I was reading a magazine article (a really interesting one which I’m currently in the process of translating. Should be up in a couple days) and I came across this phrase. I kind of figured out what it meant from context but a quick search and a LINE message to Yekyung clarified it for me.
This phrase is 유행어 – a popular phrase or “lingo.” Let’s break it down.
- 쓸 데 없다: useless, unnecessary, superfluous. I’ve used this phrase a lot in the context of “쓸 데 없는 걱정/말.”
- 고퀄리티: This comes from attaching the Hanja 高 (높을 고, 높이 고) to the English word “quality.” 높다, as you might know, means “to be high.”
Putting it together, 쓸 데 없는 고퀄리티 = ridiculously high quality.
What exactly gets does that mean? I actually see this phrase mostly referring to things that are elaborately well made, but cannot bring the maker any real attention or profit. That is, the time and effort put into making the thing, far exceeds the payoff. For example, a doodle like the one below:
I found an article about the phrase over at 10Asia and it ended with this rather profound statement:
자신에게 쓸 데 없으나 세상을 위해 고퀄리티를 포기하지 않는 이들을 일컬어 우리는 예술가라 부른다.