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?

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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 (6)

  1. Glad I’m Not K-boo

    This was funny af

  2. Haley

    This is so entertaining and educational!

  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

  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,