Kpop Culture Day 4: What’s Aegyo?

Aeygo: The art of being cute!

In certain Kpop music videos, you might see fans commenting “OMG Oppa’s face, I love the aegyo” or “She’s so Aegyo in that pose ^.^” or even sometimes “I hate all this fake aegyo -.-“, which leads you to say, “What the heck is aegyo?” Aeygo (애교) is often translated into winsome (Attractive or appealing in appearance or character), however this word only describes a portion of aegyo.  Aegyo is winsome via (sometimes sickly sweet) cuteness. Popularly, it’s used by Korean girls into beguiling their male companion into buying things for them, often by over using the word “Oppa”. In music videos, aegyo concepts are used in order to pull fan’s heartstrings while they watch.

A band can make an aegyo video, while not being aegyo themselves. This is seen in Shinee’s “Hello” video, where all of Shinee’s members are nervous about asking a girl to go on a date with them. Compare this to the “Lucifer” video I showed you in Kpop MV Day 6 (https://kpopfornoobcakes.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/kpop-mv-day-6/), and you can see how by trying to get the members to look bashful, they’re attempting to appeal to their female fans.

Sunny from SNSD making a cute pose.
Sunny from SNSD making a cute pose.

On the flip side, Girl’s Generation (SNSD) is marketed as more of an aegyo type band, but they have several songs (Run Devil Run and The Boys) that are meant to show a cooler or more mature style. Some bands, like F(x), have specific members that are considered to be aegyo, and serve to create a balance between cool and cute in their group dynamic. The way that a girl would “act” aegyo (as in overact aegyo, which is what tends to happen in most music videos to get the point across) is to make cute gestures. Many of these gesures involve the hands being close to the face, like putting victory signs next to ones chin or puffing up their cheeks and poking them with their fingers. Fiddling with hair is also a sign of aegyo, and some body language such as crossing ones legs, is aegyo.

Male aegyo relies less on poses and more on facial expression.
Male aegyo relies less on poses and more on facial expression.

Men still use some of these poses, but it’s much more cheesy on a guy. Some of the more benign poses ones are used, like making a heart out of ones arms. Instead, a man may rely much more on facial expression alone, like smiling to one side or sticking out their tongue. Acting preoccupied with the thing they are doing, like looking at a girl to the point of tripping over something, or closing their eyes and singing to an empty room is also aegyo.

In real life, aegyo is much more toned down, especially because Kpop stars have to exaggerate their expressions for emotion to come across in the music video. Real aegyo also has this aspect of revealing the inner self, basically taking off a mask and letting your true personality slip out in front of other people. It’s this vulnerability that is so cute; it makes men more approachable and brings out this protective side in men when they see a woman this way.  One of the best real life examples was caught in a gif by sunieekiss on Tumblr. Ukiss, a kpop band was talking with Simon and Martina about their upcoming music video. They were talking about one of their other members when they broached the subject of fears. Take a look at Kevin’s hand motions:

Look at the guy in the lower right hand corner.
Look at the guy in the lower right hand corner.

And then look at Eli’s facial expressions in this gif:

He looks so nervous.
He looks so nervous.

They aren’t overreacting for the camera, and therefore their reaction is so much more believable. This to me is what aegyo should be, and not all of the over dramatic hand gestures. Sometimes, a good smile is all you need.

❤ Rebecca

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4 thoughts on “Kpop Culture Day 4: What’s Aegyo?”

  1. More aegyo clips would’ve made this THE. GREATEST. ARTICLE. EVAAAAAR. Anyway this is kind of related but I’ve always liked how Korean girls call an older boy “brother” or the other way around. It’s kind of warm you know? I myself come from a Jewish background, and we sort treat other Jews like family or at least in the “same tribe”, even strangers and those we don’t particularly like lol. From my understanding, the Koreans also have this “one tribe” mentality where every Korean is treated like a relative, calling each other brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, grandma etc. Or situations like complete strangers giving rides to high school kids who are late to their college entrance exams (that shit will never fly here). I find this incredibly endearing as this kind of stuff is hard witness in the US due to the diversity and the culture itself. In fact, and correct me if I’m wrong, I think the Israelis and Koreans are the only cultures that do this (as in take it that far), probably the byproduct of a smaller population, a homogeneous culture, and a history of constant invasions and disenfranchisement by foreign entities. People tend to bunch together during those circumstances. Probably explains my affinity to aegyo and the like ……..or maybe I’m just very lonely.

    Btw my top 10 aegyo practitioners:
    1. IU
    2. Sunny
    3. Jiyoung (Kara)
    4. Yura
    5. Jiyeon (T-ara)
    6. Nana
    7. Krystal
    8. Suzy
    9. Lizzy
    10. Ahyoung (Dal Shabet)

    1. I think it’s more like calling someone “bro” in America, since the Korean Honorific System is very complex. Anyway, our country used to be like that, it’s just gotten more dangerous in the past whenever. We still have those nice people here that would be willing to drive someone to their sats if they got stuck, but we’re so spread out and so wary of other people it doesn’t happen.

      As for the aegyo clips, not a huge fan of filling my culture posts with videos, because I do more music video reviews and then I would run out of posts >.< I could have grabbed stuff from variety shows, but some of my readers (that I know personally) don't really know kpop yet, so I figured they would have gotten confused.

      I enjoy some aegyo, but I find that a lot of aegyo in music videos is over applied. Sunny is really damn good at it and that's why she's my SNSD bias. More often than not, I'll take the CL's and the Amber's over people who use aegyo cause I enjoy that cool style.

      Also, have you seen Kevin from Ukiss outside of their music videos, like in interviews? He is the living embodiment of aegyo, and it’s so perfectly balanced. He’s just unbelievably nice all the time.

      1. Whenever I see a guy calling someone “bro” I can’t help but feeling that it was said – not really in a sarcastic way- but sort of ironically. Still relegated to young people speak and inherited from free-love hippies and slakers. While the language used in Korean implies kinship and familiarity in a more intimate way I guess. Although one downside is the misunderstanding that occurs, like in dramas where a girl has to explain that she’s not dating her real brother lol and so forth.

        Kevin seems really kind, but I’m afraid some of his mannerisms would be considered effeminate

      2. Damnit I pressed the wrong button!

        Or like borderline gay in the US.

        Sunny is my next favorite after Taengoo. She’s like a little vitamin, especially during the early years. Kind of a shame she’s no longer the aegyo queen as she once was. She’s a little more subdued now…

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