Folk Speech – Korean



One Hand Tribe

The word “jok,” officially meaning tribe or race, has been used informally to create a colorful range of neologism to denote the various subcultures that have emerged with new technologies and new trends. One big one that was in widespread use while I was in Korea in 2006 was “???,” (sounds like “Well-Bing-Jok) literally, the “Wellbeing Tribe,” which refers to the growing masses of people who have decided to lead a health-conscious lifestyle. Because often these neologisms use English terminology, it is not difficult to translate into English. Recently, Gisuk told me of a new term that is in use in Korea, and it is the “One Hand Tribe.” She learned this over the Internet in 2008. She said that it describes a subculture of people who, whether for pleasure or business, have become so proficient in cell phone use that they often are text messaging with one hand, while doing something else with the other.

Cell phones are an indispensable aspect of modern Korean culture; cell phones now act as a phone, email, lap top, TV, and accessory, and I have known a few people who could literally hold up a full blown text message conversation while doing three other things at once, so I was not very surprised to hear that they now have a word to refer to these people. I can only imagine, that in the future, we’ll be saying Two Hand Tribe, as opposed to One Hand Tribe, when the one handers have become the majority, and the primitive, peculiar people who need to use both hands to handle a cell phone—have become the minority tribe. I will probably be one of them.