The “90-Degree Angle” Bow

“I think all Koreans regard humility and respect. They really do, yeah. I remember when I was younger, from just when I was a girl, my mother made me bow to all adults. And the precision of the bow. She made me practice it. My body had to be bent at a 90 degree angle. Always to my elders.”

Context/Analysis: This is a custom that is performed by all Koreans according to the informant. She first heard it when she was extremely young (probably age three). This is when she first began to walk and speak. It is important to bow at 90 degrees because it is the perfect angle of respect. Too deep of a bow is just not customary, and a bow that is not deep enough is considered rude. When you bow, your shoulders must also move with you, it is not enough to just bend your head. This custom is significant to the informant because it gives her a sense of national identity: although she is Korean-American, she enjoys connecting with her “Korean side.” This custom indicates that even though it has been a tradition for years, it is one that people hold on to. It is part of the Korean heritage.