Umchina (pronunciated like 'um-chin-a') is a Korean word, an abbreviated form of ‘mom’s friend’s son.’(Hangul: 엄마 친구 아들) Not a term directly indicating a specific person, but signifies a person who is perfect in everything; abilities, appearances and backgrounds. Usually spoken by a mother to push her son to do better by comparing to an obscurely perfect character referred to as ‘umchina.’
Concept of Umchina
Development of ‘Umchina’
Even before the term ‘Umchina’ was developed, the concept had long been dominating the Korean society, only without a specific term. If there was ‘wangdda,’ which was an outcast concept, an umchina is someone that could be depicted as an opposite. From the early 2000s, peculiar Korean internet culture had developed and one of the hot trend was using abbreviated form of words. Hunnam, Chadonyeo are each abbreviated form of ’a charming guy (Hangul: 훈훈한 남자)’ and ‘icy chic lady (Hangul: 차가운 도시 여자).’
The term ‘Umchina’ itself was first used in the webtoon ‘Golbanghwansanggok (골방환상곡),’ a comic strip published serially in 2008 on Naver. It successively treated current social issues in an easier way and made a big sympathy among readers. That was when people started using ‘umchina’ as an abbreviated form of ‘mother’s friend’s son.’
Concepts and Characteristics of Umchina
Umchina does not directly indicate a specific person. But they are those who are good to be compared; similar in age or conditions. Umchina is usually used when a mother tries to push her son to better perform in school by comparing with someone she knows, specifically her friend’s son. According to what mom has heard, seen, or maybe just made up, they are tall, have a perfectly fit body, and a charming aura. They only sleep 4 hours a day, never watch TV, and are so bright that never miss A’s in school, let alone attending only the prestigious schools. If he is working, he is at least earning 10 times more than you and very popular of his abilities and appearance. And he even comes from a prestigious, wealthy family. As we can see, the characteristics of Umchina written above, is rather unrealistic. Each of the features separately are quite natural, but all those features in a single soul is very unrealistic. That is, the exact concept of Umchina. It is a created ‘someone’ who has combined strengths of several people. The writer of the comic, who created the term, Park Jongwon was once asked if there was a specific model of his ‘umchina’ concept in an interview. But he simply answered that it was a combined character he made up which had several of his friends’ good features. Of course in our society there are people who are close to the concepts of umchina. But the normal usage of this concept is a vague, obscure character who is just perfect, only to compare.
The Umchina Syndrome is a phenomenon found in many Asian culture, as a way to promote improvement by mother to their children. The distinctive feature of Koreans’ trying to confirm self-identity not from the inside but from comparison within the group, has created the perfect form of ‘umchina.’ As the society became more intense, people, without exception competed to achieve better careers. This excessive competition along with the elitism and groupism, created a figure that everyone wanted to become, an idealistic one. Although this figure is idealistic and at the same time unrealistic, people tend to stress out from comparing themselves from this idealistic figure. According to a survey conducted by Chuiupportal Career, 45.7% of the jobseekers feel severe inferiority comparing with an umchina figure while only 35.4% answered that they get more eager to develop themselves. Also, a Korean TV show ‘Guegusialgosipda(Hanul: 그것이 알고싶다)’ pointed out the harmful effects of Korean educations’ driving students to excessive rivalry competition. And should emphasize the importance of ‘cooperation’ so that these fearful rival umchinas turn into productive colleagues.
Umchina Figures Among Celebrities
1. Yoon, Taeyoung (Actor): Studied Business Administration at Illinois Wesleyan University. Now a successful actor starring in The Legend (2007), Mr. Socrates(2005). His father was former vice president of Samsung Electronics.
2. Lee, Philip (Actor): All of his family are alumni of George Washington University. He himself is a successful actor starring in The Legend (2007), Secret Garden(2010). His father is the owner of STG, a global IT company.
3. Choi, Siwon (Singer): Member of one of the leading idol groups in Korea, Super Junior. Now widening his field to acting. His father, Choi Kiho, is the president of Boryung Mediance.
4. Kang, Dongwon (Actor): Majored mechanical engineering in Hanyang University. His father is a vice president of SPP, one of the leading groups in shipbuilding industry.
5. Lee, Seunggi (Actor, Singer, Host): Studied International Trade and Commerce in Dongguk University, continuing Trade Theory as well as Finance and Cultural Contents at Dongguk Graduate School. His father (and mother) worked in bank. 
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