26, Your Korean Words

29 Apr-22 Jun 2024

Korean Cultural Centre UK
London WC2N 5BW


The Korean Cultural Centre UK hosts '26, Your Korean Words' from April 29 to June 22. The exhibition is a participatory exhibition that explores the twenty-six Korean words listed collectively in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in September 2021. 

The OED contains more than 500,000 words, but when one considers that there were only a couple of dozen Korean words listed in the OED prior to 2021, twenty-six supplementary Korean words being added in a single update clearly indicated that something extremely unusual had just occurred. 

On 12 December 2023, Google announced that the most searched recipe for the year was ‘Bibimbap’ and Netflix reported that more than 60% of its subscribers had watched a Korean title that year – making Korean the most consumed language on Netflix, after English. 

Following the success of 'Squid Game' and 'Kingdom', K-dramas such as 'Crash Landing on You' and 'The Glory' saw a dramatic rise in global popularity. Since then, the use of Korean food-related words such as 'Dalgona' and 'Tteokbokki' have increased rapidly all over the world. Additionally, the use of words such as 'Hyeong’ (meaning one’s older brother) and ‘Maknae’ (meaning the youngest member of a family or group) has spread rapidly too. This suggests that the modern English lexicon has been influenced by the increase in K-pop-related consumption because these age-related words are often used by fans to describe members of K-pop idol groups.

With plans to incorporate additional Korean-derived words into the Oxford English Dictionary to reflect the growing presence of Korean culture in the UK, in the future the unique event of 2021 will no longer be considered an exception, but rather a well-deserved occurrence.

The exhibition features twenty-six special Korean origin words that are frequently used worldwide. Twenty-six words are visualised and displayed as images produced using Artificial Intelligence (A.I., Midjourney V.6). Moreover, the exhibition illustrates the background to the creation of the language through Hunminjeongeum (the first name of the Korean alphabet ‘Hangul') and Malmoe Manuscript (the draft of the first Korean dictionary). Also, the exhibition invites the audience to participate in the display by writing their own sentences using one of the twenty-six Korean words on specially crafted manuscript paper. These manuscript papers will be collected and join the display – this act of collection will make the exhibition complete, as if compiling a dictionary.

Dr. Seunghye Sun, Director of Korean Cultural Centre UK said: “The inclusion of 26 Korean words in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2021 reveals how the global consumption of Korean culture through digital platforms during the pandemic has led to an increased global influence of the Korean language. This can be considered an important phenomenon in 21st-century digital culture, revealing the future of new digital culture.”