Advice / all

Author Arkayla Napper (first row, center) pictured with friends.

Annyeong Chingoos! What Exactly Is a Koreaboo and How Do You Know If You Are One?

by share

Tiny Disclaimer: Please don’t be embarrassed to listen to K-Pop. There is nothing wrong with it. We need to get rid of this stigma that’s attached to listening to K-Pop.

First off, what is a “Koreaboo” (K-Boo)? Contributors from Urban Dictionary describe a Koreaboo as “someone who is obsessed with Korean culture so much they denounce their own culture and call themselves Korean.” Yes, there are non-Korean people out here who are claiming themselves as Korean. People even have ways of making their eyes into monolids* using “non-toxic” glue. But, Koreaboo has also become an insult.

To be honest, when people started to call me a Koreaboo, it used to actually hurt my feelings a bit. It hurt because people were making fun of something that actually made me happy. I also knew that people were using the word wrong and their definitions were something that I knew I was not. So, I hid the fact that I listened to K-Pop from other people except those who listened to it as well. If you’re going to use the word Koreaboo to describe someone, at least make sure you’re using the word right.

A lot of people don’t even know where the term Koreaboo comes from. It actually stems from the word “Weeaboo” which is used to describe a person who completely disregards their nationality and claims themselves as Japanese. Both of these terms are problematic because they insist on taking make-believe aspects of Japanese and Korean culture and making it real. Koreaboos idolize Korean life from K-Dramas and Weeaboos take from anime. Admiring only certain parts of a culture (which most of the time are completely fake) can be insulting to Korean and Japanese people.  

Signs That You Are a Koreaboo 

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#1 After being introduced to Korean culture, you are all of a sudden Korean.

I don’t know why you would want to do this. Don’t be that person who is all of a sudden Korean. You aren’t. You can’t.

#2 You say things like “jinjja/진짜” “pabo/바보” “hajima/하지마” in everyday speech when no one can understand you.

This is cringey K-Boo behavior and you should stop it right now. Like right now. Just speak in one language.

#3 If you can understand “annyeonghaseyo” “gamsahapnida” but not 안녕하세요 or 감사합니다.

Before you get mad, let me explain. If you’re not learning Hangul, this isn’t directed to you. This is directed to those K-Boos who only know these words from watching K-Dramas, listening to their idols speak and other K-Boos. If you’re going to speak in “Korean,” just use Hangul.

#4 Calling your idols “oppa” and/or “eonnie/unnie/unni”

Listen. If you’re doing this, don’t. This is weird. Especially if this is the only bit of “Korean” in that sentence. This is pure K-Boo culture.

#5 Using saranghaeyo* appropriately.

This relates to #2. Please. P L E A S E. Don’t just say saranghae or “I sarang you” to your idols or anyone for that matter. 사랑해요 is acceptable. saranghae oppa (사랑해 오빠)  is DEFINITELY not acceptable.

If you’ve made it past all of those above, congratulations, you are not a Koreaboo. The next section is for people who are still being called a Koreaboo and do none of the things listed above. The next section is for those who need clarification.

Things That Do Not Make You a Koreaboo

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#1 Learning Korean so you can communicate with your idols, watch K-Dramas without subtitles/not have to wait for subtitles or even to understand the music.

I feel that people outside of the K-Pop world like to throw this word around just for learning Korean. If you’re learning Korean for any of those reasons or more, that doesn’t make you a Koreaboo.

I began learning Korean because I got into K-Pop. Since learning Korean, I realized that I have a passion for languages and I now “basically” speak 5 languages.

#2 Listening to K-Pop or watching k-dramas.

When I first let people know that I listened to K-Pop, immediately, the K-Boo jokes started. This does not whatsoever make you a Koreaboo period. You like what you like.

#3 Wearing merch.

What I don’t understand is how I could wear an Ariana Grande concert shirt and no one will say anything. But I could wear a V.I.P. bracelet and suddenly it’s a big bang and I’m a Koreaboo. (If you didn’t get this pun, BIGBANG is a K-Pop group and their fandom is called “V.I.P.”) 

I can’t express how wrong this is. If you wanna wear your merch or whatever, wear your merch or whatever. People don’t understand how expensive it is. Buying authentic merch from Korea is super expensive! A shirt could be $20 USD, but then shipping is freaking $916283027USD (not literally, don’t go quoting me on that).

#4 Buying something in a store (such as food or something) that is from Korea, going to Korean barbecue.

Don’t get too excited. This one has a very thin line and it can be crossed very quickly. See Rule #5

#5 Learning more about Korean culture.

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Again, this is very easy to mess up. Learning more about Korean culture to understand the people, the food and the country is OK. Learning about Korean culture so that you can slowly turn yourself Korean is not acceptable in my household. If you want to buy some Korean snacks because you want to try them, that’s fine. Don’t go buying Korean stuff so you can claim your non-existent Korean heritage. It’s gonna be a no from me, sweetheart.

But I digress as usual. Liking K-Pop and/or watching K-Dramas does not immediately make you a Koreaboo. If you do any of those things underneath the “Signs That You Are A Koreaboo” section, chances are … you are one. If you are a Koreaboo, I’m not judging you. Although, I do think you should tone it down. Behaving in this way isn’t going to get you anywhere but into a Koreaboo Compilation on YouTube. If you want your “oppas” to like you, this isn’t the way. So everyone, continue liking K-Pop and K-Dramas but not too much, ya hear?


* Vocabulary

  • Annyeong Chingoos: Hello Friends (chingu/친구 is purposefully spelled wrong)
  • Monolid: Monolid eyes are eyes that do not have a crease on the eyelid. Traditionally, most Eastern Asians have monolids.
  • Mutuals: Someone you follow and follows you back.
  • Oppa: Older brother (used by a female)
  • Saranghae(yo): I love you in Korean
  • Eonnie: Older sister (used by a female)
  • Weeaboo: A person who completely disregards their nationality and claims themselves as Japanese. They base their life on what they see from Japanese animes and music.

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comments (52)

  1. Glad I’m Not K-boo

    This was funny af

    1. Kelly

      HA! …Agreed – this was funny af

    2. Dubely

      What if im not obsessed with koreans/asians but my ideal type is korean? Would making an asian your ideal type male you a koreaboo??

      1. Juliet Macias

        That’s what I’m wondering

      2. Anya

        no not necessarily.. 🙂

      3. paige

        wow im wondering too because that’s me

      4. !@@#

        yes! thats a fetish, youre sexualyzing those people

  2. Haley

    This is so entertaining and educational!

    1. Jazlyn Carter

      For sure!😭

  3. Anieya Jones

    I understand where your coming from. Jabari told me that you wrote an article, so I came to check it out. I totally agree. I am a sucker for all things Korean, but I don’t do it in a sense of saying, “Screw my own culture, I like the Korean culture more”. I love K-pop (and I’m not afraid to let people know), I love Korean food, and I enjoy learning the dances to my favorite groups. I do say Korean words/phrases and write sentences on the boards of my teachers here-and-there, but that’s solely to practice my pronunciation or to talk to my Korean teacher and my friends (who are learning the language)
    Side note: “I sarang you” LOL that reminds me of that iconic animated IG video – And I understood every single Korean word & phrase! Also, you wanna take me to a KBBQ place? (I have yet to taste Korean BBQ!!)

  4. Big Nap

    That’s my daughter

  5. Mary🌺🌾

    You are totally right
    I love Korean culture but I am not going to drop my own birth culture, that will be so wrong

    1. Justin Seagul

      why is that wrong? u were never asked what culture you wanted to be born in. u were just born in the culture, and its not at all necessary that u will like it

  6. Miyan

    Why its a big deal for them to call them oppa, since it was a way of respect , i think you guys are over reacting,

    1. Amie

      this might be late but, international kpop fans dont have to call them oppa as it is korean way to respect them. so saying oppa means you kinda are trying to be korean

      1. Yeon Kimin

        I honestly dont get it. if someone likes my culture and follows it, i will be more than proud and respect them and their opinions. will koreans not like if other people like their culture and try to be like them?

        1. justin seagull

          same dude thats what i think as well …….. like if i want to knw how to use chopsticks then its to increase my knowledge in things n if i just use some korean phrases that too very very rarely then why m i a koreaboo n its not like i m totally leaving my culture for it

        2. hello

          I think there’s a gray area. I’m Korean-American and more than half the time, I’m filled with mixed emotions. From the people around me, many Korean-Americans (including me) will most likely say it’s cringe and annoying. Learning to use chopsticks/eating kbbq/liking kimchi LOL is all cool. But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve had people come up to me and ask if there are any cute Korean boys and if they can come. I’ve even been told that I’m not a true Korean because I don’t know the lyrics to their favorite kpop song. Honestly, if you want to learn Korean and want to practice, I would ask the person. “Hey, I’m interested in/am learning Korean. Do you mind if I can practice with you?” Whenever people came up to me and said this, I felt a lot more comfortable and willing than when people just say “ahn-nyeong-ha-se-yo” or “saranghae” or even like “omona,” “aigoo,” etc. Basically, the way people are speaking the language is extremely cringe. Idk. Maybe it doesn’t make you a Koreaboo, but it do be cringey sometimes tbh. It really depends and I wish I could be more specific with when and why.

  7. idk

    kboos are like the ones that want exclusively asian friends too,right? well, i dont want asian friends exclusively,but i do want asian friends too. so,if i want korean friends bc kpop changed my perspectives of asians,does that make me a koreaboo? and also,i only use annyeonghaseyo when someone wants me to introduce myself in korean (for eg. my irl friends) or if i ever meet a korean person. sure,i practice korean at home too,but im confused. and plus,i really love kpop and asians (dont get the wrong idea, but im obsessed with meeting them) am i a koreaboo or only a bit?

    1. #ARMYBLINK20

      I personally think that if you want Asian friends, there’s just a fine line you must be careful not to cross. Life if you say that you want a red haired friend, or a Spanish friend, or an Asian friend, that’s okay. But if you’re like I NEED AN ASIAN then that’s crossing the line. And I also think that if you love kpop idols, that’s not k-boo behavior, just basic fan girl behavior. But if the obsession is with all Asians in general, I think you’re entering k-boo territory. I think you may wanna tone it down a little bit, before you have the chance to turn full on koreaboo. Hut I will say that I do view Koreans slightly differently since I became a kpop fan, but only because I’m more interested in learning about their culture, because it interests me along with many other different cultures. Im also learning Korean, but I plan on learning other languages too. So as long as you don’t they to be Korean I think you’ll be okay, but you should probably still tone it down a bit with the Asian obsession. But of course I can’t tell you how to live your life, so if that’s how you like it, then be yourself and stick with it.

  8. Kali

    I use Korean words randomly when I’m talking to myself, this is simply because it helps me memorise and learn. Or sometimes it slips in to conversation with others. This does not make me a Korea boo. The definition of Korea boo should only be used for people who genuinely believe they’re Korean even though they’re not.

  9. Emma

    I like watching Korean films, no so much the dramas, I love Korean food. Their culture, their equittes. But I’ll be dammed if I will say yes I’m Korean when I’m not, I’ll never drop my nationality, I’m British and proud to be British.

  10. jinya

    im half japanese and half bengali or u can say im asian does that means im koreaboo?
    i like kpop is that bad? , i watch them cause i copy there dance moves sometimes thats all…and i have a question , so in internet i saw so many cringy fanfics and they are weird but if someone read fanfics does that make them koreaboo? and I DONT READ THEM! xd

    1. Anya

      Bengal is in asia, japan is in asia, so u R an asian

  11. Their clothes I'm sorry is amaze

    Here my thing with the learning the culture
    Their culture is so much more respectful to elders, they’re nicely kept and don’t go around looking like they just rolled outta bed (America I’m sorry, but not ALL Americans, again, not.all.)
    (But tbh they’re clothes style along with a few other countries is something I would buy any day)
    Language: I know simple terms (and how to read and write hangul) (I still don’t understand meanings) but boi am I using subtitles, they talk too fast lmao, if I knew that language well no subtitles, for now, subtitles

  12. Samantha Prior

    I have a question what about looking up your name in korean ?

  13. Hermione28

    Kpop is my favourite genre and i love to listen to korean music and watch kdramas. I am also learning korean and hangul. I knew that i wasn’t a koreaboo because i don’t only like korean guys or want to change my nationality or anything. I am fully English and perfectly happy being english. The reason i am learning korean is because, even before i got into kpop, i have always wanted to study internationally when i do university, just for the experience. At first, i wanted to study in the USA but then i thought, the cultural experience would be even better if it was in a different language, and why not a language with a whole different writing system? I like a challenge, and i chose korean, and to study in korea when i am older, purely because i want to have that opportunity to see another culture (not be another culture, just see it) and the city lifestyle has always appealed to me, so Seoul is obviously a great choice. The fact that i love kpop and kdramas is only a small percentage of the reason for learning korean which, as you have said, is absolutely fine. I read this article because i wanted to completely make sure i wasn’t a koreaboo, and i don’t do any of the things on the koreaboo list so yeah. My friend is also learning korean so i sometimes say a phrase i recently learnt to her, which is fine. And if im texting her and we have a conversation about korean so we say something in Korean, we always use hangul, not the romanised version so i am ok!

  14. Grace

    This very helpful I just starting watching 100 day my prince and I also listen to kpop

    1. ashlinna

      It really was!

  15. Juliet Macias

    Does dancing to kpop make you a koreaboo-

  16. Elli

    Am I a Koreaboo for learning korean language for no reason? And am I a Koreaboo for liking kpop?- ^^

    1. Jeon Somin

      nope

  17. Ngila

    i know what annyeonghaseyo and gamsahamnida is because of kpop idols but that does make me a kboo and i do want to learn the language!

  18. Agam

    I do use Korean words and sentences but I do it because I like the language and wants to learn it. I also wants to try Korean food, If that makes me a Koreaboo than I’m a koreaboo but not everyone who does those things are a Koreaboo. So if you think that this is crossing the line than sorry. I am not forgetting my own culture and I even make fun of my culture.

    1. Iris

      I’m Korean I think that its perfectly ok when someone wants to learn more about another culture, and I don’t think you’re a Koreaboo. I hope this helps you 🙂

  19. Vj morgan

    I watch korean shows because they have so of the best story lines and best actors and actresses ,I love korean fried chicken and all this is due to BTS ,I admire those boys for their hard work and admire the people

  20. LL

    Does it make me a koreaboo if I want to be an idol

  21. brent

    It might be too late for this but… Is Lisa from BLACKPINK a koreaboo? If you are not Korean but want to be a k-pop idol, is that being a koreaboo?

    1. Miya

      no she isn’t a koreaboo if she was then Ten would be too lol

  22. Iyannabailey Bailey

    Thank god you explained this so very well, I hate it when people take this whole situation and turn it into something it’s not or discouraging people from listening to Kpop

  23. Bobbette

    I am considering to share this article with my friend because she called me a koreaboo in front of a whole crowd and I got so embarrassed. The fact is that the only “Korean” related to me is that I listen to kpop. It just hurts my soul, but then I don’t want to get into a fight with her.

    1. ur jagiya

      thats sad. dont get me wrong but i suggest u better leave such toxic frnds. fr, thats disgusting

  24. Azizi

    Is it true Koreans originated from ancient China?

  25. Bapgogaengnim

    I’ve never seen a Koreaboo in North America, most likely because I moved to Seoul before the K-culture boom went global. But I think this is a pretty accurate article for the most part–people genuinely learning the language and culture are absolutely NOT Koreaboos. Girls who move halfway around the world to be in Korea as English teachers but don’t know how to teach and don’t care about the children they are responsible for, they’re the most despicable form of Koreaboo you can find. Even worse is when you see some of these girls get into bad relationships because they don’t know any better–women’s rights in Korea are not great and even with video evidence of abuse, courts aren’t always inclined to rule against the “man of the house.” Ironically, the waygookin Koreaboos are usually way more extreme than the Korean K-Pop fan. From spending every weekend for half a decade at Jamsil Olympic Park, I can tell you first-hand that the Korean girls are not nearly as obsessive about the idols as the imports tend to be. Most of them just seem to be capitalists who profit off of cards, lights, posters, etc. outside of the stadiums all day.

  26. Dude

    Why not?

  27. navya

    wait than lisa from blackpink is a koreaboo right!?

    1. lys

      no not really, she’s not trying to be korean, she accepts the fact that she’s thai. but for her work as a kpop idol she’s obviously going to have to learn korean and their ettiquite and some of their culture. and whether you like it or not, when you live in a certain place you’re going to experience their culture too.

  28. anonymous

    I’m Pakistani and if someone suddenly became obsessed with Bollywood I would be really amazed and excited that they liked my culture, even if they wanted to wear sari’s and eat our traditional food and learn Urdu that would mean they accept our culture and that’s amazing. I understand how the honorifics and random Korean words calling would be uncomfortable but other than that, with the other things isn’t it just them wanting to explore the Korean culture more? what’s harmful in that?

  29. lys

    i’ve found myself subconsiously bowing when saying thank you or when leaving when talking to teachers or strangers i’m trying to be respectful to. i’m not much asian either and so i can’t really use that excuse. one time i felt bad because when i was saying goodbye and thank you to someone asian on the street i bowed without really much thought and i was hoping i didn’t offend them or anything by bowing. i don’t do a full 90 degree bow, i just do the littlest bow or bow my head. i think i picked this up from watching idols and people in kdramas do so. does this make me a koreaboo? i don’t really mean to do it but it’s just become a habit and im scared one day a friend’s gonna call it out and call me a koreaboo or something. (i don’t do it because i’m trying to ‘become asian’ or anything, it’s just a habit i’ve picked up and kinda can’t control lol)

  30. Eskter

    Is it a kboo if you study there and want to become a citizen there?

  31. Iris

    Haha I agree! I’m Korean and some of those “Korea Boos” freak me out sometimes. Learning Korean culture and learning Korean is ofc perfectly fine! Also, watching K-dramas and liking Kpop is a personal choice and I personally love it.

  32. 悅銅

    Thanks this comment made my day 😌🤌