Embracing ‘정’ (Jeong) Culture: The Heart of Korean Sentiment


In the tapestry of cultures worldwide, every nation has its unique threads, emotions, or feelings that are hard to translate but central to its identity. For Korea, one of these ineffable terms is ‘정’ (often romanized as “Jeong”). It’s a sentiment that deeply roots itself in Korean culture and is essential for understanding the Korean psyche and interpersonal relationships.

So, what is ‘정’?

At its core, ‘정’ encapsulates the warm emotions felt between close acquaintances. It represents affection, a bond that is more than just mere friendship or love. Moon, a renowned English teacher in Korea, likened ‘정’ to “attachment” in English. While this doesn’t translate it perfectly, it gives an idea. It’s not just about attachment per se but the emotions stemming from it. But is that all there is to ‘정’?

Internationally, emotions like affection, love, and deep attachment aren’t unique to Korea. In so-called individualistic cultures, you can still witness the profound bond (which could be seen as ‘정’) between friends. This bond is characterized by feelings of comfort when together, joy in reunions, understanding one’s faults, and the ability to act without pretense.

Considering this, can we still argue that ‘정’ is uniquely Korean?

To illustrate the essence of ‘정’, let’s delve into an anecdote from 2011. A television show titled ‘I Am a Singer’ was freshly launched. Kim Gun-mo, a contestant, was slated to be the first to leave the show, as is the tradition. However, a twist occurred. Both the production crew and other participants, in a heartwarming gesture of ‘정’, decided to give Kim another chance.

This incident doesn’t just portray the idea of second chances but reflects a deeper sentiment prevalent in Korea, the spirit of ‘정’. It’s a collective emotion where individuals come together to support and understand one another, even if it goes against the norms or principles.

‘정’ is not just about personal relationships but extends to work, communal gatherings, and other spheres of life. It’s about making sacrifices for friends, holding back honest feelings not to hurt someone, or coming together as a community during times of crisis.

Why is understanding ‘정’ vital?

If you are a foreigner in Korea or someone trying to understand the culture, grasping the essence of ‘정’ is pivotal. It will guide interactions, relationships, and even business deals. You’ll understand why sometimes decisions are based more on interpersonal feelings than logical reasoning. It will help decode the unsaid, understand the pauses, and respect the choices made out of deep sentiment.

To truly understand Korea, one must experience ‘정’ – be it from a local friend, a warm-hearted stranger, or a colleague. And while it might take time for a non-native to truly comprehend and feel ‘정’, once embraced, it enriches relationships and makes experiences in Korea unforgettable.


While cultures worldwide share emotions of love, affection, and attachment, ‘정’ stands out in its depth, pervasiveness, and centrality in Korean culture. It’s not just a feeling but a way of life, deeply ingrained in the Korean psyche. As the world becomes more global, understanding such unique cultural sentiments becomes essential. So, when in Korea, seek, embrace, and cherish the moments of ‘정’. They will offer a window into the Korean soul.