National Korean Language Institute Seeks to Eliminate Konglish

A possible outgrowth of the importance of English test scores in modern Korean society, the ever increasing use of English loanwords in the Korean language has become a source of controversy. The argument revolves around whether Korea should go the way of France, and ban excessive loanword usage, or if Korea should embrace its partially bilingual new society. Many netizens react by pointing out the ridiculousness of an attempt to replace loanwords that express a concept foreign to Korea.

Article from Yonhap News:

The National Institute of the Korean Language suggests using the term maensoneumsik, or “bare-hands food” rather than the loanword, “finger food”

Instead of saying “finger food,” which means food eaten with one’s hands, the National Institute of the Korean Language has chosen to replace it with the korean word maen-son-eum-sik (맨손음식) which literally means “bare-hands food.”

On the website Malteo, a committee within the National Institute of the Korean Language has been collecting suggestions for loanword replacements through the “Refined Language” campaign. In the food category, three loanwords were recast into “refined Korean words” and published on the website earlier this month.

The term “finger food,” which means food eaten with bare hands rather than with a fork, chopsticks, or other utensil, is a loanword that has recently become popular in the food industry.

Another loan word, “color food,” which means eating food in a variety of colors to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, was revamped as the pure Korean word saek-ggal-meok-geo-ri (색깔먹거리), literally meaning ‘color food’. Another Korean term with the same meaning, saek-ggal-sik-pum (색깔식품), was also voted in.

The loanword, “food bank” was reborn as meok-geo-ri-na-num-teo (먹거리나눔터) [food sharing place]. This word refers to an organization or place dedicated to collecting leftovers from soup kitchens or homes, as well as non-perishable food items to distribute to those in need.

The Malteo website awards a limited-time gift certificate to users whose suggestions are selected.

Comments from Naver:

The National Institute of the Korean Language is definitely a necessary organization but it seems like they don’t always do things that are necessary.


Then, it [maensoneumsik] sounds like some food made with bare bands….


“Bare-hand food”…ke ke ke. That sounds so awkward. Since they are supposed to be experts, I thought they would come up with a more acceptable word. How would they even date, ke ke ke? [Because they are clueless.]


“Finger food” sounds better.


The intention is good, but it’s a bit funny..


Doesn’t “han-ip-eum-sik” [one-bite food, 한입음식] sound better?


Why stop there? Why don’t they change “hamburger” to “go-gi-bbang-ssa-gae” [meat bread-wrap, 고기빵싸개] then?


That’s too much like North Korea and the nuances change [when you translate it like that]. It would’ve been better if they tried to loosely translate it into “han-ip-eum-sik” [one-bite food] rather than literally translate it.


Things like this happen when they follow ideas from department heads and the like.


Those words didn’t naturally stem from Korea. Why should we convert those loanwords to Korean words… It’s inefficient and pointless.


And the Institute of Korean Langage will suggest “jot-bbang-ggu” for DickPunks.


“Bare-hand food” sounds like something from India. Why don’t they literally translate it as “son-ga-rak-eum-sik” [finger food] or “jip-ge-eum-sik” [tweezer food], ke ke ke. Are we going prehistoric with “bare-hand food” or what…


It is good to fix bad expressions, but I wonder if they even need to change internationally used sports terms or everyday loanwords. If there is a country doing that, that is North Korea.


It feels a bit unnatural. Is it just me?


Fast food would be “bba-reun-eum-sik” [fast food] then.

Share This Article
Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»