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November 4, 2014

KDrama Word of the Day: Oori

Graphic design of 4 different colored human figures clasping handsToday’s KDrama word may be a little less familiar to drama fans, but if you listen closely, you will hear it often. 우리 or oori can mean “we” or “us,” but it occurs most often in Korean drama as “our.” Though small, and easy to overlook, this word speaks volumes about the importance of group over individual identity in Korean culture. It’s challenging for Americans to try and imagine thinking of ourselves not as “me,” but as “we.”

In KDrama, listen for 우리 when characters speak of a family member. They won’t say “my mother” but instead refer to “our mother,” even if no other family members are present and they are speaking to a non-relation. You can hear teachers referring to their students as “우리 [student’s name],” too.

The next time you see a KDrama character go looking for a lost family member, or defending one against character assassination, listen for the 우리.

KDrama fans who are also Jane Austen fans may have noticed an interesting quirk of Georgian speech that is almost the opposite of this. The Bennet girls in Pride and Prejudice, for example, even when speaking among themselves of their mother, always referred to her as “my mother” rather than “our mother.”

Oori is often used in the names of Korean businesses (in the U.S. at least). It is sometimes Romanized as woori.

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