Korean Curse Words

Text: Gæ-sæ-kki is a common curse word in Korea

Context: One of my roommates is from Korea. She shared some insight as to what this curse word is, some background, as well as her personal opinion of the previously mentioned curse word. She started by sharing that “in Korean, [they] say Gæ-sæ-kki to people…it literally means an offspring of a dog”. However, she went on to share that apparently “the word of offspring is not like a kind word of offspring, it’s usually referred to as offspring of animals”. Essentially she was saying that using this meaning of offspring to another person “downgrades them”. This is because she said that culturally “dogs were kind of downgraded…they were for guarding houses…they were not family members…there were also lots of stray dogs”. She mentioned the reason for this may have to do with the fact that “during wars and everything it was even hard for people to live…Korea was squeezed between China and Japan and Russia”. She continued to say that calling someone “an offspring of a dog…it’s downgrading them one step by referring them to a dog, but also downgrading them once again by saying [they] are not even an adult dog…[they] are a baby dog”. After gaining a basic understanding of the curse’s meaning, I asked her to share how she knows this word and her relationship with it. She shared that “[she] doesn’t use it” and came to know about it simply because “it’s one of the most common curse words”. She continued to talk about how “pronunciations-wise [she] loves how it sounds like…it’s so effective…but referring to someone as a dog is…[she] doesn’t know…it is a curse word, but it’s not nice”.

Analysis: It was interesting to see this different viewpoint of dogs in Korean culture compared to American culture. In America, dogs are viewed as family members whereas in Korea they served more purpose like guard dogs. I suppose that is why some in America view calling someone a dog as more of an insult to the dog because we as a society love our furry friends. I think the main disconnect between these cultural views of dogs has to do with the history of each country. As my friend mentioned above, Korea was involved in more wars than the United States, most likely because Korea had more countries surrounding its borders. The U.S. was involved in significantly fewer wars as it only really has other countries on its northern and southern border. As a result, in Korea, since the people were already struggling to live, people might not have had the luxury of viewing dogs as another member of the family. Since dogs were viewed as animals, that is why it is such an insult in Korean culture.