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Discussing Interesting Contemporary Korean Slang

August 4, 2013


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Hay guise! Simon and Martina here. We just wanted to give a small intro to this segment and blog post, before Leigh and Soo Zee take over. Basically, they’re Discussing Interesting Contemporary Korean Slang. Yep. There’s the intro. Hope you like the segments!

As you folks well know, Soo Zee is a pretty awesome human being. She’s never even been to America, but she makes Lil’ Jon jokes and knows who Flight of the Conchords is. She’s all DON’ WORRY ‘BOUT IT, GIRRRRL, I GOT THIS. Wanna argue about who’s a better producer — Primary or Penny — in Korean? Sure. In English? No biggie.

But me? I get the panic sweats whenever I have to talk to anyone in Korean. Soo Zee likes to make fun of my awkward Korean; because I learned in a stuffy classroom, my sentences are all polite and suuuuuper uptight. I only know the kind of don’t-get-your-외국인-butt-kicked Korean that impresses ajummas who catch you reading a book, but makes the young and hip (i.e., Soo Zee) snort in your face. If Soo Zee had a catch phrase, it would be “Leigh, nobody says that. You sound ridiculous.”

So we figured there might be some other people out there like me, who need a good dose of Nasty injected into their Korean. And there might be a few of you out there like Soo Zee, non-native speakers with super kick-ass English skillz who are confused about whether crunk is a Saturday night activity or a style of dance. I leave you in her highly capable hands. Take it away, Soo Zee.

Leigh does this thing that Korean people do; deny their talent, say “No, I’m not really good at it,” but are secretly really GREAT at whatever. I’ve never had a problem understanding Leigh’s Korean.

BUT I do have a problem with her formal way of saying things, as if we are not friends. (Leigh, we are friends….right?) So I’ve been trying to drag her down to the dark side of Korean slang, teaching her words I use, my friends use, and actual young Korean hipsters use! Case in point:

깡 / 깡다구 / 강단

It means several things:

A) Someone who has the nerve to say or do something,
B) Someone who has a bold and strong character, or
C) Someone who is pigheaded. Having a backbone is good, but this word also contains the nuance of being stubborn and rebellious. When someone says “저 새끼 깡 좀 봐라?”, this is definitely NOT GOOD. They are saying this because they feel offended and disrespected.

Also, as much as I want to find an English word with the exact same meaning, sometimes THERE JUST ISN’T ONE!!!! I’m not secretly hiding the meaning from you, that’s just how it is. I’m going to give you some example sentences of how to use 깡, but they don’t have equivalent English meanings, so instead I’ll tell you when you’ll hear them, or when to use them.

(to use when someone does something gutsy and impressive)
저 놈 깡 좀 있네?
깡다구가 세다.
깡으로 버티다.
저 사람 강단있이 일을 밀어붙인다.

(If you hear this, you have gone too far)
저 새끼 깡 좀 봐라??!


Crunk’s meaning is pretty easy to remember since it sounds like (and means) to be drunk. However, there is some debate on whether getting crunk is used in the present or past tense. I polled a bunch of mates and it seems the correct answer depends on where you live. All you crunked Nasties out there, let me know! Set the record straight!

Anyway, crunk(ed?) has a definite party feel to it, and you’ll only ever hear to GET crunk or to BE crunk. There’s no crunked out, or crunking off, or crunk-a-licious. Thus, acceptable ways of using crunk include:

(to your friends, in regards to going out and partying)
Tonight let’s get crunk!
Awww man, I’m so crunked.
I wanna get crunk this weekend.

In the video we poked fun at the Korean phrase, “놀자!” but we didn’t get to talk about “오늘 미친듯이 달리자!!” which is the Korean slang for pretty much the same thing. You might be wondering, “Isn’t 달리자 running? Yes it is, and no, it doesn’t mean, “Let’s get together and run like crazy.” It means “Let’s get crunk!” I don’t know how and why, but this is what we say!

Bonus Round!

Lastly, a note on Korean taxis. 승차 거부, or refusing passengers transport, has become a big problem in Seoul. Getting refused by a taxi at 2AM when you are tired, cranky, and a little bit drunk SUCKS!! It’s not only foreigners who are kicked out of the taxi, it happens to Koreans a lot, too.

Taxi drivers are pretty scary in Seoul, so whenever this happens I tend to just shut up, don’t argue, and get out. They refuse customers mainly because the area you are heading to is not a busy place where they could pick up another customer on the way back, or the distance isn’t far enough for them to make a profit. BUT IT’S TOTALLY ILLEGAL!!!

It’s gotten to be a big enough problem that Seoul city has a public center for reporting 승차 거부! If the spirit moves you, you can definitely file a report. Repeat offenders get in big trouble with the po-po. If you call 02-120 to complain, they’ll ask you for your location, the time of the incident, and the license number (found on display inside the car), license plate number, and name of the taxi driver that brushed you off.

Here’s what counts as 승차 거부:
1. Refusing to take you to the destination you requested, either before or after you’re in the taxi
2. Ignoring passengers trying to flag down a taxi, even though the empty taxi light is on
3. Kicking you out of the taxi, citing fake reasons such as, “You have to go to the other side of the street,” or “this is the wrong direction,” and other such poppycock.
4. Locking the doors and gesturing so you can’t get in the taxi before you state your destination
5. A reserved call-ahead-taxi that refuses once assigned to you.

So, yeah! That’s it for this week’s segment. It’s not going to be a weekly thing, but hopefully every two weeks or so? We’ll see. Let us know what you think, if there’s anything we should change or add, or if there’s anything you want us to talk about or try to explain. We’ve got a few ideas lined up already, but any and all suggestions are more than welcome!

And, if you like it, make sure you’re subscribed, so you can see more of them in the future!



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Korean Slang