[KS] historical uses of the Korean term YO^BO

Ross King jrpking at interchange.ubc.ca
Mon Aug 10 10:43:51 EDT 2009

Whenever I encounter the term "yobo" in the uses Todd Henry is tracing, I am reminded of English "yabo" for "hick, uncouth person," etc., so I thought I'd look this up on wikipedia, and here's what I got -- probably not related, but there is always the chance of some contamination... :

"Yabo (野暮?) is a Japanese term to describe certain unaesthetic quality. Yabo is the antonym of iki. Busui (無粋), literally "non-iki," is synonymous with yabo. A non-iki thing is not necessarily yabo but probably is. Something that is yabo is usually unrefined, gigantic, coarse, childish, colorful, self-conscious, permanent, loud, superficial, vulgar, snobbish, boorish, etc.

The word yabo was often used by city dwellers, or chonin (especially those of Edo). It often refers to samurai and farmers (nomin) from outside of Edo, but could also be applied to another chonin. The city dwellers of Edo sometimes called themselves Edokko (similar to New Yorker or Parisian). Proud of having been born and raised in Edo, they had a tendency to despise outsiders. However, the origins of many chonin could be traced back to other areas and backgrounds.

The meaning of the term has expanded and generalized through the modernization of Japan. Today, the word yabo is used more frequently than iki."

> Date: Sun Aug 09 18:01:21 PDT 2009
> From: "Todd Henry" <htodd98 at hotmail.com>
> Subject: [KS] historical uses of the Korean term YO^BO
> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Dear all:
> I am currently completing an article on colonial racialization with a focus on how Japanese settlers and journalists appropriated the native term "yo^bo" to derogatorily refer to colonized Koreans, particularly lower class laborers.  I am also analyzing Korean critiques to this racialized usage of "yo^bo," but am not completely satisfied with the explanations they (the Korean critics) give as to the social etymology of this term.
> I would, therefore, be interested in any scholarship (or other information) that deals with how this term was used during the late Cho^son period and into the colonial period.  It would also interest me to hear more about post-liberation/colonial uses of "yo^bo" and if they had anything to do with the sort of derogatory usages I have been investigating from the colonial period.
> Thanks in advance for your guidance and help.
> Todd A. Henry
> Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow (2008-9)
> Korea Institute, Harvard University
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Ross King
Professor of Korean and Head,
Department of Asian Studies, 
University of British Columbia, 


Dean, Korean Language Village, 
Concordia Language Villages

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