The joy of Konglish (3): M-S
By Andrew Salmon
In this third of a four-part series, we continue looking at some popular Korean and/or English terms whose meanings differ from what an expatriate or foreign visitor might reasonably expect. Inverted commas ― ``…” ― indicate separate entries. The fourth and final (Thank God! ― Ed) part will be published in two weeks.
Makgeolli (pron: Makoli): Tasty rice brew. Usually mistranslated as ``rice wine” though it is made from cereals not fruits, and is glugged, not sipped.
MB: Unpopular, unhappy man with murky future. See also ``lame duck;” ”president.”
Military service: National obligation for poor and middle classes; rich persons’ and politicians’ sons need not bother with this irksome duty.
Minority shareholder: Tragic, powerless, much-abused creature.
Missy: Until recently, Korean agashis (maidens) transformed into ajummah (matrons) soon after marriage. Now, enter the ``Missy:” A daring ajummah who declines to perm her hair, wear a print dress or cackle cheerily.
Monk: Member of Buddhist clergy who falls into one of two categories. The majority: Pious, spiritual gent, usually encountered at temples, who enjoys the waft of incense and is prone to breaking into chant and dispensing pearls of wisdom. The minority: Skinhead who enjoys high-stakes gambling and an occasional ruckus.
Myeong-dong: Strategic bridgehead in Korea seized by Chinese and Japanese shoppers.
National Assembly: Popular location to view martial arts bouts.
NGO: Often set up by a person who, unable to find gainful employment, establishes an organization of questionable utility for reasons of personal aggrandizement.
Noraebang: Place to which Koreans invite foreigners to demonstrate how poor foreigners are at singing, dancing and making merry.
Nobel Prize: Norwegian gong which Koreans salivate over and dream of.
Nork: North Korean. Inhabitant of the odd, sad country that lies 35 miles north of ``Seoul” that was established due to superpower rivalry and that continues to exist thanks to ``China.”
Nuke: Something ``Norks” have got but Sorks have not.
Palli palli: Hyper speed. Pace Koreans adopt when working which gives Western executives pause for thought and occasional heart attacks.
Passion: Emotion Koreans prize greatly (sometimes at the expense of rationality).
Politician: A despised class in Korea, as elsewhere.
PR: Ploy by expatriate CEOs to boost their image in Korea by producing images that vernacular media cannot resist. Often involves wearing hanbok and making ``kimchi.”
President: Oddly sought-after political position that starts well but ends badly with, at best, investigation and indictment; at worst, overthrow, exile, assassination and/or suicide.
Prince: Previously: Member of royal family who would inherit kingdom from Daddy (assuming he survived poisonings and sibling plots). Currently: Member of ``chaebol” family who will inherit business from Daddy (assuming he survives poisonous proxy fights and sibling plots).
Progressive: See ``liberal.”
Rain: Corrosive liquid containing Chinese pollutants that drips from Korean skies. Also: Famous and buff ``K-pop” warbler.
Real estate: If you own this, bulldoze whatever sits on it and raise stacked accommodation. Voila, riches!
Real estate developer: Character who, as Korea’s demographic trend plunges, will hopefully have fewer opportunities to make huge sums by ruining landscapes.
Recession: Internationally: Situation in which an economy shrinks. In Korea: Situation in which the economy does not grow as fast as economic editors would like.
Republic of Seoul: Large city and its outlying suburbs; home to half of Korea’s population. Anyone from anywhere else is unfortunate, exiled, foreign or a bumpkin.
Restoration/Renovation: Not to be confused with what Americans or Europeans do to old buildings, this is how Koreans treat
historic architecture: Bulldoze; rebuild; ``improve;” signboard for tourists.
Rice wine: Rice beer. (See ``makgeolli.”)
Rightist: Previously: Someone who supported brutal military governments. Currently: Someone who believes a return to brutal military governments would improve the economy. Also what ``liberals” dub those who fall to the right of Stalin.
Riot cop: Underemployed, tooled-up youth usually seen loitering, mob-handed, near an ``embassy” or “government office.”
Salaryman: Be-suited individual who receives a salary in return for working outrageous hours.
Samulnori: Neo-traditional musical format frequently adopted by ``demonstrators” when they want to create an almighty din.
Sandwich: Foul-tasting snack.
Sea of fire: How ``Seoul” is marked on ``Nork” charts.
Sea of Japan: Body of water notably absent from Korean maps.
Seoul: Center of universe; republic from which the rest of Korea is excluded.
Seoul perfume: Formerly: Particularly virulent form of tear gas. Now: Brand of perfume promoted by a ``hallyu” star.
Shareholder: Internationally: Person who buys shares and so becomes part-owner of a company. In Korea: Person who buys shares.
Skinny jeans: Uncomfortably tight drainpipe trousers, popular among skinny Korean youth, but undignified ― if not plain ridiculous ― when worn by anyone else.
Six pack: Critical pre-requisite for ``K-Pop” boy band members.
SKY: Acronym denoting Seoul, Korea and Yonsei ``universities.” Magical institutions that guarantee prosperous, well-networked futures to those lucky enough to attend ― and sometimes for those who claim to have.
Andrew Salmon is a Seoul-based reporter and author. His latest work, ``Scorched Earth, Black Snow,” was published in London in June. Reach him at email@example.com.