Study Korean through drama. Dong Yi episode 2

Dong Yi is taken to meet the upper class (yangban 양반)  lady whose daughter is getting married. The lady is looking for an educated child who can give the special New Year greeting this year at her son in law’s house. She wants a child chosen from the commoners (양인 yangin) class so when she finds out that Dong Yi is from the servant class (천인 chonin) she gets annoyed and wants her to leave. She doesn’t think a servant girl can read the greeting without mistakes as it’s written in Chinese characters and servants are usually not well-educated. Dong Yi really wants the job as she’ll get to wear nice silk hanbok so she pleads to let the lady hear her read. The lady finally agrees. Sure enough Dong Yi makes mistakes reading it and the lady tells her to stop. But Dong Yi explains that she made mistakes because the Chinese characters are incorrect and she explains what the correct characters should be. The lady is surprised and impressed.

I love studying Korean through Kdama and although this is a historical drama and so some of the grammar and vocabulary is archaic I still find it useful study.  This scene is interesting to me because of the attitude towards the classes. The yangban lady show discrimination towards Dong yi as soon as she discovers that she is from the chon-min class. Read more about the class system here. I assume the man working for her is from the chung-in middle class. So far the yangban lady has been nice to Dong-yi but her attitude changes when she asks her name.

What’s your name?


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소인반촌에 사는 최가 동이라하옵니다.

So-in   un  pan-chon-e  sa nun che ga dong-yi ra ha-omnida

I live in Banchon  my name is Choi Dong-yi.

1. 소인 = the hanja is 小人(meaning small+person) It’s the humble form of “I” and is used by the lower class when speaking to those in higher positions.

2. 반천 = Banchon is the name of the village where the chon-in servants live. The servant class lives separately from the rest of society.

3. The verb 살다 (sal-da) means to live

4. choi is her surname although it’s debatable if she really had a surname at all since she came from the servant class. 가 (ka) means household and the hanja is

5. 하옵니다 ha-omnida is the archaic form of the verb ending ….hamnida.

1

반촌?  허면 천인이란 말이냐? 어찌 된게냐?

Banchon? Ho-myeon chon-in i-ran mal-i-nya?  O-ji   dwen-ge-nya?

Banchon? So that means you are a servant? What is the meaning of this?

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이번 문안비는 양인 중에 뽑는다하지않았느냐?

i-bon  mun-an-bi-nun yang-in chung-e bom-nun da ha-ji an-anya?

Didn’t I tell you to choose the greeter from the commoners?


1. 천인(chon-in) a member of the lowest class of servants. Dong-yi belongs to this class.


2. 문안 問安

(mun-an = inquiry + safety) means to visit someone and ask after their health. It’s customary to do this on certain occasions and since her daughter will be newly married this year the Yangban lady wants a child to go to the new in-law’s house to deliver the greeting.


3. 양인 (yang-in) The commoners are above the chon-in and make up the majority of Joseon society (over 70%)



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