Korea’s Modern Relaxation: A Guide to Little Joys

For many years Korea has been known for its 빨리빨리 (bbali-bbali), or hurry hurry, culture which encouraged people to study and work extremely hard in order to survive. But in recent years, Korean youths have begun a new trend that is based around the idea of small but certain happiness.

©Photo by David Sjunnesson, 01.09.2018, 07.09.2018,

This new culture is also known as 소확행 (Sohwakhaeng), which is a combination of 소소한 (small), 확실한 (certain) and 행복 (happiness). This trend is taking a stand against the ‘빨리빨리’ tradition – which expresses the notion that young people have to do everything they can, even if it’s dangerous for their health, to succeed in school and at work.

In Korea, as with all around the world, it’s very common to hear older generations say that saving to buy a house and car or starting a family is what young people should be working towards.

But rather than focus on these stressful aspects of life, Sohwakhaeng culture aims to help people, both young and old, find small moments of happiness throughout their day.


The western trend of ‘treat yourself’ is very similar to what Korea’s small happiness culture represents – instead of worrying about saving money for cars and houses, which are extremely expensive, youths are choosing to treat themselves with small things that will make them happy.

©슥삭슥삭카페화실, Photo by Bundo Kim, 07.09.2018,

When asked what ‘sohwakhaeng culture’ means to them, and what they do for their own small happinesses, some Koreans revealed:

“Young people don’t have hope for the future these days. It’s hard to make a living…we can’t even buy a house or car. So young people just give up. I think sohwakhaeng is a little like a new way out. We can ignore our own tough lives by doing happy things that are easy to approach.”

“It may sound like being lazy, but a small happiness helps youths to get through difficult times. Everyone has different struggles and stresses, so our sohwakhaeng will be different too.”

©Cake, Photo by rawkkim, 07.09.2018,

Today, young ones in Korea face a lot of pressure to succeed in everything they do. Students are expected to study for 8-9 hours everyday and will worry endlessly over which top schools they will get into. Upon graduating from university they have to put all of their time and effort into finding jobs, and then by the time they get employed most of their youth is almost spent.

With so many different aspects of life to worry about, the sohwakhang trend helps to lift some of the weight from the burdened shoulders of Korea’s youth – even something as simple as eating a nice cake or drinking coffee can be a part of a person’s small but certain happiness!

©PALETTE, Photo by Bundo Kim, 07.09.2018,

Another recent trend among Koreans is 케렌시아 or Querencia. Based on an abstract concept in the Spanish language, which originally means ‘to be haunted’, when translated into English ‘querencia’ can mean a safe place where you can feel strong – then in Korea, querencia refers to a space where someone can rest when their body and mind is tired.

Since recent studies have shown that a high percentage of Koreans are suffering from burnt-out syndrome, the Querencia Culture encourages people to take time to rest their bodies and recharge their minds without being disturbed by others.

©Photo by Lauren Kay, 07.09.2018,

Querencia, like sohwakhang, can change depending on what someone personally enjoys – which could be anything from spending an afternoon in a chic cafe, taking a small trip by bus, going to the cinema with friends or watching a live music performance.

On the other hand, querencia can also be something much simpler like resting at home, treating yourself to a tasty meal or listening to your favourite music.

Speaking of music, earlier this year the K-Indie band Standing Egg released an album named after the ‘Small but Certain Happiness’ trend. In the title track’s music video, we see the two main characters go through their day whilst enjoying many small measures of happiness – showing how even little things can make our lives just a little bit brighter.



Featured Image Source: ©서울특별시, Photo by Manki Kim, 07.09.2018,

Claudia Deborah 이보라

Book-dealer by day, writer and illustrator by night—Instagram: @kikitsa.draws. Instant coffee and trot music get me through the day. My life is simple but I’m greatful for it. 나의 인생은 조금 심심하고 단순하지만, 이런 내 삶도 나에게 주어진 삶이 기 때문에 감사함을 느끼고 있습니다.



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