Ajummas are cheering for the Garlic Girls! (Korea’s women’s curling team)

Smart Ajumma (English)

Uiseong county is very famous for garlic in South Korea. So our women’s curling team is called as garlic girls because four of them (the team) are from Uiseong. They’re friends and sisters each other whom were born and grew up in the same town, Uiseong.

This is our first time that our curling team went to the final (and even semi-final) so our nation is very exciting to watch their match and especially their hometown is now enjoying this winter olympic because of those amazing Garlic Girls. Many of international reporters reported about them (e.g. NYT) and their hometown through different types of media during last few days. And they were very interested in the people of Uiseong and how they’re cheering for their hometown girls. Most of them are ajummas and they brought their homemade signs, screamed and even danced together! This is amazing!!! When I read their articles and watched videos on YouTube, I was so glad to know that those international reporters filmed about our energetic and sweet ajummas. They are not mothers of garlic girls but they are those girls’ neighbours so they prepared homemade signs and danced together to cheer for their ‘hometown daughters’. Because they feel like those garlic girls are their daughter (even though they’re not their biological mother but they’re mother!).

These ajummas are cheering for their daughters because they want to share their ‘Jeong’ with those girls, I think. This video of people in Uiseong makes me laugh and cry. Beautiful ajummas with warmheartedness.



Smart Ajumma (English)

Jeong is an ambiguous and amorphous concept. There is no word that replaces the meaning of Jeong in Korean vocabulary. Also I can’t find any equivalent English word to Jeong. According to Kim ,

“Jeong encompasses the meaning of a wide range of English terms: feeling, empathy, affection, closeness, tenderness, pathos, compassion, sentiment, trust, bonding and love… Koreans considers jeong an essential elements in human life, promoting the depth and richness of personal relations… With jeong, relationships are deeper and longer lasting… Jeong is what makes us say “we” rather than “I”, “ours” than “mine” (U Kim 1994, cited in Kim 1996, p.14)”.

If someone asks me what jeong means, I probably cannot answer immediately not only in English, but also in Korean. To explain what jeong is not simply thing at least for me. I might say, to know what jeong means should be realised through experiencing Korean culture rather than learning by books or any academic theories.

Jeong is similar to love but jeong is different from love. (see below)

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Figure 1. (Kim 1996, p.15)

Jeong is ‘more relational’,  ‘more connection-related’,  ‘more unconditional’ and ‘less differentiated and more fused (think about ‘Korean collectivism’ that I mentioned in previous post)’ than love according to figure 1 that I attached above.

So, Koreans or ajummas could do gold collection campaign to support Korean economic during IMF because this Korean collectivism led them to feel being woori (we-ness). And being woori (we-ness) was possible because they were connected to jeong with each other.

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Thus, they could be ‘woori (we-ness)’ because of having jeong with each other and also they belong to the same group (Korea society).

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In Korea, there are various groups and sub-groups. For example, when I was a uni student, I belonged to catholic church group, high school friends group, ski group, uni friends group, English study group, home town friends group etc. Like me, many Koreans belong to various groups and sub-groups because belonging is important for us. And this belonging allows us to have relationships with others to become ‘woori (we-ness)’ and sharing ‘jeong’ with each other. (Think about examples that I’ve posted in previous post, Group Singing is also a good example of ‘woori, jeong and belonging’)

If I apply this theory to the group of ajummas, ajummas can be one of sub-groups of Korean society. They become woori (we-ness) through having jeong with each other and they belong to similar interests, age and gender group. So ajummas could be considered as a kind of sub-groups of Korean society that are intertwined with jeong. 

For next post, I will (finally) talk about Smart Ajumma!!


Korean collectivism (we-ness)

Smart Ajumma (English)

The gold collection  campaign were possible because of Korean collectivism which is We-ness, Uri (or Woori). Uri,  we-ness, or in group-ness as a more essentially relevant feature of Korean collectivism. The social relationship among Korean in-groups are based on social networks, the sophisticated genealogical system, the power of school connections, or regionalism. For Koreans, group is very important. To explain or talk about Korean collectivism in one blog post is not enough but this blog is not a ‘thesis’ rather a blog that I would like to share my research project, especially about ‘ajummas and their usage of smartphones in everyday practices’. In addition, I need to mention about Korean collectivism to support some ideas (e.g. gold collection campaign). Moreover, it might be helpful to you to understand Korea and ‘ajummas’ in Korean society if you know what Korean collectivism (we-ness) and Jeong means.

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This image explains how ajummas have similar hair styles in Korea. More stories about ajummas will be posting continuously.

image from <http://kfoodtalker.tistory.com/3442>


Of course, there are negative opinions how Korean collectivism ignores everyone’s individuality and force to be standardised. For me, Korean collectivism can be pros and cons in many ways. It leads people to be united and do something together such as Red Devils (supporting group for the Korea Republic national football team), Group Singing or Gold collection campaign. This Korean collectivism brought people to feel like ‘We are Koreans’ or ‘We are  one’. And in my experience, this Korean collectivism doesn’t allow me to be different from others. In other words, being different from others is not an ideal thing to be in certain groups. Thus I have to become similar with others in groups to stay in certain groups. This is just my opinions so there should be various ideas about Korean collectivism.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.32.50 AM.png

image from Koreatimes.co.kr <http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2014/01/291_67541.html>


Group Singing

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High school students wear the same North Face jumpers at graduation ceremony

image from: photohistory.tistory.com  <http://photohistory.tistory.com/11401>

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Ajummas wear similar mountain-climbing clothes in the subway


This Korean collectivism can be explained with the concept of ‘Woori (we-ness)’.

Woori (we-ness)

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We is a plural of ‘I’ in linguistic. So a group of ‘I’ can be interpreted as ‘Woori’ (because Woori means ‘we-ness’ in English).

However, Woori is not simply a plural of ‘I’. As you can see above, woori is not a simply a plural of ‘I’, and it needs ‘jeong’ between ‘I’ to become woori.

Then, what is Jeong?