You’re NOT my girlfriend. You’re just my Some: Investigation of the Trending Korean Dating Keyword “Some”

The recent popularity of the song “Some” inspired me to write about this new dating trend in Korea – to be in a some. Dating in Korea, much like elsewhere in the world, is full of compromises and questions, but whether you are in a relationship or not was once, pretty much set in stone.

Nowadays, things aren’t as crystal clear. The lyrics and the music video of the song “Some” by SoYou and JunggiGo accurately portray this new trend in dating. It’s immense popularity is a testament of the empathy it draws out of Korean people.

“ 요즘따라내꺼인내꺼아닌내꺼같으너니꺼인니꺼아닌니꺼같은


“Recently, you seem to be mine but not, I seem to be yours but not. Truthfully, I’m confused what our relationship status is. Don’t act so nonchalant.”

– Lyric from song “Some”

A few keywords to take note of here:

Some-nam [썸남; 남or nam comes from the word 男which means man] and Some-nyo [썸녀; 녀comes from the word 女which means woman] is a relatively new phrase used to label the partner of this ambiguous relationship.

Before looking into why this is happening, let’s first define what exactly this new trend is.

What in the world is “some”?

Adding to the two conventional statuses of dating, Single and In a Relationship, this new status of  “some” is a hybrid of single-hood and couple-hood. You are not officially in a relationship, but when you’re together, you act like a couple. Our English vocabulary equivalent would be “seeing someone.”

The origin of this phrase comes from the English word “something” and the Korean verb 타다, which means to ride. Combined, the phrase becomes 썸타다, or “riding the some.” It rightfully depicts the ambiguous relationship between two people where there is “something” going on, but neither of the participants know what exactly what that something is.


Behind the Some Wave

So here is my quasi-scientific analysis to the new dating-scape if Korea. Let me put my fake scientist glasses on and tell you:

So really, why is this happening?

#1 Technology

The fact that technology makes people less adept at face to face communication is already well-documented in scholarly research. Korea is one of the most connected (web, smartphone) populations in the world, and also has the highest smart phone penetration rate (99% for users above 16, Neilson Mobile Insight).

It is also important to note that cellphones for generation Y (yes, you) are primarily texting devices rather than calling devices. We spend most of our time communicating to one another over text messages, and texting apps like Whatsapp or Kakaotalk, which gives us the choice to read, not read, and read but pretend you haven’t read.

Likewise, the receiver can use “read/sent/haven’t read” signs provided by the apps to navigate the conversation without direct confrontations. This hyper-connectivity forces the younger generations of Koreans to avert confrontational uncomfortable situations, which include crucial moments of romance like confessing your love.

How does this relate to the “Some” trend?

Being in a “Some” relationship means neither of the two people are obligated to anything, which subsequently protects them from the possibility of rejection. Theoretically, the disappearance of a some-nam or a some-nyo is much less heartbreaking than a boyfriend or a girlfriend – whether or not that really is the case. So for the youths of Korea today, being in a “some” is a way to test out the relationship without the risk of being hurt and a way to postpone (or completely forgo) the step of asking him/her out until things are very very obvious. Think of it as a layer of bubble wrap that each some-person tries to wrap around themselves.

#2 Liberalization of values

Like many other societies around the world, values about relationship, sex, and marriage are liberalized in Korea at a speed that rivals their economic development. TV programs like the Witch Hunt (where 4 male show hosts talk about girls, sex, and relationships), the shorter lengths of skirts, and the proliferation of PDA indicate this change.

With changing values around romantic and sexual relationships, being in an unlabeled relationship with someone is no longer taboo. Although I don’t have any factual evidence to prove this, I’m can pretty much guarantee you that acting like a couple without actually being in a relationship wasn’t the norm in our parent’s generation (Who doesn’t think so?).

From CC Flickr

#3 Too Many Options

Have you ever heard of the term Overchoice?

Also known as choice overload, it is a dilemma consumers have experienced since the Post-industrial Era: simply because they have too many choices.

A similar situation is occurring in the datingscape of Korea. With the rise of cosmetic surgeries, clubs, and date-cafes (essentially pubs specifically made for hooking up – a topic for another blog post altogether), meeting a cute guy or a hot girl is not difficult. This means, as a young lad or lady with ample disposable income and time, there is a high incentive to keep your options open… forever.

Selfish, right? But personally, I find this trend quite tantalizing- who is to blame? It’s a result of the interplay of many different mega-forces… and in the end, relationships are socially constructed (Take note, this is Tina vocabulary for you!).

Comment below and let me know what you think of this “Some” trend! Do you agree with my points or do you think I’m dead wrong? Do you see it happening here in Canada?

Just a word of caution: don’t let this some trend get to you. For all those hopeless romantics out there, there’s still hope. And when done right, as you can see from many episodes of Korean dating (?) talk show Witch Hunt, you can navigate out of your Some and into an official relationship.

Best of luck to those in Some  🙂 Follow this blog for more on Korea

Till Next Time!


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