Korean, Slang, Vocabulary
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백마병 & 도끼병

If you watch Korean dramas, you’re probably already familiar with 왕자병 (“prince disease”) and 공주병 (“princess disease”) – words that basically describe obnoxiously entitled, often 싸가지 없는 youth (an excellent example is 이승기’s character in 찬란한 유산).

백마병 and 또기병 fall under a similar category of exasperating people to be around.  Any idea what they might mean?

A prince usually rides 백마 (a white horse) while traveling or making ceremonial rounds through local villages, and the commoners bow and clap for the prince.  However, the horse, not knowing any better, prances and preens thinking all the attention is for itself.  It follows that 백마병 describes a condition in which a person always thinks another party is interested in them.

도끼병 describes the same type of person.  도끼 is “axe” which goes in hand with 찍다, meaning to chop (도끼로 찍다 = to chop with an axe).  However, in a colloquial way, the verb 찍다 can also take a person as topic or direct object and mean “to claim”, “to indicate”, “to name as one’s own”, “to have in mind.”  For example:

개는 내가 찍었다.  =  She’s mine./I’m keeping an eye on her.
찍어둔 사람 있어?  = Do you have someone in mind?

Putting those two things together, 도끼병 describes a person who thinks other people are always claiming him/herself as their own.

So basically, these two phrases describe people who always think other people have crushes on them.  I can imagine that being around a person who’s always fantasizing about so-and-so liking him/her can be annoying, but I think we’ve all contracted a self-resolving case of this disease at some point.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a person is being nice for the sake of being nice in a purely platonic way, or whether that person is interested in something more!

This entry was posted in: Korean, Slang, Vocabulary


Writer by day, writer by night. Learning Korean and (some) Japanese since 2010.

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