This is Korea- #1: Age

This new title came in during the Annyeong Seoul Fair. It sold well but I didn’t have a chance to look at it properly till this morning. It contains interesting short notes about Korea and Koreans… from the language to the lifestyle to the culture to the country itself.

Here’s a little note about age. Whilst Singaporeans (especially taxi drivers and nosey strangers in the markets) are inclined to ask sensitive questions like pay, the government and the price of our house, age is rarely asked because we do not have different levels of speech unlike the Koreans and the Japanese. We only have 2 types- English and Singlish. Wahaha!


When meeting a foreigner for the first time, Koreans automatically inquire about age and marital status, and raise other personal questions which usually lead to embarrassment or irritation- or both- for the foreigner. The reason for these personal questions is that in order to use the proper language, a speaker must be clued in on their counterpart’s social standing in relation to their own. Once this is known, they will be able to select the appropriate language for the conversation. Personal questions, therefore, are simply the necessary first step toward structuring the dialogue appropriately.

While Western culture is generally based on horizontal relationships, those of Korea adhere to a strict vertical system in which position, age and education are key elements. Among alumni, even the year of graduation is a determining variable. It is according to these variables that the hierachy is established, which, in turn, automatically influences the language.

Even for Koreans who grow up in the Western culture, this is something they may have to relearn. Watch G.NA talk about the cultural difference at her interview during her Singapore visit last year. It’s @ 8:50. Apology for the not-so-clear voice recording. There seemed to be an echo in the room. ^^


Here’s Part 1 of the press conference

The book, This is Korea retails for $32 (w/o gst) and should be available in bookshops like Kinokuniya and Page One soon. If you are keen to purchase this title, drop me an email-

TIP: If in doubt, just bow and smile. If still in doubt, bow and smile somemore. Works like charm. hehe!

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