Basic Korean, Lesson 9, “Like and Don’t Like” 좋아 해요과 싫어요” (A Discussion of Culture)

In Korean, you can say “I like,” and it means the same thing as if you say, “I like” in English. You can even say “I don’t like it” and it means the same. However, if you say, “I hate,” the English “I hate” is much stronger than the Korean “I hate.” If you put “I hate” through a translator on the computer, the word they give you carries more of the meaning of “I don’t like.” Perhaps a lot of it is a difference in culture. You see, Korea is called “the Land of the Morning Calm.” You don’t rock the boat in Korea at all. Even though there are times it happens, they are to never raise their voice or directly oppose anyone. The younger ones are supposed to be humble and do everything they are told. If you hear someone screaming or see someone fighting, it is just not considered the Korean way at all. The cultural bias against that kind of thing is so strong that it goes into the language. The Korean language is not assertive at all, so they are not going to actually say, “I hate” like we do in English. You may hear 싫어요 (sheeleoyo) which is what the online translator will give you for “hate,” but it is a much milder word than “hate” and better translated as “I don’t like.” Here are some examples of usage:

In Korean restaurants, there are often burners on the table, and they bring the food, and you cook the food on the table. They bring many side dishes that are free, and when you see chili spice, it will be a kind of kimchee.

칠리 향신료를 정말 칠리 향신료를 정말 싫어해요!! (cheelree gangshinryo lul jengmal sheeleoyo) = I hate chili spice.// The only way I have translated this 싫어해요 (sheeleoyo) as “hate” is because I have used 정말 (jeongmal) before it which means “really.”

칠리 향신료를 좋아해요 (cheelree gyang sheenryo lul joh-aheyo) = I like chili spice. ( 좋아해요 (joh-aheyo) means “like or likes.”)

칠리 향신료를 좋아하지 않는다 (cheelree hyangsheen ryo lul joh-ahajee anundah) = I don’t like chili spice. ///This is done with the word that means “like,” and just negating it like we do in English. It also ends with 는다 (nundah) which makes it a little more uncaring way of saying it than if it had been ended with 요 (yo). If I had said: 칠리 향신료를 좋아하지 않아요 (cheelree gyandsheenryo lul joh-ah-hajee an-ah-yo), it would mean the same thing as 칠리 향신료를 좋아하지 않는다 (cheelree hyangsheen ryo lul joh-ahajee anundah) , “I don’t like,” but would have been a bit kinder.

칠리 향신료를 싫어요 (cheelree hyangsheenryo lul sheel-eoyo) = I don’t like chili spice./ This means the same thing as: 칠리 향신료를 좋아하지 않는다 (cheelree hyangsheen ryo lul joh-ahajee anundah) and 칠리 향신료를 좋아하지 않아요 (cheelree gyandsheenryo lul joh-ah-hajee an-ah-yo), but it using a different verb. It is the kinder form, and the harder form is: 싫어 한다 (sheeleohanda). You can find 싫어 한다 (sheeleohanda) or 싫어 하다 (sheeleohada) in the dictionary and on the page, and they mean exactly the same thing.

Every culture expresses themselves differently, and in the Orient, you can’t be straight forward with your thoughts.

Usually, you will not hear people saying they dislike something unless they are in a more informal situation. Koreans don’t put their opinions forth as quickly as Americans or Englishmen. When I studied in Japan, I learned that the Japanese have a tendency to do what Americans call “beat around the bush.” They don’t get to the point quickly, but pad what they are saying up front so that when they say what they want to say, it doesn’t hit the hearer so hard. The Koreans do the same thing, but they are a bit more straight forward than the Japanese.

In Japan, they use a form of logic called “Circular” or “Oriental” logic as opposed to “Western” or “Aristotilean” logic used in the west. As for Koreans, they use both kinds. This means that when we write an essay or give a speech in English, we must tell the reader what we are talking about from the beginning, and then we give all the details, explanations, examples, etc. to support what we just said. What we use is called Western logic because it is used in America, Canada, Mexico, Central America, S. America, and all of Europe. We are all influenced by Aristotle and his rhetoric principles. However, if a Japanese or a Chinese would write that same essay or give that same speech, they are not going to tell you in the beginning what they are talking or writing about. They are going to prepare you first. In S. Korea, they still use the Oreintal or Circular logic, but they also use the Western or Aristolilean logic. In N. Korea, they wouldn’t be using the Western or Aristolilean logic. You see, S. Korea is a very open country, completely opposite of the nature of N. Korea which is called “the Hermit Kingdom.” The people of S. Korea are very open to outsiders where the people of N. Korea are not. The S. Koreans have a tendency to adopt all kinds of things from other cultures. The Japanese are usually open to outsiders, but only to a point. They learn that Western logic to write their papers in English, but they are still going to use the Circular logic any other time.

If you stop to talk to her, she is not going to get to the point, and you will have to have patience until you finally understand what she is talking about.

When I was teaching Japanese and English as a Second language at a university in America. The American students had a question for me. They said about the Koreans and Japanese, that even though they were speaking English, the American students still had trouble understanding them and were losing patience with them. The American students kept saying to me, “Why don’t they just get to the point?” It was frustrating for the American students because they were used to knowing the topic of conversation from the beginning. However, the Korean and Japanese students were expressing themselves in English with Oriental logic which meant they were preparing their listener before they told them what they actually wanted to say. I had to explain to the American students that they would just have to be patient, and I explained Oriental logic to them. It helped the communication between the students to flow much easier and they made lots of friends. The Japanese and the Koreans just can’t come right out and say what they think because they feel like it is hitting you over the head with their ideas and being pushy. The Koreans and Japanese never complained about the straightforwardness of the students to me. However, I was teaching at a Christain university where the students don’t cuss, scream, yell, etc., and there is no doubt the Japanese and Koreans felt more comfortable there than in a state university where they can find all different kinds of students who think they should be able to say anything they want and express themselves however they feel like doing.

Everything must always be calm in Japan and Korea.

Once a Japanese student said to me that she was afraid to come to America because she was worried that people wouldn’t be kind. However, she wound up at a Christian university in Oklahoma, and she was amazed at how kind the people were. There is a difference in America even with the location. The people in the south are less likely to hit people over the head with their words than the people in the north or in California. I have heard people from the north say they think southerners lie because the southerners are so busy trying to guard the feelings of their listener rather than hitting the nail on the head. After spending time in Oklahoma, I went to New York to visit my sister for a while, and her mother in law was just so straight forward in the way she talked to me and said so many rude things that I thought she didn’t like me. Come to find out, she loved me, but she was just from New York City and expressing herself like others from there. The way she spoke was not considered rude in New York City.

Perhaps all of this will help you understand how it would happen that the Koreans can’t express themselves by saying they hate something. Their word that translates as “hate” which is 싫어해요 (sheeleoyo) is just not as strong as our word “hate,” so if you hear a Korean say: 싫어해요 (sheeleoyo), just remember, it is not as strong as “hate.”

In Romania, it is normal to kiss your friend on the cheek, but you wouldn’t do this in America, Japan, Korea, or China.

If you think about visiting S. Korea, remember, it is the Land of the Morning Calm. When I was in Romania, the Romanians are passionate people like the Italians. You could easily see a couple of Romanians standing the the street screaming and arguing with one another, but you would see them an hour later, and they might be kissing one another on each cheek and be best of friends. That open display of emotion would never fly in Korea or even in Japan. The Koreans are known to be more passionate than the Japanese, and they consider themselves the Latins of the Orient. However, their passion is very toned down as compared to the Italians and Romanians. You aren’t going to see them kissing one another on the cheek or hugging one another or screaming at one another on a usual basis like you would in Romania. However, I have learned it is more acceptable to hug a Korean than a Japanese. Just because Korea is the Land of the Mornign Calm, it doesn’t mean people’s emotions don’t get the best of them at times.

Here in Oklahoma, I love the Mexicans because they are always hugging me. However, if I hugged a Japanese like the Mexicans always hug me, the Japanese would freak out. My mother and sister are American southerners and they hugged my Japanese son in law when they first met him, and he freaked out and was scared to death. A Korean is more likely to hug you than a Japanese, but still not like the Mexicans and American southerners.

Once, I saw them call the police in Korea because there was a couple having an argument. The man was standing outside of the apartment building, and the woman was upstairs on her balcony, and he was screaming and yelling at her. He got arrested. This is not a normal occurance in Korea, and that is why he was arrested. You just don’t break the calm in Korea. You don’t assert yourself in Korea unless you are the grandparents, and they are allowed to tell everyone what to do, and everyone else has to listen without question. The grandmothers rule Korea. If she speaks straight forward to you, it is just fine, but you had better not tell her 싫어요 (sheeleoyo) about her food. If she wants you to eat it, you will eat it.

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