The Truth About Aegyo (애교)
We’re sure you’ve heard the term ‘aegyo’ (애교) before, especially if you have lived in or have spent any amount of time in Korea (or are investing time in learning about the culture). It’s virtually everywhere – it’s popular on television shows, in memes on the web and it’s likely that you’ll see a lot of coat sleeve pulling, shoulder patting and pounding, as well as high-pitched, child-like sounds that aim to overwhelm and confuse unsuspecting victims with high doses of mind-melting cuteness.
However, it’s very existence and purpose seems to be somewhat shrouded in mystery for many who live outside of Korea. After having spent a lot of time studying the language and living in Korea as an exchange student, people who are new to the concept of aegyo often asked me: “Do people ACTUALLY find ‘aegyo’ to be cute or attractive in any way?! My answer to that question? It depends on you, and what level of cuteness you can tolerate before your body just shuts down. Some can handle it in truckloads, while others cannot stand it WHATSOEVER.
Just in case you need to explain it to your friends in 30 seconds or less, here’s a quick definition:
AEGYO: In Korea, aegyo is serious business. It’s basically the art of acting mind-numblingly cute via the use of high-pitched sounds, child-like expressions and exaggerated gestures. It can be seen in both verbal and written forms. When a person chooses to use aegyo, it is likely that it is for one of several reasons:
Reason #1: They want something from someone else, or they really want to get on someone’s good side. In the case of a girl using aegyo around her boyfriend, it would mean that she probably wants him to take her somewhere or to buy her a nice dinner – something of the like. This could be considered to be somewhat manipulative and artificial in nature, but it’s hard to refuse when someone looks at you with puppy dog eyes… *looks at the photo at the top of this post* Am I right, people?! AM I RIGHT? Okay… so maybe not. I’ll let you be the judge.
Reason #2: Their partner (or the friends and family around them) constantly crave it, and couldn’t live without having someone in their lives constantly acting cute… every minute, of every hour, of every day.
Okay, who are we kidding – there’s really only one true motive for using aegyo. For the most part, people (more often girls) use aegyo to win over their partners, and it’s not very likely you’ll see it being used anywhere else. This is especially true among girls who hang out together – aegyo rarely makes an appearance (unless the girls are having fun joking around or teasing each other). Some girls love to use it on guys when they spend time together alone, but if more than one female is present, the aegyo gets turned off.
Here’s an example of how a conversation might go between a girl using aegyo and a guy on the receiving end:
Aegyo girl: “Oppa! I’m sooooo hungry~ will you pleeeeeease take me to that yummy BBQ restaurant we both love? Oh, and I don’t get paid for a few more days, so could you pay this time? Please? Oppaaa~!! I love you! (kiss)”
Aegyo-obsessed boy: “OF COURSE! How could I say no to the cutest girl on the planet? Let’s go – I’ll buy you whatever you want! Just promise that you’ll never stop being so cute, mmkay!? ^^”
Aegyo girl: “Yay~! Oppa, thank you! ^^! SARANGHAE OPPA!
It may seem sickeningly sweet, and in all honesty, it kind of is. In small doses, it can be adorable and fun to use with friends, but as we can see in the conversation above – it often gets overused. Note to anyone reading this who loves to use aegyo a little too much – tone it down. The recipient will still enjoy it, and will probably appreciate it more if you use it JUUUUST a little less.
So, that’s about all I have to say about aegyo. It can be difficult to define, and it has an equal number of both fans and haters, but it’s here to stay! If you love it, embrace it. Otherwise, do everything in your power to avoid it.
QUESTION TIME! Let’s get some discussion going here:
Where are you on the aegyo tolerance scale?
1 being ‘I HATE IT WITH A BURNING PASSION’ and 10 being ‘AEGYO IS MY LIFE’.
Let us know in the comments below!