If you aren’t watching or talking about the “Squid Game”, the Korean series on Netflix that has gripped the whole world, then you are probably living in another time and in another world. The interest in Korean dramas, songs, culture, food and beauty has been surging since the last few years.
The definitive document of the English language announced that, in the wake of the increasing popularity of South Korean cultural exports, over 20 new words of Korean origin have been added to its pages.
“K-pop, K-drama, K-beauty, K-food, K-style —these days, everything seems to be getting prefixed with a K- as South Korea’s popular culture continues to rise in international popularity,” the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) wrote in a recent blog post regarding its September update.
“We are all riding the crest of the Korean wave, and this can be felt not only in film, music, or fashion, but also in our language, as evidenced by some of the words and phrases of Korean origin included in the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary.”
Some of the words that have been included are hallyu - the Korean original for the wave of pop culture, hanbok – formal attire worn by both men and women, aegyo, a certain kind of cuteness or charm considered characteristically Korean and mukbang which is livestreams of people eating extraordinary amounts of food while talking to the online audience, among others. There are certain food listings too like bulgogi – thin slices of beef or pork – and chimaek – Korean-style fried chicken and beer.
The first K-word in the OED, as mentioned in the blog post, is “Korean,” and was initially added in a 1933 supplement to the dictionary. It wasn’t until 2016 that “K-pop” was added to the document.
The OED mentioned in the blog, that Korean words being adopted into the English language demonstrates “how lexical innovation is no longer confined to the traditional centers of English in the United Kingdom and the United States — they show how Asians in different 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, thus allowing the Korean wave to continue to ripple on the sea of English words.”