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A Linguistic Anthropological Study of the Typification of Middle-Aged Men in Korea: An Examination of Ajae Joke Data

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Choi, Jinsook

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Department of Anthropology, Seoul National University
Korean Anthropology Review, Vol.2, pp. 109-139
This article was originally published in 2016 in 『한국문화인류학』 [Korean cultural anthropology] 49(3): 57‒93; Translated into English by Ben Jackson.
(In lieu of an abstract) Ajae frequently appear in popular media today. So-called ajae gaegeu, jokes (gags) made by male panelists in their mid-30s to mid-40s on television comedy programs and general entertainment programs, have been met with vociferous reactions from viewers. The popularity of ajae jokes has been accompanied by the birth of the ajae as a unique middle-aged male figure that has in turn become a common motif and theme in popular culture. Ajae jokes first drew attention when chef O Sedeuk, appearing on broadcaster MBCs My Little Television (마이 리틀 텔레비전) in 2015, came out with various puns, including holding up a piece of garlic and saying, 형만을 위해 살아갈릭 (I only live for you; the sentence contains two garlic-related puns, one each on the Korean and English words.). Since then, the ajae boss sketches on broadcaster SBSs entertainment program Laughter Seekers has featured the distress of company interns having to laugh at the jokes of their superiors, while the ajaessi section on KBS2s entertainment program Gag Concert (개그콘서트) delivers laughs through the jokes of an ajae demon character. In this article, I explore the socio-cultural significance of these jokes and the male characters typically associated with them.
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