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. Moreover, the exhibition illustrates the background to the creation of the language through 'Hunminjeongeum' and 'Malmoe Manuscript'. Furthermore, the exhibition invites the audience to participate in the display by writing their own definitions of the twenty-six Korean words on specially crafted manuscript paper. These personal definitions will be collected and join the display – this act of collection will make the exhibition complete, as if compiling a dictionary.

*For press information and images, please contact K Park, Curator E: