Aegyo used to be a tiny yet distinctive feature of Korean modern culture which amused, confused and horrified Westerners. Now it is widely known as consciously enforced cute behaviour, most commonly expressed through tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. On the other hand there are the deliberately exaggerated mini-performances of aegyo which go in and out of trend. The aegyo trends which are more comical than cute or did not break into the mainstream were not included in this timeline of the most popular aegyo movements.
Carrot Song (2006)
The Korean word ‘dang geun’ (당근) is a homonym for ‘carrot’ and the slang term for ‘of course’. Excerpt from the lyrics:
|나 좋아하니? 당근!
나 사랑하니? 당근!
I love you You love me당근! 당근! 당근!
|Do you like me? Of course!
Do you love me? Of course!
I love you You love me
Carrot! Carrot! Carrot!/ Of course! Of course! Of course!
The carrot song was originally a children’s song, but is used as aegyo due to the love theme and upbeat tone. A popular idol performed it again in 2015.
Cheese burger (2009-2010)
Instead of pronouncing cheese burger normally in Korean, ‘chizeu buhguh’ (치즈 버거), this aegyo plays on baby talk as it is said with a baby-ish short tongue ‘ddideu buhguh’ (띠뜨 버거). This phrase was first shown on an episode of the sitcom ‘High Kick Through The Roof’. The power of aegyo launched actress Hwang Jung Eum into stardom.
Bbuing Bbuing (2011-2012)
Unlike the carrot song and the popular cheese burger phrase, this aegyo is simply a nonsensical sound and action. This aegyo trend is as simple as saying ‘bbuing bbuing’ (뿌잉 뿌잉) while rubbing two closed fists around the cheeks. This was popularised by the actor Lee Jong Suk on ‘High Kick 3’. It was supposed to be a comical moment in the show where a character shamelessly uses aegyo to get a favour, but it was adored by fans and parodied by celebrities endlessly on TV.
Gwiyomi Song (2012)
Originally a 2010 children’s song, it was popularised as aegyo by an idol Jung Ilhoon, who performed it on a variety show ‘Weekly Idol’ in October 2012. The first and original performance only made minor online influences through SNS, but it was repeated numerous times by other idols on the same show which popularised it into the mainstream.
Excerpt from the lyrics:
|1 plus 1 is cutie
2 plus 2 is cutie
3 plus 3 is cutie
The lyrics of the song are nonsensical yet catchy, and the childish hand gestures make it distinctive and easy to remember.
This aegyo is so short that it barely qualifies, but this 2 second moment went viral all over Korea and was the hottest topic for a month. The August 31st 2014 episode of the reality TV show ‘Real Men’ which featured female celebrities in the Korean army was immensely popular due to the unique premise. A female idol singer Lee Hyeri was sobbing when saying farewell to soldiers, because she was overcome with exhaustion and emotions. Her tiny whine was adored by viewers and her popularity exploded, leading to commercial deals and roles in TV shows.
Ghost Dream (2015~2016)
This aegyo trend is based off a viral video of a little girl saying that she had a frightening ghost dream. The adorable little girl has trouble pronouncing ‘gwishin’ (귀신) meaning ‘ghost’, and says ‘gishing’ (기싱) instead. Amongst the babbling of baby talk, the line “I had a ghost dream” “Na gishing ggoongggoddong” (“나 기싱 꿍꼬똥’) became a hit, and now has merchandise.
Do Koreans actually find this attractive?
Although it largely depends on taste, performing these aegyo trends is similar to performing jokes, as they are used to entertain and create a fun atmosphere. Most people find it endearing as people appreciate the effort made. Some Korean women who have been blessed with aegyo, use it as an expression of character.
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