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Aegyo in Korea

August 5, 2011


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This week’s TL;DR is a question we thought would be asked much earlier. Ah yes, aegyo, an unavoidable behaviour in Korea. For those of you that are unfamiliar with aegyo, it’s a type of style or behaviour of acting innocent and cute like a child, even when you’re well beyond your childhood years. But describing it as “acting” is a bit unfair, and needs a bit more description than that.

We don’t like to say “style” or “acting” because real aegyo should be a natural response, and not something done at the right time to impress another person. For example, we have a friend who hates being told to sing on cue. If we say to her, “oh how does that song go again?” she blushes furiously and mumbles a bit to herself while trying to get the tune right, and with embarrassed downcast eyes, eventually admits defeat and claims that she can’t sing on cue in front of people. She is not Korean or Asian in anyway; she is from England and totally unaware of the cuteness of her actions, but she is indeed being aegyo.

She was being cute and sweet, not with the intent of impressing a guy or evoking a reaction from other people. It wasn’t feigned at all, and as a result her aegyo is genuine, and since it’s genuine, it’s not vomit inducing. Aegyo done naturally is endearing. On the other hand, aegyo done forcefully is revolting. This is the clear distinction we want to make between natural aegyo – a cuteness that reveals itself because of one’s natural innocence – and feigned aegyo – an act of cuteness, an imitation, brought about in hopes of getting a reaction out of people. Natural aegyo is an end itself, while feigned aegyo is a means to an end.

fake aegyo

Don't be fake, yo

The cutesy aegyo voice can be really adorable when it pops up to express genuine disappointment over a dropped ice cream cone, but when it never turns off, and remains high pitch and whiney like a 5 year old learning to talk while others try to eat dinner, it’s really reeeeeally annoying. Girls will baby talk – often in third person – to guys in order to try to win them over, like “Martina wants pizza” or “Sarah wants that Gucci purse!” and sometimes it works. From an outsider’s perspective, though, uhhh. It sends shivers up your spine.

Aegyo body language can be as simple as a small pouty lip, a hand fluttering to cover the mouth when shy, or as complex as multiple foot stops in union with shoulder gyrations. We prefer the former, a natural bashfulness or shyness from people who are consistently innocent and sweet looking. When you see that bashfulness from a girl who was just swearing at the taxi driver a few moments earlier, then, well…you see our point.

Clothing is a complicated issue, as the cutey style is fashionable for both those who are aegyo and those who are not. However, seeing modest and whimsical clothing in combination with aegyo seems appropriate; however, a mini-skirt, stiletto heels, gold bangley shirt, and a Gucci bag feels somehow like a mixed message when an aegyo voice pops up. We think it’s because a cute flowing dress suggests an innocence, while mini-skirts and stilettos suggest a confidence with one’s sexuality, and thus doesn’t really seem fit for aegyo. But, hell, they’ll still try anyways, and a lot of times it will work.

Aegyo Superhero

What powers would aegyo superheroes have?

Not all hope in humanity is lost, though. Even though there are a lot of guys in Korea who love aegyo style, there are just as many guys (and girls) that can’t stand it. We have a Korean friend who met a Korean girl. She claimed to LOVE badminton, so they made a date to play together. Once on the court, however, the girl acted terrified of the birdie, and pouted and childishly screamed to avoid it from hitting her. The guy was disgusted, walked off the court, and ended the relationship with the girl altogether. That’s a great example of a BAD time to be aegyo. She thought that she was being cute, and that the guy would like her being terrified of a badminton birdie, but he was of a stronger constitution than that, and walked away.

Also, we raised the point in the video that people in Korea aren’t as aegyo as they seem in Korean dramas. Korean dramas (the romantic comedies, at least) tend to be very slapstick and over-the-top a lot of the times, and aren’t really that accurate at depicting life in Korea. Yes, we do see aegyo in the streets sometimes, but not all the time, and not as fiercely as we see in dramas.

Now, we know a lot of people might say that Martina is aegyo, and that’s she’s putting on a show, to which we want to draw a very important distinction. There’s a difference between love-language/cutesy talk and aegyo. While aegyo is prevalent from the beginning of the relationship, love-language is something that grows and evolves with the relationship. When we first started dating each other, we did not cutesy talk each other. But it started to grow after a while. We’d come up with nicknames for each other (some of which you’ve heard in our videos) and just speak with each other more affectionately. That affectionate speaking, though, is not a means of manipulating each other, though. See the difference? It’s an important one we think.

Ah. This topic of Aegyo is a difficult one to fully delve into. Hopefully we weren’t too harsh about this, but we do feel strongly about it. Let us know what you think, or if we’re totally off on this Aegyo thing. Our experience with Aegyo girls is limited, of course, because we never dated them, and so we only witnessed the aegyo from an outsider’s perspective…

TL;DR – Aegyo is when a girl acts cute. When it’s natural it’s great. When it’s faked it’s gross. Not everyone does it. Some guys love it. Some guys hate it.



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Aegyo in Korea


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  1. To be fair, I curse like a sailor, but I get really shy and stupid on occasion, particularly around guys I find attractive. Like, I went to Disneyland and they have a guy playing Captain America. I know this is an actor. I know it. And yet, as soon as I got near I was shy, stupid, and giving the dumbest smiles and saying the dumbest things to him. My friends kept teasing me about it and still do. (I’m not blushing, you’re blushing!!)

    5 years ago
  2. I really DO wish I could be as aegyo as Martina. ;;

    9 years ago
  3. My former roommate in college was full of aegyo, 24/7 with the 5 year old voice. We were friends to begin with and I didn’t mind when I wasn’t living with her and she was pouting and getting all the guys/girls to feel bad for her and do her homework. BUT, by the end of the semester, I felt like I was living with a manipulative 5 year old and wanted to punch her in the face. Sigh, destroyer of friendships.

    9 years ago
  4. whats korea genral attuide to tatoos and periceings

    9 years ago
  5. Whats koreas genral attudiue to tatoos and piercings ?

    9 years ago