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- It’s Not Just the Lateness of Industrialization: How and Why Korean SF Doesn’t Quite Work
- Why SF Has Failed to Put Down Roots in Korea, Part I: To Start With, Questions…
- K-Raelians plus The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World by Thomas M. Disch, and The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson
- To All SF Geeks in Korea With [Patient or Interested] Korean Other Halves
- PiFan Book Fair: SF/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller novels and Magazines… in Korean!
- The KOFA 괴수 대백과
- Star Wars ROK Rock
- 2008 SF&F Festival (Seoul)?
- Reading The Host in Context, Part 1
- Reading The Host in Context, Part 2: How I Read The Host
- Seoul 2008 SF&F Festival Report
- Trope Salad and Penis Guns and Indie SF Films… No, Really.
- Matt on Symmetry in The Host
- Done, Fun, Thinking Some
- More SF Goodness, Including a Bunch of Korean SF in Translation…
- How Candlegirl and V Took on 2MB
- From Mt. Sobaek
- SOAO Workshop 2009 Pictures Up
- The SOAO Workshop @ Sobaeksan
- My Research Plan Application (Argh!) and a New Korean SF Organization (Yay!)
- Worth Reading, March ’09
- No Surprise
- Korea Society Talk on Robo Taekwon V
- “SF in South Korea Today” — Article Live
- Guest Blog on Global SF & Translation @ Apex
- Party Last Night
- Star Wars: 스타워즈 프로젝트 컴필레이션 (2008)
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- Wackiest Korean Book I Ever Bought
- Geek Out
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- 박민규의 지구 영웅 전설과 카스테라
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- [Literary] SF: A Social Phenomenon (Plus Some Detours)
- Addendum to [Literary] SF: A Social Phenomenon (Plus Some Detours)
- Addendum #2 to [Literary] SF: A Social Phenomenon (Plus Some Detours)
- Coming Soon: Gwacheon International SF Film Festival!
- More About Korean SF, and Some Dougal Dixon Links
- Forthcoming Papers on Korean SF, “Good Night,” and a Summary of “Another Undiscovered Country”
- Vampires, Confucianism, Christianity’s Latent Monarchism, and the Translation of Sociohorror
- 천군 (Heaven’s Soldiers) revisited: Hanmura Ryō’s Sengoku Jieitai (戦国自衛隊), 독재자 (Dictator), and more Korean SF News
- 7광구 (Sector 7) — Setting Korean SF Back Decades
- Some Notes For Korean Film Companies Considering an SF Film Project
- Coming Soon: “Invasion of Alien Bikini”
- Gunpla Advertisement Analysis, and 우뢰매!
- Invasion of Alien Bikini, or, I Feel Sick
- Cantico del Seoul
- New Korean SF Movie(s)! 인류멸망보고서 / Doomsday Book
- 미래경 (Futuroscope) #3 Has Arrived
- Seoul SF&F Library — Relocated!
- Upcoming Korean SF Film: AM 11:00
- Korean “Disaster” Films: 연가시 / Deranged
- Seoul Cthulhu Festival of Film: 28 Feb 2012
- 사이코메트리 [Psychometry] — The Gifted Hands (2013)
- Seoul Comics World Convention #114 (December 2012)
- Korea in English-Language SF
- Articles on Korean SF in _list Magazine
- Asia’s First Steampunk Art Exhibition
- A.M. 11:00 (11 A.M.)
- Korean SF Festival 2014
- An Evolutionary Myth by Bo-Young Kim
- Old Movie Promo Posters in Korea
- Readymade Bodhisattva, “The Flowering,” Los Angeles/Riverside, and More
- “The Peppers of GreenScallion,” and More
- Korean SF 2020: A Rushed Update
- Boyoung Kim’s “An Evolutionary Myth”: Reviews and Comments, and Audio Version
One of the fascinating things that keeps coming up in my Korean lessons is the generation gap. It’s not that I was unaware of this before, but my tutor has made a careful point of noting when she shows me a word that older people either won’t find appropriate in speech, or which she considers a “young people” word.
One example is 찌질하다, which is a word I can’t quite translate into English. My tutor explained it as something that someone would say to a friend who is acting like goof or a geek, but at a party a few days later — literally, just a few days later — Kim Sang Hoon (the Korean translator) and Dr. Q (ie. Kim Kyu Hyun) were explaining to me the special sense of the word in a little more detail. It’s not precisely geekiness, but rather a kind of overtly childish mode of behaviour that at once comes across as vaguely put-on or conscious but also endearing. At least, that’s what I got from it. Dr. Q said he thought it should become a regular word in English, since Americans do it all the time — and he’d know better than me, he lives in the States. Sang Hoon Kim specifically mentioned the website of a famous Korean genre author and the discussion boards there in relation to being behaving like a 지찔이.
Anyway, there are tons of examples of this, but I’ll just recount one more that is pretty surprising: 오크. At least, I think this is how it is spelled. The word is the Koreanization of “orc,” a word Iimagine was, for most Koreans aside from online gamers and dedicated fans of fantasy literature and media, mostly unknown until 2002, when the first Lord of the Rings film was released here… just as it probably was unknown or forgotten for a large number of Westerners, for that matter. (I imagine most of my non-D&D-playing friends in high school might have encountered the word at some point, but wouldn’t remember what it wqas or, at least, wouldn’t ever have used it in conversation)
Well, my tutor used the word “orc” in passing while describing a nasty incident at the subway station, in the course of illustrating her agreement that our neighborhood is rough and weird and full of unsavory characters.
I said, “오크? 오크 뭐예요?” (Orc? What’s an orc?) She smiled and said, “Young people use that word to describe people who are soooooo ugly…” and then described the Korean version of being ugly as sin, based on the specific example: dark, dark brown skin like a farmer’s; tiny, nasty little beady eyes; a broad face; nasty hair; and — this took a little dictionary consultation — pock marks in the skin as if from a long-ago bout of smallpox.
The specifics of that aside — this definition of ugly itself is probably at least somewhat generational, because while fifty or sixty or a hundred years ago, before the age of sun creams, paleness might have been a sign of beauty, nonetheless for most I imagine relatively darker skin from working in the sun would have been the norm — it’s fascinating that a word like Orc has entered the Korean vocabulary in such a way that it can be used directly, as a kind of common metaphor one can assume one’s peers will understand without explanation.
(Another one I’ve sometimes heard is Zerg. Which I think are those little doggie-like creatures in the massively popular (in Korea) computer game Starcraft.)
Not because that’s particularly surprising, mind you: English words (and other foreign words) do this all the time, in Korean. (As they do in plenty of languages.) But the fact that foreign genre-related words can carry more popular resonance in a foreign language and (youth-)culture than in the culture of its origin is surprising and fascinating. Think about it: if you were in a pub in London or Toronto, and were complaining about some ugly jerk on the subway, would you call him an “orc”? And if you did, would your friends understand what you meant immediately, and use the word themselves? I can’t quite imagine that happening in Canada or the US, somehow… at least not outside of an SF convention.