S1 Ep4: 밥 먹었어요? Learn and Practice 밥 먹었어요? / 어디 가세요?

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Vanessa: 4화: 밥 먹었어요?

Chris: Episode #4: Have you eaten?

Vanessa:   안녕하세요? 크리스 씨! 잘 지냈어요? How have you been?

Chris:   네, 잘 지냈어요. 바네사 씨는요? I have been well, what about you, Vanessa?

Vanessa:   네, 저도 잘 지냈어요. 크리스 씨 밥 먹었어요? Did you eat yet?

Chris:   음… 네 먹었어요. Hm… Yes, I already had a meal. You didn’t have a meal yet?  Should we go grab something to eat?

Vanessa:   아… 아니요. 하하하, Actually, this is a similar expression as to how are you?  It’s not really asking about if you ate. I’m sorry if I confused you.

Chris:   Oh, interesting? I was actually wondering why you were suddenly asked why I ate or not.

Vanessa:   Since the Korean language is deeply involved in cultural factors, there are quite a few cases where the superficial meaning and the actual meaning are different. Did you eat? This expression is one of them.

Chris:   Could you share why “you have eaten”  is used to express how are you?

Vanessa:   Oh, actually, there is a cultural background behind this expression. There was a time when having a meal was very important in Korean history. The conflict between North and South Korea broke out a few years after liberating from Japanese colonial times. The war lasted for three years and destroyed almost everything in South Korea. After ceasing fire, South Korea was the second poorest country in the world in the 1950s.

Chris:   Wow? Second poorest country? Isn’t South Korea one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP? I believe it was rank at 10th or so.

Vanessa:   Yes, that is correct. A lot has changed in South Korea over the past 70 years. So, when I hear old stories from my grandparents’ generation, I can’t really listen without tears.  After all, it was a long time when everyone was so poor, so eating was incredibly valuable. So, a culture of paying attention to whether the neighbors ate was created.  In the midst of poverty, they thought that this person would be fine if they had meals, and if they didn’t have meals, they would be in bad shape today.

Chris:   Ah I see, it’s an expression of consideration for the other person’s condition.

Vanessa:   Yes, that is correct. Of course, in today’s Korea, it is hard to find people who are starving, so it is an expression meaning that no longer functions. It is an expression that has been used for so long that it is still used as a habit.

Chris:   I understand. But if you hear the phrase without knowing the background, it may sound a bit strange because it seems like you are asking personal questions about my life

Vanessa:   Yes, right. That’s why I shared this with you.

Chris:   So, how should I respond to the question? Do I give them the list of things I ate?

Vanessa: No. usually, just reply back saying “네, 밥 먹었어요, Yes, I ate already, or 아니요, 나중에 먹을 거예요. No. I’ll eat it later.

Chris:   Oh, So Interesting! I learned something new today!

Vanessa:   Besides this expression, there is another expression meaning how are you. It’s 어디 가세요?  Where are you going?

Chris:   어디 가세요? Where are you going? How can this be a similar expression as to how are you?

Vanessa:   Hahaha, is it fun? Koreans tend to think that it is warm to express that they are interested in the other person without crossing the line. So when stating 어디 가세요?. It has compressed the meaning of “It seems like you are busy getting somewhere to do something so, I won’t take your time. But I still want to greet you.

Chris:   What? Does that short phrase hold a complex message? Wow.

Vanessa:   Yes, You can simply think of it as a way of expressing a little more affection than just saying hello. So in Korea, it’s not a rude or over-the-top expression. The person asking the question is not asking because they want to know detailed information about where you are going or what you ate. So, you can simply say “네” yes or “네, 어디 좀 가요” “yes, I’m going somewhere,” similar to how we replied in the previous phrase “네, 밥 먹었어요, Yes, I ate already, or 아니요, 나중에 먹을 거예요. No. I’ll eat it later.

Chris:   Ah… The Korean language is deeply related to its culture, so many expressions have changed their superficial meaning. Therefore, I think it is very important to know Korean culture well while learning the language.

Vanessa:   Yes. Korean people have a culture that values sincere communication for each other, which is integrated into the language. But don’t worry. I will tell you more about it in future

Chris:   Great. Look forward to it.  Then now, shall we practice some examples?

Vanessa:   All right! Let’s practice!

 Situation #1

Vanessa:   크리스 안녕하세요? 밥 먹었어요?  Hi Chris, did you eat yet?

Chris:   네 밥 먹었어요. [머거써요] 바네사 씨는요? Yeah, I ate already. What about you?

Vanessa:   네, 저도 먹었어요. I ate already as well.

Situation #2

Vanessa:   아이고~ 크리스 씨! 어디 가세요?   Oh~ Chris, where are you going?

Chris:   아, 안녕하세요? 바네사 씨. 어디 좀 가요.   Oh, Hi Vanessa, Yeah, I’m going somewhere.

Vanessa:   네, 그래요. 그럼 다음에 봐요.   Oh, okay, Well, see you next time.

Chris:   네~ Okay

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