Foreign views on age sensitivity
Foreign views on age sensitivity
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.09.03 00:00
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There is an invisible line between Korean universitiy students according to their age. We can commonly see  when we hear female students adress their older peers as

unni or when students use honorific language to their seniors regardless of their age. This is a part of Korean culture owing to Confucianism. However, from the view of

foreign students, this culture is somewhat different.
Three exchange students spoke on this topic: Wang Shengnan (Graduate School of International Studies) from

Adelide Mutinda (International Studies, 2) from Kenya, and Hedwig Pottag (Humbolt University, 5) from Germany.

E.V.: When you first attended Ewha did you recognize the different language Korean students use when speaking to older or younger classmates?

Adelide: I recognized it almost as soon as I joined Ewha, since I took a Korean language course and was taught about the different ways to address people from different age groups and in different academic years.

E.V.: Do you think it is necessary to call peers unni?

Shengnan: If I am associated with friends who are much older than me, I will address them in such a way. Otherwise, I would feel a little bit uncomfortable about this especially at school.
Hedwig: It can create an artificial gap between two people just because they are born a few months apart.

E.V.: Do you think it is necessary to use honorific language to address seniors who are the same age as you?

Shengnan: Since Korean people really care about this, I think it is hard to make any change although I do believe people are equal.
E.V.: Do similar situations happen in your own country?

Shengnan: Yes, we have the same title to address people to show respect. In China, we also have this kind of title for people who attended school earlier. I think it is because of Confucianism. But Korean people consider this much more serious than the Chinese.
Hedwig: No, not at all. Respect is more a man/woman issue than one of age.

by Ko Eun-hye



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