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Korean Emotional Studies


I love learning new languages, it's a great way to understand how other cultures think and expand my mind. For a long time I focused on the diversity of European cultures. As a result, I speak French (native), English, Spanish, Portuguese and a bit of German. I've always wanted to add one East Asian language to the list because the modern lifestyle of countries like Japan is similar to the way we live in the West, yet their culture and traditions are fundamentally different.

I thought I'd be learning Japanese, it’s the Eastern culture that has been the most popular for decades, with powerful concepts such as Ikigai, Shinrin Yoku, Wabi Sabi and Kintsugi, which I adore, but I fell in love with the sound of the Korean language... and when I discovered that its writing system (hangul) is one of the simplest there is, it was a no brainer, I had to learn Korean instead :) 

The more I was discovering about the Korean culture, the more I loved studying it, and this how started this wonderful and unusual LOVE story! 


왜 한국?

저는 언어를 배우는 것을 좋아해요, 그것은 다른 문화가 어떻게 생각하는지 이해하고 내 마음을 넓히는 좋은 방법이에요. 저는 프랑스어(원어민), 영어, 스페인어, 포르투갈어 그리고 약간의 독일어를 구사합니다.

생활 방식이 여러 면에서 비슷하기 때문에 항상 하나의 동아시아 언어를 배우고 싶었습니다, 하지만 문화와 전통은 서양과 근본적으로 다릅니다.

일본어일 줄 알았는데 한국어 소리에 반했고, 언어와 문화를 공부할수록 더 사랑하게 되었습니다.

저는 감성지능을 가지고 일을 하기 때문에, 제가 가장 좋아하는 한국어 컨셉은 눈치입니다. 사용할 수 있도록 더 많이 이해하고 싶습니다.

Korean Language

Right from the start, I noticed something that is radically different from the European languages: how people feel is intentionally conveyed in the way they express themselves and therefore affects the melody of what is being said, sometimes in ways that would be considered dramatic for Westerners. Onomatopoeias (의성) are very frequent and a deliberate part of the Korean vocabulary, not just a rare occasion. Certain sounds appeared to mean something very specific, and I found it amusing to see that in movies, short sounds with a clear intonation were translated with rather long subtitles in comparison, and rarely twice the exact same translation. 

The meaning of these sounds seemed to depend on context. Fascinating. 


As I progressed in my Korean study, I realised that indeed, a lot is communicated in a nonverbal way. Sentences are simple and straight to the point. Yet the nuances that we usually express with words, they express them with sounds and body language. As a result, people need to pay attention to not only what is being said but how it is said, and also to everything else that is not being said, that only exists in the “feeling space”.

The feeling space,

the space beyond words…

where abstraction gives room for all the things that cannot be expressed with language.

I started to entertain the theory that Korean people express themselves in a more embodied way than Westerners, and that there could be clues in this culture to support my work on Love intelligence and emotional studies.

This is what keeps me going despite the difficulty of learning such a radically different language, so I could learn this radically different way of expressing oneself, and therefore discover a whole new way to relate to one another.


Full circle. 

Given that my work is all about relating, you may better understand now why I am studying the Korean Language and culture. It’s a doorway to a whole new world, literally in the physical world, but more so internally: it expands my understanding of Human nature, pushes the limits of the known and gives depth to my work in ways I would have never imagined.

HAN (한), HEUNG (흥), and JEONG (정)

or the “Korean Social Emotions”

On a more tangible level, learning a new language and culture also means discovering new vocabulary that is unique to this culture. Like Saudades in Portuguese, Passeggiata in Italian or Erbsenzähler in German. In Korean 3 words caught my attention, not because they are the only interesting new concepts I am discovering (they are countless new words or absence of words making my mind explode on a regular basis) but because they are social emotions known to be specific to Korean culture and fundamental elements of Korea's identity.

Given that I have been in contact with this culture for less than 3 years, and only recently I started to understand basic Korean conversation, I am cautious sharing “definitions” for these words. Yet I believe that a brief presentation of their meaning in simple words would be helpful as an introduction to what makes Korean culture special. The first one especially hit me right to my core, having lived the first 30 years of my life unable to process anger. I loved that they have a word for that specific experience of anger, it made me feel seen and understood.

There is still so much I want to add to this research. I am even considering writing an essay about Emotions in Korean Culture in order to develop the many reasons why I believe Hallyu is positively contributing to the global imaginary, now that the Western world ideals are challenged and the Youth across the globe is increasingly disillusioned. But for now, I hope this short intro helps you understand the scope of my interest in Korean Culture and why I am dedicating a lot of my time now.

HAN: a feeling of deep sorrow, resentment, unresolved grief and anger, which is not actively expressed or even repressed, but internalised.

HEUNG: a feeling of joy and excitement, an intentional celebration of fun, actively cultivated or conveyed to others, and experienced collectively.

JEONG: a feeling of connection, loyalty and strong emotional attachment to people and places, which includes affection, sympathy, compassion and collective social responsibility.


PS: I cannot speak about Korean emotional intelligence and culture of relating without mentioning the word Nunchi (눈치).
According to Wikipedia, Nunchi is a Korean concept signifying the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others' moods. It is a type of emotional intelligence of central importance to the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and is closely related to the broader concept of paralanguage.

Nunchi seems to be the direct product of how Korean language & culture shaped each other into what they are today, the very skill needed to navigate the feeling space I mentioned earlier. It's a concept I am eager to decipher and excited to implement in my work on LOVE intelligence.

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