reflect not only Korean society, but the rapidly changing global culture. What do you think?



Reference: https://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=5704168&cid=43667&categoryId=43667

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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.