Whether it’s watching a show like Squid Game or listening to BTS hits such as Butter or Dynamite, chances are you’ve had some kind of Korean influence in your life.
And now, South Korean influence has made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
The “accepted authority on the English language” has updated its latest edition with 26 new words of Korean origin.
The OED says in a statement that with these additions, “we are all riding the crest of the Korean wave.”
‘A wave rippling on the sea of English words’
Korean food features heavily in the latest list, with some of the new additions including:
- banchan, noun. – A small side dish of vegetables, served along with rice as part of a typical Korean meal.
- bulgogi, n. – In Korean cooking: a dish of thin slices of beef or pork which are marinated then grilled or stir-fried.
- kimbap, n. – A Korean dish consisting of cooked rice and other ingredients wrapped in a sheet of seaweed and cut into bite-sized slices.
With the international success of Squid Game, Parasite and BTS, it should come as no surprise South Korean pop culture is represented in the list as well.
- hallyu, n. – The increase in international interest in South Korea and its popular culture, represented by the global success of South Korean music, film, TV, fashion and food.
- K-drama, n. – A television series in the Korean language and produced in South Korea.
- manhwa, n. – A Korean genre of cartoons and comic books, often influenced by Japanese manga.
- mukbang, n. – A video, esp. one that is livestreamed, that features a person eating a large quantity of food and talking to the audience.
According to the OED, including so many Korean words reflects the shift in language used by English speakers.
“They demonstrate how Asians from various parts of the continent invent and exchange words within their own local contexts, then introduce these words to the rest of the English-speaking world, allowing the Korean wave to continue to ripple on the sea of English words.”
‘A global mindset’
The success of Korean exports such as Squid Game or Parasite can be put down to greater global thought by cultural producers, according to Dr Hye-Kyung Lee from King’s College London.
“It’s been more than ten years since K-early pop’s success, so Korean cultural producers have a global mindset,” says Dr. Lee, who studies culture and arts and has studied the rise of K-drama and K-pop.
Despite the geographical and linguistic differences, she believes that characters in K-drama can be related to by people in the UK and around the world.
“The characters don’t have much hope; they don’t have a future and are just trying to survive.”
“These dramas or films are entertaining, and they have something unique that can touch people all over the world.”
“Through the characters, they present a critique of society and social economic conditions to which people can relate.”
She claims that the industry has surpassed Western countries in terms of cultural production and that it will continue to grow.
“They are cutting-edge in terms of technology and talent, and they have a strong capacity to produce high-quality products,” she adds.
The rise of Korean culture
The success of South Korean exports in the UK has been happening for a while.
Back in 2012, you might remember Gangnam Style by rapper Psy, who became the first South Korean pop star to make it to the top of the UK singles chart.
Oscar-winning film Parasite is currently the highest-grossing non-English language film in the UK.
And pop group BTS became the first Korean act to score a chart-topping album in the UK – and appeared on Radio 1 this year, recording a special Live Lounge performance.
Squid Game is currently on track to be Netflix’s most-watched series ever – it’s in the UK top 10 list and 95% of the show’s viewers are from outside Korea.