The term aegyo comes from Korean and cannot be translated literally into English. In English, there is simply no word that could accurately describe the phenomenon of Korean aegyo. This is because aegyo involves the description of outward appearances combined with certain behaviors. The closest words to aegyo are English words such as cute, sweet or adorable.
In Korea, however, there is always an aspect that can be described as innocent. Thus, aegyo is not used to describe old people, even if they could also be called charming. Furthermore, aegyo is preferably used to refer to girls or young women, boys or men only in isolated cases. The Korean word aegyo is composed of two words. Namely from ae, which can be translated with the English word Love, and the word gyo, to which the English term „beautiful“ corresponds.
What does aegyo mean? Meaning, definition, explanation, translation
The behavior described by aegyo is all around considered to be sugary sweet. Considered are gestures as well as facial expressions and the voice of the people who are classified as aegyo. The goal of aegyo is to appear as innocent and childlike as possible, which is why typical childlike behavior is copied. Those who want to be aegyo therefore speak with as high a voice as possible. Under certain circumstances, the vocabulary is also adapted and a kind of baby language is used.
The background behind aegyo is that Koreans believe that the cuter you appear to others, the more you are liked. To appear aegyo for as long as possible, some women in Korea even have surgery. In cosmetic surgery, even referred to as aegyo surgery, they have their facial features belittled. Their goal is to look similarly pleasing to the heroines of Asian comic books.
Does aegyo exist only in Korea?
The phenomenon of aegyo is not limited to Korea alone. Similar tendencies can also be noticed in neighboring countries. This is due to the fact that the culture of the East Asian countries is closely intertwined. Television series, films and even music groups are often popular not only in their home countries, but also in other East Asian states.
Through the music, film and television industries, aegyo has thus been exported from Korea to countries such as Japan and the Philippines. For example, in Korea, there is a television show called aegyo Battle, which can also be received in other East Asian countries. For the show aegyo Battle, stars who are considered aegyo are invited. In the television show, they demonstrate how strong aegyo they are, for example, in singing performances. At the end of the show, a winner of the evening is chosen. The young female TV viewers then like to use their behavior as a model. However, it is frowned upon to act as artificial aegyo. The best aegyo behavior is that which appears as natural as possible. For Westerners, this request is difficult to understand, because in Western culture, aegyo basically seems artificial and exaggerated.
Where the origin of aegyo lies
The origin of aegyo can be traced back to the Korean relationship between parents and their children. In Korea, young children are taught to acquire the love of their parents. They can do this through behaviors such as giving kisses or performing small tricks. So if a Korean toddler sings a little song or makes a cute facial expression and forms a little heart with his hands in front of his parents or other relatives, he is sure to receive applause from the adults. The child is praised and embraced. Thus it understands that it is loved and recognized for aegyo behavior. If the children become teenagers, they transform this behavior a little and apply it now to the initiation of love relations. In this process, only the girls are still to be aegyo.
By behaving in a similar way to what they learned in childhood, they succeed in attracting young men to them. This increases after the relationship has been initiated in the sense that aegyo is also often used purposefully. For example, if the woman wants to get her way on something the partners disagree on, she often uses aegyo. She then performs an aegyo dance, for example, and uses it to change her partner’s mind. Even in situations other than love relationships, the use of aegyo is not too uncommon. It is often used in a professional context. Female employees use it to assert themselves against their male colleagues.
The downside of aegyo
Although aegyo is very common in Korea, it is also considered unpleasant by critics. There are both men and women who would like to abolish aegyo. If they are critical women, the argumentation is usually that they do not want to produce themselves as submissive dolls who get their way through appearances and childish behavior. They want to be recognized for achievements, such as education or good work. Critical men resist being manipulated by women who use aegyo. If a woman uses aegyo and a man does not play along, this can lead to unpleasant comments from society. This shows how firmly anchored aegyo is in Korean culture. Last but not least, there are Korean and also international voices that fear that the aegyo cult could permanently damage the image of women. The fact that women who use aegyo behave like little girls could create an image that makes men believe that it is okay to desire not only childlike women, but also girls.