Lost in Translation:
If you’ve ever watched any Korean dramas or film, you may have heard of the Korean word Jeong, or ‘정’ at least once.
When you put Jeong in a Korean-English translation dictionary, it defines it as ‘Attachment’, ‘Affection’ or ‘A Korean kind of love’. However, while each of these may be aspects of Jeong, their definitions are much too simplified to fully portray the meaning of the term. If you were to ask your Korean friends for a more precise meaning of the concept, you might discover that they’ll express difficulty in explaining what ‘Jeong’ is really about and that none of them can aptly paraphrase it in English.
On the other hand, if you put ‘정’ in a Korean dictionary, it notes it as ‘A feeling about someone or something when you spent a long time together’. Considering this definition, ‘a certain amount of time’ and ‘a close distance’ are the crucial elements composing the concept of ‘정’. Moreover, you may have noticed that Jeong is not only for humans but also for objects that you have used for a long time.
Its many definitions:
Let’s imagine that you saw someone, or something yesterday and that, as of today, you feel a sense of ‘정’. It’s entirely possible, as even Koreans occasionally say ‘벌써 정들었다’ which literally means “I am already attached with you/it” as a joke with the intention of showing friendliness, but can it be truly be called ‘정’?
Another kind of ‘정’ can be found in traditional Korean markets. When you buy vegetables or fruit in the market, you might find that 아주머니(A-ju-meo-ni) often throw in a few more; this is known as ‘덤’, or Deom, a concept we introduced in the previous magazine. In this situation, you are supposed to feel ‘정’. In this instance, it can mean ‘Warm’.
Jeong, as you might now begin to see, is more of an abstract concept that defines a state of being; one that is influenced by a great many factors.
In Korean, you can say ‘정이 들었다’ or, jeong-i deul-eossda, which can be simply translated to ‘becoming attached’ or to attach Jeong 정 to someone or something – whereas the opposite way of saying it is ‘정이 떨어지다’, or jeong-i tteol-eojida which literally means ‘to detach’ Jeong 정 from someone or something. This is something that can be said when you experience specific behaviours that make you feel detached from someone.
Finally, there’s an interesting Korean idiom which is ganeun jeong-i iss–eoya, oneun jeong-i issda, or ‘가는 정이 있어야, 오는 정이 있다.’ A Western equivalent would be ‘One good turn deserves another’. ‘정’ is a mutual concept. If you show your feeling of Jeong to other people, then they may give it back.
So, let’s be warm-hearted and practice the concept of ‘정’ 🙂
Featured image: ©Peace, 14-11-18, Inspiremekorea.com