You think you’re clever but you’re not….
Quick rant here. It’s become apparent that within the expat in Korea blog community (labeled by some the K-blogosphere), there are a few new terms that have come to use. Some of them are cute. Others are plain dumb. I’ll go over a few of them and give you my opinions on them. Most of them that I bother to write about are probably because they bother me.
k-logic – Also known as Korean Logic. It is used to explain a situation that seems illogical to the user, but not to the Korean person in the situation. Basically this means any nonsensical thing that any Korean does is because the person is Korean, not because the person is a moron. This is why I don’t like the term. More after the break…
An example of K-logic from the blogosphere… (I’m sorry, I can’t really remember where I read this one, so if it’s you, I am stealing from you.. my bad.)
(Edit! Found on a blog called Your Daily Shot of Soju)
Situation – In a room, the heated floor is on, and the windows are open and the air conditioner is also on. The expat asks… ‘Why is the heat on?’ the Korean answers, because it’s cold outside. The expat then asks ‘Then why are the windows open and the air conditioner on?’ and the Korean answers ‘because it’s hot inside.’
Now, granted, this is a ridiculous and illogical situation, but understandable in some cases. What I mean is, in some apartments, the heat isn’t controlled in the individual unit, but by the building as a whole. If the person in charge of heating decides it’s time to turn the heat on, then it’s on for the whole building. Therefore, as a means to control the temperature, you should open the window. Waste of energy for sure, but not illogical. If the person has control over the heated floor, then yes, totally illogical, but not because the person is Korean… because the person is a moron.
ajussi, ajooma – actually these are real Korean words, but for some reason, when the expat bloggers use them, they take on a slightly different meaning. In Korean, the word means middle aged men, or middle aged women, usually married. Old people would be referred to as halabeoji or halmoni (grandfather or grandmother.) HOWEVER, within the expat blogger community the words are derogatory. Ajussi almost always means an old, drunk, street spitting, foreigner kicking Korean man with a sense of entitlement. Ahjumma in its many spellings usually means a fat Korean woman in a track suit with an afro who likes to get a bargain at the store or market by pushing you out of the way. I dare anyone to try to find either word used in a good way on a K blog. I have yet to see it.
Kimcheerleader – Coined by Roboseyo… this means anyone who unquestionably defends any position that the Korean government wants people to believe regardless of if it is well founded or not. It is especially used to describe non-Koreans who do it. Probably one of the few terms I really really like.
Waygook – and this is the term that got me to write the article in the first place. It is used as a noun when speaking English.
Example : So there I was with my friends in the bar, and we were the only waygooks around, then these drunk ajussis came over and kicked us for no reason. When I protested in perfect Korean asking why did you kick us, he said it was because we were speaking English too loudly. But even after he realized I could speak Korean perfectly, he continued to talk about me negatively. How’s that for klogic! (sarcasm on the perfectly part, but you’d be surprised at how many of these expat bloggers claim to be fluent in Korean when it is obvious by the way they romanize things that they are not).
An example that again, I can’t source, is one where a guy says he is talking about teaching middle schoolers and he wants to say he is smart ‘dok dok hae’ but instead he says he is ‘dak dak hae’, meaning that he is hard. The kids start laughing and he complains that dak dak and dok dok sound too similar… when they actually don’t at all.
Anyway back to waygook. It’s a new expat slang term that means means foreigner, and is derived from the word 외국인 (waegukin). Now it’s hard for me to describe exactly why I dislike this word, but I will try. First, in Korean, I really don’t like the word waegukin as it is colloquially used. Sure in the airport at immigration, I understand its use. Colloquially though, it means white. Japanese, while also technically foreign, would never be called waegukin, because they aren’t white. They would be referred to as Japanese. Still not convinced? Even black people from the U.S. would not be referred to as waegukin. They are hukin (literally black person). Waegukin has almost the same stigma as the word gaijin in Japanese. At least in Japan there is a polite way to refer to foreign people by using the term gaikokujin to emphasize that you mean someone who is a citizen of somewhere other than Japan. Ironically gaikokujin exactly translates into waegukin in Korean, and I am complaining about it. I guess it is because in Japan, someone using gaikokujin colloquially is visibly making an attempt to be sensitive to the hurt that the word gaijin can inflict. There is no equivalent way to do this in the Korean language, other than to use the person’s country of origin. Another way would be to use the term baek-in (white person) on equal par with huk-in… but that’s not going to happen.
So here I am bitching about words in the Korean language, so let me get back to the original rant, which was expat use of the word ‘waygook’ to refer to a person. First, ‘gook’ is a racial slur in English. I get the sense that the person who coined the word spelled it that way intentionally, as if to show that the Korean term waegukin isn’t a very nice one. Fine, but somehow the word in that spelling has spread far and wide, and is the spelling of choice, despite the fact that the word ‘waeguk’ itself in Korean doesn’t refer to a person… it refers to any area outside of Korea (including Japan). So by shortening the word, to show how derogatory the word waegukin can be, ironically, all that was derogatory has been removed from the word.
Also, a lot of expat bloggers who do this think they are clever. It’s about as dumb as naming your K-blog with a pun between soul and Seoul. um… wait.. waitaminute.
Addendum: It appears that this particular post has sparked some controversy, so let me add a little disclaimer. I admittedly do not frequently socialize with other expats that often. A lot of what I am saying here is generalization based on the expat blogs that I have seen. I have to also admit that there are a lot of expat blogs that I like, and this post isn’t directed at any of those. However, there are some blogs that seem to do nothing other than complain about Korea all the time. Sometimes this is done cleverly and makes for interesting reads. Other times it’s the same old rant that if the author would simply make an effort to realize that Korea is a different country than the one he was raised in, with different social norms, then he would not complain so much.
I also admit, that I complain a lot. You can find a lot of complaining on this blog. That’s part of the reason why it exists, because let’s face it. Complaining is a lot of fun. But my complaints and concerns are far more important… so there.
I appreciate intelligent discourse from people with the opposing opinion, and I also have to admit, the discourse on this particular blog article is a lot better than some of the other ones that I have written, where I have attracted nothing but racist trolls. So, thanks to everyone who commented and continues to comment.