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Korean Name Suffixes

So I was reading this fic the other day, and it was really good, but I kept finding myself distracted by the author's incorrect usage of Korean name suffixes (-hyung, -ah, -ssi, etc.). I think it's a great idea to use these, as they reveal important relationship dynamics that otherwise remain hidden in English, but if you are going to use them, I think it's important to do so in a way that makes sense in the Korean sociolinguistic context. To help people with this, I've created this handy-dandy post with (most) everything you could ever dream of knowing about



To understand how Korean kinship terms are used, one must first have a basic idea of the Korean age system. Within this system, all people born within the same year on the Chinese lunar calendar (in practice, from the end of February in one year to the end of February in the next) are in the same age group, and people append honorific kinship terms only to the names of people in age groups above them, as follows:
to Stephanie: "Jiyeon-unni!"
to Sunday: "Sungmin-oppa!"
to TOP: "Hyori-nuna!"
to Seungri: "Junsu-hyung!"
Now, let's see what this looks like in practice with Super Junior. Super Junior can be divided into the following five age groups:
1983 line: Eeteuk, Heechul, Han Geng
1984 line: Yesung, Kangin
1985 line: Shindong, Sungmin
1986 line: Eunhyuk, Siwon, Donghae
1987 line: Ryeowook, Kibum, Kyuhyun
Kinship honorifics can be appended to people in age groups above one's own, but not to people in the same age group or in age groups below.
Sungmin: "Yesung-hyung!"
Sungmin: "Shindong-hyung!"
Sungmin calls Yesung hyung because Yesung is in the age group above him. He does not, however, call Shindong hyung, even though Shindong is older than him, because they are in the same age group. (See this post to learn what age groups your favorite Korean idols fall into.)


When addressing someone of equal or lesser social status (age groups, as determined above, play a part of this), one can attach -ah to a name that ends in a consonant and -yah to a name that ends in a vowel.
Yunho: "Junsu-yah!"
Yunho: "Junsu-ah!"
Junsu: "Yoochun-ah!"
Junsu: "Yoochun-yah!"
This suffix should not be used with those of higher social status; when calling to social superiors, kinship terms or other titles should be used.
Changmin: "Junsu-hyung!"
Changmin: "Junsu-yah!"
(Note that while Changmin is just as likely to say the latter as he is the former, this is simply because he is a rude and incorrigible dongsaeng, not because it is socially acceptable.)

It should be noted that this suffix is only used when addressing a person; it should not be used when mentioning a person to someone else.
Jaejoong: "Yunho-yah, you wanna go to the store with me?"
Jaejoong: "Yunho-yah went to the store with Changmin-ah."
A good rule of thumb to use is that if the word within a sentence is not set off by commas, it should not take -(y)ah.

Finally, because it has an addressing function, -(y)ah used in conjunction with other attention getting words can sound redundant.
Yunho: "Jaejoong-ah!"
Yunho: "Hey, Jaejoong!"
? Yunho: "Hey, Jaejoong-ah!"
-IE (이)

-ie is a diminutive suffix attached to the end of a person's name as a sign of closeness and affection. This is only done to names ending in consonants; there is no vowel-ending equivalent.
Onew: "Jonghyunnie's here!"
Key: "Minhoie's here!"
Unlike -(y)ah, there is no restriction on context for usage, and it can be used with social superiors one is close to (provided, of course, that the proper kinship term or other honorific is attached).
Taemin: "I want to learn how to sing like Jonghyunnie-hyung."
Of course, one would not use this suffix with superiors one is not close.
Minho: "President Lee Soomannie is the head of our company."
-SSHI (씨)

-sshi is suffix attached to a name to create a respectful distance between the person named and the speaker. It is a polite ending, but not an honorific one, and as such it is used only with people of equal or lesser social status. To use it with one's superiors would be rude; in this case, titles are used instead.
Taeyeon: "First, we'd like to thank Lee Sooman-sshi..."
Taeyeon: "First, we'd like to thank President Lee Sooman..."
-sshi is normally suffixed to either a person's full name ("Kim Heechul-sshi") or given name ("Heechul-sshi"); although it can be suffixed to just a person's family name ("Kim-sshi"), this has a less polite connotation and is only used with inferiors.

Because of the distance implied by -sshi, it is not used with friends or others one is close to (notice how Kangin makes fun of Heechul at 3:55 here for saying he's close with Sungmin but still calling him "Sungmin-sshi").

I hope you now feel absolutely inundated with knowledge. If you have questions, concerns, or (heaven forbid!) corrections, let me know.


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Except, of course, when age is blatantly disregarded in favor of retardry. :Db
Yes. Except then. XD
the nerdy ocd-ness continues. xD ilu
What, you thought it would stop? XD
and once again i am blown away. i...think i'm going to just leave out suffixes from now on XD
D: It's not that hard, really! I just had had enough of people being, like, "AND THEN YUNHO-YAH WENT TO THE STUDIO WITH JAEJOONG-AH AND SAID OH HI CHANGMIN-SSI!!!1 :D"
Chris = Awesome, as always.

I think I picked up on most of these through lurking in fandom before starting to write, lol. Then again, in those early days when I was lurking, it was your/Fuu/Prissy/Anna's fics I was reading. So I learned well! :D
But tell me about "seongsaenim"! I get the feeling it's used as "sensei" is in Japan - not just to teachers but to those of esteemed positions/jobs, such as doctors and the like. Y/N? Applied to LSM, y/n? What're the Korean equivalents of "kaichou" and "buchou" and such? OTL SO MUCH TO LEARN!
As someone who gets twitchy when she sees these terms misused, but is still sometimes unsure when to use them herself, thaaaank you.
It is, I assure you, my pleasure. =)
AHAHAHAHAH omg ilu :'D

Guh, thank you. ♥ I love reading stuff like this because I'm a huge nerd, and I headdesk when I read fics that use suffixes incorrectly even though I've been known to do the same on occasion... :D/
I'm so glad you're here to encourage my nerdy tendencies. ♥

I'm sure there are still things I get wrong, too, but I just thought I'd set what I've learned so far out there as a reference for people who are interested.
Ah, thank you! I was wondering about these...

(Also, sorry to correct, but isn't Kyuhyun 1988?)
Yeah, Kyuhyun was born on February 3rd, 1988, but since the lunar calendar goes from the end of February to the end of February, he's grouped with all of the people born from March on in 1987 (the group I've called, for lack of a better name, the 1987 line).
THIS IS SO INTERESTING AND INFORMATIVE also strangely hilarious but not in a bad way.

*keeps this open in a tab forever*
XD I'm glad the hilarity is good hilarity. ♥
OH CHRIS, YOU ARE ADORABLE. I love you you write all this stuff out ♥

*is ridiculous* :D

I'M COMING IN THE AFTERNOON. Early afternoon, hopefully? What's your schedule like on Tuesday?
Gah, this is so helpful ♥ and all the little tick and cross icons with examples. Even though I have a grasp on most of these suffixes I wasn't sure about when the -ie and -ah/-yah endings are used so this really helps :D thanks x a million!
My pleasure! I hope it comes in handy. =)
For some reason I feel like Kangin doesn't use the honorifics with Hangeng... I have a picture of them wearing both wearing hanboks together for some publicity type thing around the New Year, so I feel like either Korea got lazy and just lumped Hangeng into the rest of the 1984/early 85 group, or something else...? Idk. :/
I actually just recently heard Kangin call him "Hankyung-hyung," so I'm pretty sure he does use honorifics with him—it's just that they interact so rarely that we don't get to hear it very much. XD
oh wow this is awesome. props to you for this, it helped! :D
Glad to be of service! :D
(Note that while Changmin is just as likely to say the latter as he is the former, this is simply because he is a rude and incorrigible dongsaeng, not because it is socially acceptable.)

Lol, cheeky magnae is cheeky. Same with Kyuhyun. They're both like that.

Ah! I have a question! Is there a reason when they tack the -IE suffix on, they double the last consonant (Ex. Jonghyunnie, Hechullie, Hyukkie) or is it something that's "just cuz" and doesn't really have a reason?
You're better than my Korean lecturer at explaining things.

Also, your examples are hilarious lmao.
Thanks for your comment. I very much enjoy your subs, so it's an honor.

As for Korean romanization, I agree: it's a hot mess without the hot. I actually prefer 'sshi' as the romanization for 씨 (while I understand the motivation for 'shi' and 'shii', they're both too phonetically wrong for me to warm to) and I'm not sure why I didn't use it here. *changes*

(Also, please excuse my lateness in replying—I'm coming off a summer hiatus.)
why hello desk, meet my head.

I've just undergone an hour and a half of Japanese lessons and now I stumbled upon this and- gah!! Is it possible for a brain to explode with too much information on other countries' shit and the like?

even so, still applaud you for this. Very, very informative. Your OCD deserves an award. XD
Still Lol-ing on that note about Changmin.
A little late to the party but omfg thanks for this.

I was trying to explain this to my friends and they were like "...i don't get it" and I was like ":|". So now I can just link them here!

A little late in replying since I've been on hiatus, but by all means, link away! I'm glad this can be of some use.
This is incredibly informative and amusing. Thank you~ ♥

My pleasure. :)
um what about 'nim'. like heenim lol. is that just a boost to heechul's ego lol


....I don't know SuJu...just Big Bang and Family I barely get this LOLZ
isn't sungmin born in 96?
it was very informative~
= 3=
i love the example of president lee soomannie is the head of our compnay. HILARIOUSSSS...
memming foreverrrr

I'd be the person to go to Korea and fuck up this shit. :/
Woah, really helpful~ :3

I'm just wondering, do you know what students call their teachers and what teachers call their students?

Thanks! :3
I think students call their teachers with the suffix "-nim" but I'm not sure about what teachers call their students.

Students might also call their teacher "seonsaeng-nim" since "seonsaeng" means "teacher."

I'm not 100% sure about this though, so I'm sorry if I'm wrong ^^;
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