Honesty Or Verbal Abuse?

Honesty Or Verbal Abuse?

Have you ever been told something that hurt you, but was true? How do you react? After all, you have no right to talk back, since what was said was accurate.

Especially in Korea, where language amongst peers is blunt and standards are high, these kinds of comments are common, offensive and ever so slightly funny.

Netizens have recently coined the phrases ‘fact attack’ (‘팩트 폭력’) and ‘factriot’ (‘팩트리어트’).

Fact Attack Level 1

A statement that blatantly points to the obvious, but offends is called a ‘fact attack’ However there are different degrees of ‘verbal attack’.

[Unmarried Lady A and unmarried Man B are having a conversation.]

Lady A: Wow, brides nowadays are so thin and pretty.

Man B: They’re brides because they are thin and pretty.

Lady A: (sigh)

Sometimes a ‘fact attack’ is an innocently blunt statement that is ignorant of how the words may affect people. As Korea is usually so conservative, if someone bluntly addresses the elephant in the room, this ‘fact attack’ can be a refreshing and witty observation. Obviously, the butt of the joke may not find it so funny.

Fact Attack Level 2

The more malicious side is when verbal abuse is packaged as a fact to deliberately humiliate others. The receiver cannot rebut, so the fact attack is a newer, smarter and crueller way to passive aggressively abuse.

[On Twitter]

Girl A: Why are people dating such airheads? You should at least date someone with some common sense and know Korean history and politics!

Anonymous 1: If people had the choice between a girl who knows everything like you and an airhead like Seolhyun, who on earth would choose a fugly chick like you?

Anonymous 2: Lololol he said the truth! #Factattack

By referring to the sad reality (which is lookism/sexism) as well as adding in colorful language, the attacker has enough evidence to shut the other person up. Most users of this type of ‘fact attack’ direct it to their juniors or online because there will be no direct repercussions. The most controversial fact attack is often used on online forums and on sensitive topics like feminism.


The term ‘factriot’ is a derogative term for people who regularly use ‘fact attacks’ to appear superior and to humiliate others by fabricating a fact with emotive language to hurt others, yet claiming that they are innocent and most importantly correct.

It is coined from the english words ‘fact’ and ‘patriot’ (someone who vigorously supports their country and defends it against enemies), so a ‘factriot’ is seen as a relentless spewer of ‘facts. ‘Factriot missile’ is the equivalent of a ‘truth bomb’.


This cartoon depicts a factriot readying to launch a bomb (that is marked ‘FACT’) and is saying “Woah f*ck, I’ll show you idiots”. The label of the bomb reads “Effect: Can hurt feelings and shut their gobs. Warning: Doesn’t get through to douchebags.”

Many people who dapple in verbal abuse, fall back on the age old argument that they are entitled to express their thoughts. The reason why the terms ‘fact attack’ and ‘factriot’ are trending now, is because it is difficult to define the fine line between unpleasant language and ‘fact’.

Translating Offensive Language

This is just one problem of many when it comes to language and verbal abuse in Korea.

It is very difficult to translate Korean verbal abuse because the English translations aren’t able to carry the same gravity. I always think that the translations are always milder than the actual Korean phrase. Many examples of fact attacks online range from playful banter to shocking. 

Even if it’s true, we should all be aware of how the phrasing and the delivery of our words affect the listener. Does stating ‘truths’ make us the good guy? Or is it better to be considerate?

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