I will post some things about Korean Culture (as I know them to be). Anyone who knows more feel free to correct me.
Korean relationships between people is based on Harmony. To maintain this balance is very important to the point where people will give up something or not tell the truth.
Kibun has no direct translation. It relates to a persons mood and feelings. To hurt someones kibun is generally a terrible thing to do, although foriegners do get allowances made for doing it (to a point).
So Korean culture is much about the feelings of others. Trying to keep other peoples kibun intact while maintaining your own is actually quite a job.
To ignore kibun in Korea will generally lead to problems on your side. For example if you were to try and get someone to do something while their kibun is hurt, they are more likley not to help you.
The somewhat annoying thing (for westerners) is that it is very easy to hurt someones kibun by everyday actions. Slagging someone off, being argumentative, giving bad news, or ignoring Korean social rankings.
A very good example is that if person is to be let go, they will generally be told on the Friday evening and told not to return to work to finish up, because the persons kibun would already be hurt there would be no reason to make it worse having them work (this is good nunchi).
It is possible as a foriegn person to ignore kibun, but if you don't you will find you get more respect from Koreans.
Translation is eye measure.
To better understand how a persons kibun is, or what a person is feeling is called Nunchi. Koreans are taught not to make their true feelings shown so generally others have to use nunchi to guess how the other is feeling.
It is generally thought of as a sixth sense, but it is more looking at visual clues and understand what a Korean is really saying when they say something.
An example would be, If you are a boss of a Korean and you tell them they are doing a certain thing wrong in their work, they may take this to mean that you are not satisfied with all their work.
Or another. A Korean may say to you "Are you hungry?". They are actually saying "I am hungry, can we eat now?". So if you answer "No" it would hurt their kibun. The correct answer would be to ask the Korean what they want to eat.
So, basically, it's the art of picking up the unsaid? Where actions and body language speak at the same level as words?
Nunchi, yes but it is also a bit to do with status as well and the persons relationship to you. (it is a little confusing to me sometimes).
To give an example. [edited, someone corrected me]
A father could shout at his daughter and call her stupid.
In this case he does not have to worry about hurting her kibun as his status is higher. The parent may get stress from the shouting (which leads to bad kibun) but not from hurting her kibun.
But because the stress may cause bad kibun they will try to avoid this.
I'll cover more on social standings in another thread later.
Another thing about nunchi that I have noticed, generally Koreans will attempt to convey their wishes without actually saying them. Sort of give you hints rather then hoping that you have great nunchi. It can seem obvious to Koreans, but tricky for westerners.
hmmm, so you're saying I shouldn't have refused my bosses wife's noodles at lunch ?
wow, never realised this stuff was a consideration. I give my boss bad news all the time, and am happy to push my troubles onto him .
I was aware of the hierarchy thing though.
A simple no would probably offend (if you were Korean). He probably makes allowances for you. Easier method would be to say "I don't want to upset your meal" or "I have already eaten but you enjoy".. that sort of stuff.
It sounds like a monolithic culture. Searching Google under korean and "high context" illustrates this point further.
My Sister-in-law is Korean and I have been there a few times. The one thing I notice and have experienced about Koreans is how honest they are. When they say things to you they are overtly honest and think they are doing you a favour by telling you.
I was in a bar and the Korean barman said that I was pretty but had a big ar*e -this was translated to me by the way- My Sis in law said Koreans say things like that for my benefit not as an insult.
The hierarchy is also evident, even when we were out to dinner we waited until her Grandmother sat down and waited until she drank and started eating, put the Grandmother was waiting until me Da did this and it was very confusing. Still seems to be a bit patriarchal it seems.
I love Koreans, heading over in august
the direct translation of kibun is mood
That's what I've gathered. 기분이 어때요 - how's your kibun (feeling).
Its just a way saying someones feeling with the added baggage of 유교 (confucianism).
Oh and 눈치 (Nunchi) is very quickly understanding something without been told or guessing something correctly from no foreknowledge. For some reason its often involved in jokes. While I someimes understand the language usually the humour illudes me
Since this is a Korean culture thread I will slighly hijack it with some questions
- What is the trick card game that seems to pop up in some of the korean moves I watched? All different ages seem to play it.
- It ain't a good korean movie without a funeral, what is the significance with the offering of goods? Whats the meaning behind each offering? On the anniversy of the death they seem to place the same offerings around a photo of the departed.
Probably Go-Stop. http://www.pagat.com/fishing/gostop.html
But that is an adults game. It is unlikely children would be playing it.
What goods ? Koreans give money or maybe flowers for a funeral.
The family will prepare food and drink for visitors who come to the home to pay respects. Is that what you mean ?
I think you're talking about Korean ancestor worship here. Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesa
The 'offerings' are prepared by family members and set on a table like so;
In my experience most Koreans these days will put a photograph on the table behind the food of the relative who is dead.