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Aegyo or why love is growing slowly in Korea
Like all East Asian cultures, the culture of Korea is not always easy to understand for people from the West. Koreans think quite differently when it comes to relationships and love affairs. The key word for this is: Aegyo.
Korean cultural products such as K-pop, entertainment shows, films and TV series are not only popular across Asia, but are also consumed in Europe and America. However, certain peculiarities in it cause astonishment among Western viewers. It seems strange how man and woman meet, communicate with one another and, above all, how young women act. They appear childlike, naive, cute and sweet, all characteristics that one would not suspect of adult women in the West.
How can this cultural difference be explained? The analysis of a central concept, namely aegyo, could shed light on the cultural background. Since there is no equivalent for it in Western languages, this Korean term has meanwhile found its way into the Internet. It is interesting that it comes from the parent-child relationship. However, in a modified and refined form, it exercises an important function in society. To understand this term, it is necessary to take a look at childhood in Korea.
Symbiotic relationship with the mother
In Korea the family is of greater existential importance for the individual than is the case in the West. All life is organized around the family. As everywhere in Korea, children have a special position. The first smile, the first word, the first step, everything triggers enthusiasm. To be a child means to be loved for no reason, to trigger rapture through mere existence.
Improper use of aegyo can easily appear vulgar, immature, ridiculous and out of place.
Parents' love gives rise to confidence in the world. The children, in turn, see that they mean happiness for their parents. You are encouraged to please the parents and to strengthen their love: by dancing, singing, giving kisses, hugging, making a heart sign with your hands, etc. This is called Ayang, Jaerong or Aegyo. If a child does not know something like this, his childhood can only have been unhappy. Converted as a kind of cultural technique, Aegyo managed to establish itself in the adult world.
In Korea, a child remains in a symbiotic relationship with the mother longer. It is always with the mother and sleeps with her. While self-employment is encouraged early in Europe, in Korea there is not too much pressure to do so. The mother holds it "protectively in the bosom". Since puberty in Korea does not bring about the breaks that are crucial in Europe for the separation of the family cord, the deeply internalized pattern of childhood remains effective well into adulthood. Childhood is also emotionally positive, so that it remains a place of longing for a lifetime.
Aegyo is in this cultural milieu. It means behaving nicely so that one is liked and loved. The children learn early on how to put their parents in a good mood, especially when they want something. Schoolchildren and students also regard aegyoid behavior towards their parents as proof of love.
The difference between girls and boys, i.e. the gender gap, is gradually emerging. As time goes on, boys notice that such behavior is more expected of girls. But the break is not entirely continuous, which means there are also men with feminine character traits. The repertoire varies individually and according to age, but the basic elements remain the same: smile at you, speak in a soft, slightly raised nasal tone, hug, kiss your cheeks, hang on your arm, clap, shake your upper body, jump up and down, about yourself speaking in the third person, putting the sentences in a different melody by rhythmically lengthening and raising the endings.
The becoming of love
With entry into the professional world you have to learn when, how and towards whom it is appropriate to behave in a way that is aegyo-like. Because aegyo is a sign of closeness and intimacy. If someone uses it inappropriately, it can easily come across as vulgar, immature, ridiculous and out of place. There are some general rules: Aegyo is more appropriate for women. Only younger people are allowed to behave aegyo towards older people, but not the other way around. It has to look natural and not seem overly purposeful. Aegyo is expected more in a private setting, not in a professional environment. As you get older, your role changes: the aegyo giver becomes its addressee and recipient. Older people should behave according to their age.
In Korean culture, love is something that sprouts, blossoms, and grows in a process.
Aegyo has an important function in the development of love between a man and a woman. Love in the west follows a certain pattern that has a culture-typical form. Carried by the myth of eros and nourished by the idea of romantic love, love is a special kind of evidence experience: it is this person! Furthermore, in the West, love is desire, which is therefore closely linked to sexuality. Sex is not called an act of love for nothing. Since love is there at the beginning, love stories in Europe are more about living out or failing love and less about how it comes about.
In Korean culture, however, love is something that sprouts, blossoms, and grows in a process. The arrow of eros seldom hits anyone, but love develops quietly and unnoticed. Love can emerge from every encounter. In this process, Aegyo promotes rapprochement and at the same time marks the state of intimacy. Love means looking for closeness, touching, doing things together, experiencing and being there for one another. Love is also caring for, being concerned, protecting, making happy. In Korea they say as a confession of love: "I will be a fence around you for life" or "I will be the shoulder you can lean on". That doesn't sound like romantic love, but more like an everyday version of it.
The art of giving in
Getting closer means communicating differently. The formal, polite way of speaking gives way to teasing remarks, you call, joke and talk about trivialities. The body language changes with it. A fine feeling is required in order to know when one can let the aegyo-like behavior flow into this becoming of love.
That a woman trusts herself to do this means that she has a great deal of trust, like a child towards a family member. This means that she is certain of the loving gaze of the man. Such behavior is made easier for young women because they usually address their older friend as "oppa", a word that the younger sister uses within the family to call the older brother. If a man wants to be addressed as an oppa, it means he wants to be the friend.
Aegyo also serves well in marriage to cultivate love and master conflicts. If one wants to reconcile, it is used to make the other person softer, more conciliatory. Korean men love to give in to girlfriends and wives who are full of aegyo, to be ensnared by them, and to grant their wishes. Aegyo is mentioned in surveys by men as the most desirable quality in a partner. The women take care of the men almost like a mother and take care of the family finances. In Korea women also feel responsible for maintaining the social network and for communication. Aegyo serves as a culturally important lubricant for coexistence beyond the equality of men and women. In Korea it is believed that the mother of all love is motherly love.
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