Sunday, August 12, 2012


Sorak is not his real name, it is how I remember him. Sorak like thousands of Chinese students in Korea, was vying for a place in the local universities. We met at Advanced 1 Korean language class. Being a non-native speaker of Korean, he has the best command of the language among the Chinese students I knew. The secret behind his language proficiency, he mixes frequently with native Koreans and kyobos for drinks and pool at night. He drinks soju like water and consecutive day-and-night drinkings do not seem to knock him out. I am hopeless when it comes to drinking but I match him in pool. Not too bad for someone who only practises on the pool table in the dormitory while doing laundry.

If heavy drinking is not bad enough, Sorak smokes like a chimney. He may sound like a problem student whom any teacher will not like to see in their class. On the contrary, Sorak is one of the most enthusiastic Chinese students I have seen. The one-child policy in China has not created the "little emperor mentality" in him. He is hardworking and was the only Chinese students in my class who passed his university's entry interview based purely on merits. The interview was conducted entirely in Korean which made it not an easy feat. Sorak has a long-held wish - to be the valedictorian during the graduation ceremony, an honour reserved only for the most senior graduate class. He never fulfilled his wish. He left for Sungkyungwan University after completing Advanced 1 Korean language class.

At the end of our graduation ceremony, I saw Sorak standing in front of an almost emptied auditorium with an indescribable expression. Something in me told me, it was actually an expression of "아쉬움" (regret). I recalled asking my dowoomi, does 안타까움 express a greater sense of regret compared to "아쉬움". "No, I use them interchangeably", she said. It seems then, there might just be only one degree of regret, you cannot have more or less of it.

I did not realise there was a face to "아쉬움". 동생, 고마워


  1. Yes, when I was first learning the language, I had the same thought too: 아쉽다 vs 안타깝다 vs 아깝다: Although 아깝다 is more like "aiya what a waste". My Korean frens could only say "well, it's similar but different. I dont know how to describe in English, though".

    Anyway, I hope your friend gets to give the speech at his Masters Graduation Ceremony.

    1. You should ask your Korean frens to explain in Korean. They can't describe in English doesn't mean you don't understand in Korean ;)

  2. How inspirational man he is.
    Let me comment on it kindly.
    My idea is different from your dowoomi.
    애석(哀惜)하다 should be up on that scene.
    Eventhough it is more serious chinese borrowee, 아쉽다 can be more suitable when it comes to something you can choose but you didn't. And 안타깝다 will be used generally when you see something very pitty . If you want to say 안타깝다 in the competition you lost, you need someone compete against very obviously. In other words, you need to be nominated with other nominee. You are lost at the 100 meter short tract.

    1. Let me try to understand what you wrote. 아쉽다 is pitiness arises from falling short of expection whereas 안타깝다 from losing in a competition.

      모어로 설명하면 더 편하지 않을까 싶어요. 다음에 한국어로 쓰셔도 돼요. 저같은 경우에 이해하지 못하는 부분이 있으면은 그냥 넘어가겠어요 ㅋㅋ