Monday, September 15, 2008

엄마 친구의 아이

Until now, I have yet to write about my Korean lessons during my summer course. I must say that they were very interesting even though it was more of a revision for me. I have a few excuses to offer for not doing that. First, I was feeling rather "weak" as the summer heat seemed to be draining away my "힘" (strength). Second, I felt that it would be "sinful" to just spend my time blogging in Seoul. Third, I needed more time to organise my "messy" lesson notes before I could sieve out some meaningful points to write on. Enough of excuses said. Here is the first record of my lesson.

"Have you heard of 엄친아 or 엄친딸?", our teacher, Mr Yim Chae Hoon, asked the class. Apparently, they are "줄인말" (abbreviation) for "엄마 친구의 아들/딸" (The son/daughter of my mother's friend). Before our teacher could get down to explain the meaning of the word, my mind identified with it almost instantaneously. In actual fact, I was hearing "엄친아/딸" for the first time but somehow it seemed like I have known the word for a very long time.

My mom used to have this habit of comparing me with her friend's children. Needless to say, her friend's children were always superior to me in all aspects. They excel in study, in sports, are filial to their parents, etc. In my mom's words, they were so good to the extent that it seemed like they were either super-human or super-natural. I couldn't understand why my mom liked to belittle her own child. I disliked it. It was definitely not an effective way to motivate me. It only served to demolish my self-esteem and self-worth. It distorted my judgment of reality and fiction.

However, after getting acquainted with the word "엄친아/딸", I think I have found an explanation to my mom's behaviour. It is probably a social behaviour which is derived from our culture. One aspect of our culture is to speak down on personal achievements and to praise other about their achievements. "엄친아/딸" is a product of such culture which in turn is influenced by Confucianism. The ultimate aim of Confucianism is to create a harmonious society based on "virtues" or "덕 (德)". A society is not going to be harmonious if people start to praise their children and speak down on other's children. I can no longer blame my mom as much as I cannot blame the culture which I am brought up in. It is in the culture.

Our teacher explained "엄친아/딸" as "완벽한 사람" (a perfect person). A person who is good looking, excels in everything he or she does, earns a handsome paycheck, is filial to parents, respect elders, etc. I could not help but nodded my head in agreement when he was making the description. That's exactly how my mom would describe her friend's children. The most famous "엄친아" in Korea now, whom our teacher quoted as an example, is a swimming sensation and darling of the media.

He is Park Tae-hwan (박태환, 朴泰桓) - the gold medallist of 400m freestyle and silver medallist of 200m freestyle in the recent Beijing Olympics. Perhaps "엄친아/딸" does exist but it is more like one in millions.


  1. speaking of 줄인말... not sure if you know this one or not... but, i'll see if you do:


    maybe it's easy ^^

  2. 비번은 무엇이냐고요.
    정답은 비밀번호의 줄인말입니다!