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Korean Culture: Culture of affection

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There are some words which are so central, yet unique to the ways of thinking of a particular society or culture that they are very hard to translate so as Korean culture. In the United States, for instance, history has endowed words such as liberty and equality with special meaning importance. In Korean, perhaps an even more important and difficult word to understand for the foreigner is the word 정 ( affection, warmth, feeling, sentiment, love ). See the examples below.

Culture of affection

Korean culture

Culture of affection

The concept of 정 is an essential part of how Koreans view and express their relationships. Tenderhearted, affectionate people are valued as having a lot of 정. Country people, who will often offer a complete stranger a meal and a place to sleep, have a lot of 정.

Certain gestures indicate 정. When serving rice, for instance, a Korean will always serve at least two scoops of rice per bowl, any less and one is lacking in 정. This gesture of giving and of indulgence emphasizes generosity and feeling over the logic of calculating how much someone might really eat.

As always, the best way to get to understand how Koreans think is to interact with them and get to know some of them. You will probably hear them talk a lot about 정. And hopefully, they’ll say you have a lot of it. Types of 정: 감정 – feeling, 정서 – emotion/sentiment, 애정 – love/affection, 열정 – passion, 인정 – human nature, 동정 – sympathy/compassion, 심정 – heart

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