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Korona: Talking About COVID-19 in Korean
Episode 830th November 2021 • Hanmadi Korean Linguistics • Sara McAdory-Kim and Jaymin Kim
00:00:00 00:24:42

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Words for talking about COVID-19 in Korean

As with other languages, a lot of new words have entered Korean during the pandemic, and other older words have come into wider use.


New words (neologisms) can be borrowed (i.e., a word used in another language is brought into the language you’re speaking, with a similar or sometimes a somewhat different meaning); or created from “scratch” or by combining parts of other words.


Some COVID-related words in Korean:


코로나 - korona - COVID-19


Korean word for quarantine:


자가격리 - jaga gyeongni - quarantining at one’s own house - literally, own house quarantining.

Sino-Korean word; not newly coined, but in more frequent use. Doesn’t actually have to be at one’s own house.


Korean word for mask scofflaws:


턱스크 - teokseukeu - when someone wears a mask down on their chin instead of over their mouth. Yes, these people exist everywhere! From native Korean teok 턱 + last two Koreanized syllables of 마스크, English mask


Korean word for social distancing:


사회적 거리두기 - sahoejeok georidugi - social distancing - Sino-Korean + Native Korean. Essentially a literal translation 


Korean words for contactless/virtual things during COVID-19:


언택트 - eontaekteu - probably a new coinage for COVID - un as in English un-, tact from English contact. So no contact, basically - people used to use it a lot from things happening over Zoom rather than real life; contactless deliveries; etc.


비대면 - not face to face (literal translation) - a Sino-Korean word that has been replacing (or has replaced) 언택트 


랜선여행 - laen-seon yeohaeng - virtual travel - 랜 from LAN as in the English abbreviation LAN for those really fast Internet cables (랜) + 선 line (which together mean ethernet cable in Korean) + 여행 travel


Korean word for preventive measures during COVID-19:


K-방역 - K-bangyeok - Korean preventive measures - K as in Korea/Korean (e.g., K-pop); the things Korea did to keep COVID from getting to crazy levels the way it did in the US and many other countries that didn’t implement such strong measures.


Korean words for a future with endemic COVID-19:


위드 코로나 - wideu korona - from English, “with Corona,” as in “living with Corona” - adapting to a life in which COVID-19 is endemic


단계별 일상 회복 - dangyebol (stage by stage) 일상 (everyday life) 회복 recovery  the word the government is pushing to replace 위드 코로나, essentially meaning the same thing.



Do you know any other COVID-related Korean words? We’d love to hear them if so!


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Theme music: The Boating Trip by LATG Music.


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