A Shot of Korean July 2014

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된장녀 (twen-jang-nyeo) – “bean paste gal”

된장남 (twen-jang-nam) – “bean paste guy”

These words didn’t exist 10 years ago, but the concepts have certainly worked their way into the hearts and minds of Koreans now. Like all too many derogatory words, the term started out making fun of the superficiality of exclusively women, but the second term quickly evolved to apply to men as well.

You likely know what twenjang (된장) is: fermented bean paste, similar to Japanese miso. The wonderful soup that Koreans make from “twenjang” is delicious, filling – and cheap. The term “twen-jang-nyeo” has grown out of the cultural phenomenon of young ladies choosing to be tight with their budget on lunch and then spending an inordinate amount on their coffee; particularly Starbucks brand coffee, which was relatively new to Korea 10+ years ago and was inordinately more expensive than the super-cheap instant coffee mixes that many were used to enjoying with their post-lunch conversation. The meaning has grown to refer to one who values superficial things, is obsessed with appearances (and has likely had or hopes to have plastic surgery) and practices conspicuous consumption that is otherwise beyond their means, whether it be by having a man buy them luxury bags or by leasing foreign cars that they can’t really afford.


어제 완전 된장녀와 소개팅했었어. (Eo-jae twen-jang-nyeo-wa so-gae-ting-haess-eo) – Yesterday I had a blind date with a total twen-jang-nyeo.


This Month’s Hanja


女 (녀, nyeo) – female, woman

男 (남, nam) – male, man


There was a time you would see these on the bathroom doors all the time, but now you’re much more likely to see the English than the Chinese. Either way, considering I’ve never taught these here, it was a no-brainer this month.

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미녀 (魔女) – beautiful woman

자녀 (子女) – one’s children

남편 (男便) – husband

장남 (長男) – first born son

장녀 (長女) – first born daughter