Study Korean Through Drama: Deep Rooted Tree ep04

In this scene King Sejong goes to the Institute of Learning to find one of his scholars is dead. This is the first of several murders at the Palace and it’s a dramatic scene. Before the King enters the Institute, an owl hoots – a bad omen. Although it’s a short script, in this scene we can see how different members of court were addressed at the time and the different levels of politeness spoken to each other.

First, we see something flying mysteriously in the sky above the guard, Chae Yoon. Something strange is happening. Then at the Institute, the King is announced by the 내시 (eunuch).

내시: 주상 전하 납시오.
Eunuch: His Highness graces us with his presence.

note: 납시다 = old Korean used to express the arrival of the king (or other VERY high ranking person)

Here the eunuch uses his full title. But when the King’s subjects (those below him) address him directly, they  usually say 전하.  People above him – his parents – would address him as 주상.

The scholar should really get up to greet the King. But there is no answer from inside the Institute. So the head scholar, Jeong In Ji, says politely to the King,

정인지: 허담 이자가 깜빡 잠이 들었나 봅니다.
Jeong In Ji: It seems that the scholar is taking a nap!

As the king and the head scholar enter the Institute, the 내시, eunuch, addresses the sleeping scholar Heo Dam politely to wake him up. He addresses him as 나리 (nari) – sir – often used to address a higher ranking man.

내시: 나리. 전하께서 납시었습니다.
Sir, His Highness graces us with his presence.

The scholar Heo Dam still doesn’t move from his seat so the head scholar, Jeong in Ji, speaks to him (in 반말 panmal, plain speech – since Heo Dam is lower than him in rank).

정인지: 어허. 이런 자를 보았나. 어서 일어나.
Jeong In Ji: Hey! Look at this fellow. Hurry, get up.

note: … adds a softer nuance to the order, but it is old fashioned – these days just 일어나! is used. 

세종: 아니다. 아니다. 깨우지 말거라.
Sejong: No, no. Don’t wake him up.

note: ….말거라 is old Korean. … These days …마 is used. 

세종: 이보게. 허학사
Sejong: Um, Scholar Heo

But as the King touches the scholar, he is shocked to see the scholar lifelessly fall off his chair to the floor. Mu Hyul, the King’s bodyguard is called for immediately. Mu Hyul is addressed by his official title내금위장 nae geum ui jang - Head of Internal Division.

정인지: 내금위장!
Jeong In Ji: Head of Internal Division!

Mu Hyul checks for a pulse, then looks up at the King …

무휼: 죽었습니다.
Mu Hyul: He’s dead.

세종: 뭐. 뭐야?
Sejong: Wh..What?

Leave a Reply