As some of you might know I am currently dating a Korean man who I had met at the end of my second year(Fall 2014) in Korea. What you may not know is that we had first been acquaintances prior to actually going on our first date. Celebrating our 2nd anniversary soon, I started to wonder when it became a natural habit to call my BF “Oppa.” For those who aren’t familiar with Korean culture in Korean society you are given a formal name, but based on your age/ seniority, family position, or job title you are given a secondary name that is attached to your own, or used separately. For Korean men these titles include: Oppa (오빠), Hyung (형), Samcheon (삼촌) , Ajusshi (아저씨), etc. For Korean women these titles include: Nuna (누나), Onni (언니), Imo (이모), Gomo (고모), Ajumma (아줌마), etc.
The 1st two names for men and women (Oppa & Hyung (오빠&형) /Onni & Nuna (언니&누나) are most commonly used by friends, siblings, and boyfriends/girlfriends. In the case of Oppa, it is used as a term of endearment to a boy who is either a girl’s actual older brother, a female’s guy friend, or a girlfriend’s boyfriend who is older in age. My boyfriend loves going by the name Oppa because of its association with age & endearment; and also because he is older than me. In addition, he has a younger sister who has been calling him Oppa his entire life.
It’s funny that I call my BF Oppa because I use to dislike the usage of the title. I disliked the title primarily due to the belief that it feeds too much into the ego of Korean men. So, I never addressed or called my Korean guy friends ‘Oppa.’ This was also the case with my boyfriend during our first few months of dating.
Looking back I really wonder when I first started using Oppa. I don’t recall using it on our first few dates, and clearly remember telling my BF why I disliked the title. But, somehow it seemed like a perfect name for him. I guess you could say he became a type of Oppa for me in terms of taking care of me like family as we started dating more seriously. In many, but not all of our love letters, I address my BF by Oppa and not by his actual name. I even talk to my family and friends about him using Oppa instead of his name.
If we do get married in the future I am sure that I will continue to call my BF Oppa and not use his actual name. However, I know he would enjoy using the Korean titles of endearment between married spouses, which are similar to the English equivalent titles – honey and darling. Giving each other new titles might take some time to adjust to, at least for me. For my BF though giving me a new title of endearment is something in which he loves to do.
My boyfriend also does not address me by my actual name. Instead he created cutesy nicknames for me. To tell you truth he has already given me 4 names (￣∇￣)