Hanmadi: Multiplayer 멀티플레이어

Hanmadi: Multiplayer 멀티플레이어

Hanmadi, “one word,” is a series on Korean language and society, dedicated to exploring Korea one word at a time.


You might think you know what multiplayer means in Korean because it looks like an English word. Don’t be fooled, though: Konglish can be tricky! This sense of multiplayer has nothing to do with games.

To quote Daum’s Korean dictionary:
multiplayer daum.jpg

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Hanmadi: Hunting

Hanmadi: Hunting

Hanmadi, “one word,” is a series on Korean language and society, dedicated to exploring Korea one word at a time.



If you look up this word in one of the popular online Korean-English dictionaries—Daum Dictionary or Naver Dictionary—you don’t find much, probably because it’s a slang term. Even the regular Korean dictionaries on these sites don’t give you the whole picture.

Naver’s Korean dictionary is sourced from the Standard Korean Dictionary from the National Institute of the Korean Language, a government organization, and, as such and unsurprisingly, has only a crowd-sourced and very indirect definition for the word:

hunting naver 2
Roughly, “making a move on a person you meet on the street.”

Daum’s Korean dictionary, sourced from the Korea University Korean Dictionary, also only has a crowd-sourced definition.

The top four example sentences on Naver’s Korean-English dictionary, however, pull back the curtain completely.

hunting naver.png

So, hunting is what we in English we would call “picking up” (or anyway, trying to pick up), although overall, I think, without the slimy pick-up artist connotations.

Namu.wiki—Korean Wikipedia with a sarcastic streak—says this about it:

hunting namu 2.png

A rough translation:

When a person approaches another, mutually unknown, for the purpose of meeting the opposite sex. When, like sogaeting [a future post], it’s a situation where you’re meeting someone you don’t know who a friend introduced, or when, like sseom [another future post], there are already romantic feelings between you and the other person, it’s not called hunting.

Occasionally this can happen on the street, public transportation, or other completely open places, but more often it happens at shared tables in drinking establishments, at clubs, at nightclubs, and other places that, tacitly, have this kind of atmosphere.

Generally men approach women, but every once in a while, men encounter a rare woman on the prowl.


If you know English well enough to read this blog, you probably realize that hunting comes from the English word “hunting,” as Namu.wiki points out:

hunting pickup namu wiki.png
“While this is called ‘hunting’ in English, too, these days the expression ‘pick-up’ is seen instead.”

Hunting is the gerund of the verb to “hunt,” meaning, to quote the venerable OED, “[t]o go in pursuit of wild animals or game; to engage in the chase.” That’s the first definition, anyway—other definitions, such as 3a, “To search, seek (after or for anything), esp. with eagerness and exertion,” or 4a, “To pursue with force, violence, or hostility; to chase and drive before one; to put to flight; to chase or drive away or out,” take on new weight when viewed in light of the Korean slang meaning.

The OED also tells us that hunt in English comes from Old Teutonic through Old English, with the first written references in English from around 1000 AD. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when it entered Korean–as far as I can tell, there’s no Korean equivalent of the OED (I would love to be wrong, so someone please tell me if you know of one! Naver and Daum are the closest—but as I said, there’s no official definition there!)


Okay, now to the juicy stuff.

The first time I heard the word hunting in the Korean context was on one of my last days teaching young adults at an international trade organization there. Tongue loosened, I suppose, from the impending end of our teacher-student relationship, one kid, Edward, a buggy-eyed 20-year-old with a mop of black hair and huge grin, asked me a question.

“Teacher,” he said, “How can I meet foreign women?”

I had not expected this question, especially not from Edward, whose usual demeanor was mostly Spongebob with a little Barney Fife (and I mean that in the nicest way).

At a loss, I suggested that he go to a bar in Itaewon, Seoul’s “foreigner district,” talk to a girl there, and get her number if they hit it off.

“Like a hunting club?” he asked.

“A what?” For the second time in five minutes, Edward had taken away my words.

So, he and his classmates explained to me about hunting clubs: bars where you go, browse the inventory and, if you see someone you like, exchange numbers. You’d then connect over Kakao, the instant messaging system without which Korean society couldn’t function, and maybe meet up again later.

Korean club
I took this photo in a Korean club back in the day: 2009.

If you’re a Westerner and not familiar with Korean dating culture, this probably just sounds like a pretty normal bar or club to you. In Korea though, probably influenced by both the tradition of being partnered by friends, family or marriage brokers and the tendency for businesses to seriously specialize, there’s a special bar for this kind of thing–although it does happen sometimes at non-specialized bars and clubs, too.

If you want to read more in English, Caraisun, an American living in Seoul, blogged about her experience, and this site also has a little overview.


“hunt, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 18 March 2016.

“헌팅.” Daum Korean Dictionary, Daum, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

“헌팅” NamuWiki. 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

“헌팅.” Naver English Dictionary, Naver, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

“헌팅.” Naver Korean Dictionary, Naver, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.


Tips and tribulations: how to pass the TOPIK

Tips and tribulations: how to pass the TOPIK

Two months ago, when wedding prep had fully commandeered most of my time and brainspace, I got this (slightly adapted) Facebook message from an Irishman I knew back in the day in Seoul and later in London:

Hey Sara, happy new year! How’s life back in the States? I’m thinking of doing the TOPIK test in April and was looking for some advice. First of all, what would you suggest in terms of the difficulty of TOPIK II without having done TOPIK I (aiming for level 3). Second, what books would you recommend for study? My wife’s sister is coming over in a few weeks time so she could bring some over from Korea. Any advice you have would be really great!

I was super busy but…I’m kind of passionate about this topic, so I responded immediately. I thought, though, that I might adapt my thoughts into a blog post for anyone else looking for advice on how to pass the TOPIK.

TOPIK marker, handed out before the start of the test.

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“A Dialect Dialectic” on The Bitter Southerner

A piece I wrote on the meaning of a Southern accent and how mine has changed over time is up at The Bitter Southerner as part of the Folklore Project. I’m excited to have my work appear in a publication whose mission–to tell the stories of the South in order to make it a better place–I believe in.

Here’s how my piece starts:

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, I never thought much about being Southern. I groused with everyone else at the no-shoes and cousin-lover jokes on late night TV and grimaced at Nicolas Cage’s grating try at a Southern accent, but that was about it. Dressin’ was dressin’, pens were “pins,” Mississippi was home, and I couldn’t imagine anything different.

Not that I always fit in perfectly. One summer in my early teens, my family drove down to Biloxi, where my younger siblings and I spent the first day of vacation getting badly sunburned off Ship Island. The next day, while my brother and sister stayed at the hotel basking in aloe and cable television, I braved the pain to go with my parents to the Ohr Museum and afterward to a café, where the latticed wrought-iron chairs dug into my lobster-red legs.

“Can I have a soda, please?” I asked the lady behind the counter.

Her eyebrows lifted. “You mean a coke, sweetie? What kind of coke?” She took my money. “You must be from up North.”

I was pretty sure she didn’t mean Jackson.

Read the rest here.