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Korea`s `words of the year`

Posted December. 17, 2015 11:37,   

한국어

Merriam-Webster, a renowned English dictionary, has declared the suffix "-ism " as the “word of the year” in 2015. It found that words such as “socialism,” “racism,” “communism,” “capitalism,” and “terrorism” are at the top of the look-up list of its website. “Facism” has also appeared frequently after U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested that the U.S. ban all Muslims from entry.

The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation has selected "安" (“an,” meaning peace or safety) as the character best representing the sentiment and events in Japan in 2015. The character is included in the name of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (安倍晋三), refers to the controversial security legislation (安保法) that his administration passed this year, and there was a high hope among Japanese for the nation’s peace (平安). Another reason was the issue of comfort women (慰安婦) being unusually high-profile this year, which is a shame for Koreans.

There is no organization to select “word of the year” in Korea, but the two words ‘-포 (“po”; to give up)’ and ‘헬- (“hell”)’ would certainly represent the 2015 Korea. Many Korean youth are giving up dating, marriage, and having children due to their financial hardships, and sometimes even give up social life, home ownership, individual dreams and hope. The self-derisive word “hell Korea,” comparing their motherland with the word "hell" for being hopeless, has been very popular online. The two words distinctly illustrate the sentiment among Koreans this year, even though they are disruptive in terms of the language.

Youth unemployment continues to be an issue in the National Assembly as the year-end approaches. President Park Geun-hye has been calling for the passage of the legislations on economic stimulus and labor reform, and the ruling Saenuri Party keeps pushing the opposition, but the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy does not seem to be cooperative. This will only worsen the low morale of young Koreans. Hoping next year’s “words of the year” to be happier and rosier.



pisong@donga.com