This is the first in the series of Study Korean through Drama taken from the Joseon drama, Deep Rooted Tree episode 1. This first clip shows that no matter which class people belonged to, it was very important to show respect to elders. The drama is set during the rule of King Sejong. A young boy Dol Bok is in the bottom of the Joseon social class system – the nobi (slave) class. He works at the house of Prime Minister Shim On but he often gets into fights trying to protect his father’s honour. (After an accident that left him brain damaged, Dol Bok’s father has become an easy target for the other nobi and they often make fun of him.)
Here we see Dol Bok getting told off for fighting with Gul Sang one of the adult nobi. Dol Bok wants Gul Sang to address his father in the polite manner since his father is older than Gul Sang. The nobleman agrees that Gul Sang should address the older man as 형님 Hyeongnim – meaning older brother – the polite term for a man to address an older man of the same rank. But Gul Sang is not keen to do this. He seems embarrassed to do this and ends up calling Dol Bok’s dad an idiot instead!
심: 똘복이는 일어나(서) 걸상에게 절을 하거라.
Shim: Get up Dol Bok and bow to Gul Sang.
notes: 하거라 was old Korean used by a master when giving orders to his underlings. (modern Korean: 해라)
똘복: (그)까짓 거 합니다. 하지만, 예를 가르치실 것이라면 걸상아지(에게)도 가르쳐주십시오.
Dol Bok: Yes, I will do that. But if you are going to teach manners, then please teach (Uncle) Gul Sang manners too.
notes: 아지=아저씨 (‘uncle’ but used to address older men in one’s own social class)
vocabulary: 예를 가르지다 teach manners
심: 이게 무슨 소리냐?
Shim: What do you mean?
notes: This is a very common expression used to show surprise. The ending 냐? was used to someone of lower rank but it’s not commonly used today. These days friends are likely to say 그게 무슨 소리야?
돌복: 걸상아지 보다 우리 아비가 다섯살 더 먹었습니다. 근데도 성님 소리는 커녕 매번 놀리고 쥐어팹니다. 이래도 되는 겁니까?
Dol Bok: My father is five years older than Gul Sang. But instead of addressing him respectfully (calling him brother) he teases and hits him. Is this all right?
notes: 아비= 아버지 (낮춤말) humble speech used to describe one’s father to someone above oneself in rank. 성님=형님 ‘older brother’, the polite way to address someone older than oneself but in the same social class.
expressions:다섯살 더 먹었습니다. 먹다 (to eat) is used to express age. 나이를 먹다 grow older.
grammar: noun+커녕 (far from, instead of, let alone). This is an auxiliary particle used to show that something even less favourable will follow..
심: 진정 그리 했느냐? 걸상이가 그리 했느냐?
Shim: Is this true? Did Gul Sang do this?
notes: In modern Korean this expression is 정말 그렇게 했어?
담: 예, 마님. 저도 우리 아비가 자꾸 석삼아재(를) 놀려서 속상합니다.
Dam: Yes, Sir. I was also upset that my father often teases Seok Sam.
notes: 마님 = was the polite way to address one’s master or mistress.
expressions: 속상합니다 to be upset/hurt. These days속상해! is often used when the speaker feels sad or upset about something.
심: 쯔쯔쯔, 으른이 먼저 본을 보여야 하거늘… 허면 석삼이는 앞으로 나오거라.
걸상이는 석삼에게 절을 하고 형님 하거라.
Shim: Tut, tut, tut. adults should set the example first. Seok Sam step forward. Gul Sang bow to Seok Sam and address him as elder brother.
notes: 으른 is informal spoken speech for 어른 adult
expressions: 본을 보이다 = set an example
걸상: 앞으로 잘 모시겠습니다. 반푼이 성님.
Allow me to serve you as my older brother, from now on. Sir Simpleton!
Gul Sang starts off politely promising to treat Seok Sam properly from now on. But then he spoils it all by sarcastically using the respectful title 성님 with the word simpleton/idiot! No wonder Dol Bok attacks him! Again!
Scenes from Deep Rooted Tree, SBS, 2011, episode 1