KOR Culture Notes
This page offers a little on the Japanese cutural background of KOR
Forms of Address
In Japanese a variety of suffixes(honorifics) can be added to a person's
name when addressing them to show various levels of respect similar to
using Mr, Mrs, Sir, etc. in English. Here are a list of address forms
that appear often in KOR
- Very respectful ending. Not normally used with someone's names.
Used to people of superior status, like your boss, or to your guests as a host.
Envelopes should be addressed with "-sama". A shopkeeper might call a customer
"o-kyaku-sama" (Respected Mr. Customer).
- A respectful term meaning "teacher", also used with physicians.
Frequently used to refer to experts in a field or people in any respected
occupation. Lawyers, master chefs, fashion designers, and even some manga
artists are called "sensei". Sometimes used like an honorific with a name
or title, as in "kouchou-sensei" (Mr. Principal, Sir).
- Usual term of respect. It can stand for Mr. and Ms., and is
attached to either first or last names, and names of occupations like
"o-mawari-san" (Mr. Policeman). You use it for strangers and people you
don't know well, but are more or less the same social status. When in
doubt, use "-san". However, never use "-san" with your own name or your
family members' names. Also, it shouldn't be used to refer to famous
people, since a small degree of intimacy is implied. High school girls
are usually called "-san".
- Somebody in the same general social class, but socially
superior to you. "Sempai" can also be used as an honorific. Older
students may be addressed respectfully as sempai, especially by girls.
- Used by a socially superior male to a socially inferior
male. Familiarly used among male students and boys who grew up
together. Recently, some teachers call girl students and some bosses
call office ladies with "-kun", but it's still considered a masculine
suffix. High school boys are called "-kun". Girls go from "-chan"
to "-san" in high school, but boys go through a period of
"-kun" in between.
- Intimate form of address. Families that are close use it,
and "-chan" is often used to, and by, very young children. Used with
given names, abbreviations of given names, and nicknames, but not family
names. Children who grow up together (like Madoka and Hikaru), may
keep using "-chan" into adulthood. Note: to call a social superior
"-chan" without reason is very insulting.
- Calling someone by a family name alone is being very familiar
(or rough). Calling someone by given name alone is less rough, but
more familiar. Using no honorific when one is expected can be an
expression of contempt.
In Japanese the family name is given before the given name, the reverse
of how most Western cultures do it.