Folk Speech – Korean



eye moisture

A pity

Gisuk was talking to her young niece when she first heard this term. She said she must have said something ‘un-hip,’ because her niece suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, ????!” meaning, “Oh, it’s a pity!” Gisuk did not understand however, and asked her what that word meant. Her niece told her it was ?(?) eye, and ?(?) moisture; short for “moisture on the eyeball,” it is an expression of pity so deep that the eyes start to tear up. Gisuk told me that it was largely an Internet term used by young people online.

I had heard, or rather seen, the word in use before, but had not heard of this explanation. After some research, I found out that it originated when a famous Korean comedian, Ji Sang-ryeol (???) said comically “??? ????” (My eyeballs are fogging up). It instantly became a popular phrase over the internet, until people started to shorten it to just two syllables, the first syllable of the word ‘eyeball’ and the first syllable of the word ‘fogging up.’ In my opinion, this is a perfect example that says an awful lot about the online Korean youth culture.

First of all, the shortening of a two word phrase into a two syllable word is the most common and conspicuous form among these Korean Internet terms. The South Koreans are among the top, if not the top, users of Internet, and have developed a very extensive online culture. The shortening of phrases suits this online culture well, as it is much more of a task to type out long phrases than to merely speak them.

The creativity and unpredictability of the words that get mashed together is also very typical of Internet words. The young people are often find the more colorful and ingenuous creations more appealing, and these are the ones that catch on. Gisuk also mentioned that she thought it was a way to exclude the older generation—to make up words with unpredictable meanings and spread knowledge of it over the Internet.

Another thing that this word points to is the somewhat homogenous nature of Korea’s entertainment. Ji Sang-ryeol is not a mega-star, and yet it is not likely that there are many Korean nationals who have not heard of him. There is not as much diversity on Korean television as there is on American television, and if there is a show on the main channels, everyone is bound to have watched it, or have heard of it. In this way, trends catch on impossibly fast and widely in Korea—and it helps that Koreans are stoutly collectivistic. Therefore, if there is a catchy phrase uttered on television, it is literally a matter of days before many are saying it—with the Internet, the spread is faster and wilder.

Interestingly enough, because of this, it is a goal of some Korean celebrities, especially comedians, to try to begin a new trendy catchphrase, to the point that they have begun to make fun that desire as well.