Expressions originated with gamers: Gilmak (길막) and Hard-carry
Please take time to read our farewell letter below💌
PC Bangs in Korea
Writer: Gayeon Shin
Editor-in-chief: Hayeon Cho
Copyeditor: Fred Mcnulty
[Illustration by COCO]
A Fictional Story of John
As John was surfing the internet, he came across a heartbreaking news article. It said that Korean internet café owners are suffering from having to shut down their businesses under social distancing measures. This reminds him of memory from two years ago, when he visited a Korean internet café which is called PC bang—bang (방) means “room” in Korean—for the first time
Two Years Ago…
John moved to Korea to attend university. One evening, he had some plans with a few friends from school. Since it was his first time in Korea, he was excited to explore different places. But as soon as they met up, his friends led him to the basement of a building where a PC bang was located. As far as he knew, all of his friends had their own laptops. Why would they wish to go to a PC bang to hang out? Full of questions, John decided to follow his friends.
The first impression of the PC bang was overwhelming. It was literally packed with computers and the keyboards were glowing with rainbow colors. The monitors were huge and the sounds of busy typing and clicking hit his ears. Each seat had a fancy pair of headphones and the chair looked super comfortable. There were already many people occupying seats and focusing on playing games. He could see a lot of teenagers among them.
John’s friends guided a stunned John to the counter. Apparently users had to pay in advance in order to use the computers. It cost about ₩1,000 per hour. There were even special electronic kiosks for payments. John paid ₩3,000 at the counter and was assigned a seat at the corner. It turns out the place was bigger than he thought. Twice as many computers were around the corner and there was also a smoking booth.
John’s friends were PC bang experts. They said they have been coming to PC bangs since their school days. They knew exactly what to do; they sat down, turned on a computer, and went straight into playing games. John started scanning the installed game list. Games were systematically organized into several categories such as role-playing games (RPG) and first-person shooters (FPS). Even games that usually require payment were free in the PC bang.
John chose Overwatch. He was amazed that the game somehow recognized that he was logging in from a PC bang and gave him PC bang-limited-items. He could also participate in PC bang-only-events that helped him level up. It was even more fun to play the game as he directly talked to his friends who were playing simultaneously. John’s friends said, “This is why we often come to PC bangs to hang out.”
Laptops were incomparable to PC bang computers. In terms of playing games, the wide monitor enhanced the gaming experience with a high-definition display. Overall computer performance was way better, too. Executing any program or loading any webpage took very little time. It seemed like PC bang computers were all advanced and constantly managed with great care. Otherwise, they won’t be able to maintain the speed with such large collections of games installed.
John asked his friends why they wouldn’t consider buying a personal desktop computer like the one in a PC bang or a video game console. Their answers were simple: it’s realistically barely affordable. As a university student living in a small studio or in a dorm, they had not enough space to put them. Also, they thought it’s cheaper to just come to PC bangs from time to time instead of buying high-end devices.
After an hour, he got hungry. His friends walked him through how to snack in a PC bang. He could order different sorts of food straight from the computer. Surprisingly the guy at the counter, to whom John had paid the fee earlier, was cooking food on-demand. He ordered a go-to menu of his friends called jjapaguri (짜파구리). Jjapaguri was a combination of two types of popular Korean instant noodles.
Jjapaguri became well-known thanks to its appearance in the movie Parasite. Consumers voluntarily created this recipe quite a long time ago and it was officially launched as a product last year. Above photo is the Parasite version of jjapaguri, with beef on it.
Thanks to the food being delivered directly to his seat, John was able to enjoy the meal and play games at the same time. The more he spent time in a PC bang, the more he began to understand why one of his friends was so into PC bangs.
It was already almost 10 p.m. John saw the guy at the counter again. He was going through users one by one in their seats, checking their ID cards. It turns out that Korean PC bangs prohibit minors after 10 p.m. John realized that a few people in school uniforms were heading out of the PC bang.
John and his friends also wrapped up and headed out. On their way back home, one of his friends mentioned his plan to visit the PC bang again next week to prepare for the upcoming semester’s course registration. One of his other friends said that he too, has to come back to book a ticket for his favorite singer’s concert.
Class enrollment for most Korean universities and concert ticketings are both on a first-come-first-served basis. Not only clicking faster than others but short loading times are essential and that is determined with better computer performance. Having experienced what PC bangs are like, John agreed that there’s no other place like a PC bang for that. He agreed to accompany his friends next week for course registration as well. They also planned to play games afterwards. He was already looking forward to coming and having a great time again.
**If you wish to read more about Korean university life and class enrollment, refer to KOMMON’s previous newsletter.
Back to Present Time
While walking, it’s possible to spot at least one PC bang per block in the main streets of most cities in Korea. However, COVID-19 hit them hard. The seats that used to be full are now empty, business hours are restricted, and PC bangs are completely shut down in some areas. John could see how hard it must be for the PC bang owners.
To cope with the losses, he heard that some PC bangs started renting computers and delivering services for PC bang food. Owners were even coming out to the streets to demand permission to reopen their businesses. It’s been over a year since John last visited a PC bang. He missed chatting and playing games with his friends.
Reminiscing about his own PC bang experience, John suddenly craved jjapaguri, the dish that he had with his friends two years ago in a PC bang. He ordered one from the nearest PC bang and turned on his computer to enjoy a game as if he’s in a PC bang. He heard PC bangs are going to reopen when social distancing levels go down. He will comply with social distancing measures until the day he’s able to safely revisit PC bangs with his friends.
Thanks to high internet speed and the prevalence of PC bang, playing online games is quite a deeply embedded cultural activity in Korea. Due to this, sometimes expressions that originated with gamers are now used in the general population. Today we will introduce two of these sort of slang terms.
1. Gilmak (길막)
Gil (길) means “way” or “path” and mak-da (막다) means to block something. Gilmak is an abbreviation of the expression, 길을 막다. It is used to indicate someone blocking others’ ways.
In most RPG games in the past, if a game character occupied one spot on a map, other characters were unable to step on the same spot. Therefore, some mean users would block the only passage to an important place to annoy others. Gilmak is used with a verb hada (하다) which means “to do.”
Here’s how to use it in real life:
(when someone’s blocking the entrance)
A: 길막 하지마.
A: Hey, step away from the door.
But, be careful not to use this sentence to a complete stranger. They might think you are rude.
Hard-carry is a Konglish word; it’s a compound of “hard” to mean “to a great degree” and “carry” to indicate leading others. Hard-carry is also used with the verb hada. When someone appears in a critical situation and leads the team to a victory, other teammates praise him or her for doing hard-carry. It can be used in sports games to praise a key player, in movies to compliment a good actor or actress, or in group projects to thank the person who contributed the most.
This phrase was even used in infamous TV commercials for online retailer Gmarket and as a song title of the boy group GOT7. The TV commercials became famous for how catchy they are! Take a look here.
Here’s how to use it in real life:
A: 이번 경기는 네가 하드캐리했어.
B: 아니야 팀워크 덕분에 이긴거지.
A: You hard carried the soccer match today.
B: Thank you. It’s not me, though. It’s a victory of teamwork.
A Farewell Letter💌
After months of deliberations, search for alternatives, and many, many sleepless meetings, KOMMON has decided to end our publication of our newsletter service after March. After the final two publications in March, the newsletter will temporarily be suspended until suitable teams or individuals who can carry on our work are found.
My team and I started KOMMON newsletter as a temporary project. We were all motivated students who understand how it can be difficult to live as a "foreigner" and especially in Korea. Since last July, we started with 100 subscribers with the mission of helping non-Koreans adapt to Korean society easily by providing knowledge, and now we have 600 subscribers across the world.
And the journey we've been through was just amazing. We got a number of messages saying they love our newsletter, and they are getting what they have really wanted but could not get so far, thanks to KOMMON.
We really loved, and love KOMMON and the relationship we have with our most devoted readers. That is why we have tried our best to find ways to accompany the publication with our daily livelihood. We truly loved meeting our readers every week. However, the work has proven to be more difficult than imagined. The members of our team are either full-time students or journalists. We tried to accommodate everyone's schedule by altering the publication schedule from twice a week to once a week. However, after many mishaps, we all came to the decision that maintaining the quality of publication without the work being a mental and physical burden to the team-members is impossible.
The best part of this work has always been, and always will be meeting and talking with the subscribers. It has truly been a life-changing experience to meet and talk with people all across the world in various walks of life who loved our work and sent us support. I cannot thank everyone enough, especially the ones that I have had the honor of interviewing and the ones who had shown us immense kindness of sending us financial support.
Another best part of this work has been our team members, who devoted themselves every week for the best article to give something better to the readers. Working with you has been truly an honor and one of the best things that ever happened to me last year. I want to thank everyone who had been, or who still are members of KOMMON team. 기린, Jessica, Fred, 기니, 부엉, OTO, Baco, Sans, Sunny, COCO, Kay, 호야, 쏘, 타코, 군밤, 쟈, Gumball, and everyone who has been in our journey.
That being said, KOMMON is looking for a team or an individual who could carry on the work we have been doing for the last 8 months with dedication and love. Anyone who wants to create a channel for non-Koreans who want to, or have to learn more about Korea, please contact us. As of now, we are searching for those with knowledge on Korean society as well as passion or background in journalism.
I hope I get a chance to meet you again, wherever, however we can.
Thank you all again.
We would like to give everyone who has donated money through buymeacoffee a refund. I am so sorry we could not keep the work going, despite your support. Please contact us by sending us email firstname.lastname@example.org.