Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What's a 김치 쭈그리고 앉은 자세?

When I first came to Korea in the navy in 1977, it was very common to see Koreans squatting on the streets while waiting for buses or just chatting with friends. Since there were no places to sit and rather than stand, they just squatted. Among the US military here in Korea, it was commonly referred to as "the kimchi squat," which is not really a politically correct term. And, of course, Koreans do not refer to their squatting posture that way.

Anyway, I was trying to think of a way to remember the word 쭈그리다, and "kimchi squat" came to mind. 쭈그리다 means "squat," "crouch," or "stoop." I am confused, however, because, according to my dictionary, 웅크리다, also means "squat." I do not know what the difference is between the two Korean words. Actually, I am not even sure of the difference between the English words "squat" and "crouch."

Anyway, both 쭈그리다 and 웅크리다 can be used with 앉다 (to sit) to form the phrases 쭈그리고 앉다 and 웅크리고 앉다. Therefore, I do not know if "kimchi squat" should be translated as 쭈그리고 앉은 자세 or 웅크리고 앉은 자세?

By the way, the present generation of Koreans do not squat nearly as much as their parents do or did. For example, you hardly ever seen young Koreans squatting at a bus stop while waiting for a bus.


  1. I feel like the difference between "squat" and "crouch" is that "squat" mere refers to the position whereas crouching carries along the meaning of avoiding something oncoming, or seek shelter behind something (ie, crouch down behind the sofa, etc.).

    I'd be hard pressed to equate most words 1 to 1 in Korean, but after inspection of my dictionary it looks like 쭈그리다 most closely refers to assuming the position like "squat," and 웅크리다 carries meaning of "crouching" as a result of cold wind or fear or the like.

    My two cents. Much more room for interpretation I suppose.

  2. crouch is a more timid form which includes more than just squating. to squat is just the action of your body lowering to the ground with knees bent but to crouch always give me a feeling with is more of fear or to hide. like, a boy squating down to pick up his fallen papers and a beggar crouching behind a bin etc. what do you think?

  3. I agree with the above. To me, also, there is a duration issue: squatting seems possible for a more indefinite period of time, but crouching seems like the action is indended for a short duration and would be uncomfortable after a minute or so.

    Just a thought..


  4. Would anyone want to watch "Squatting Tiger, Hidden Dragon"?

  5. Haha... a dog or cat squatting versus crouching have different meanings, huh?

  6. According to this, "squat" means "sit on one's heels," and according to this, "crouch" can also mean "sit on one's heels," but can also mean "bend one's back forward from the waist on down," as if "stooping," "bending," or "bowing." Therefore, it seems the two words can substitute for each other in some cases, but not in others.

    As Jennifer said, crouching seems to have a sense of being more temporary than squating. Also, as as Fz said, we usually hide by crouching, not by squatting. However, if nature calls, we are going to squat, not crouch. And Sonagi is right, I do not think I would want to see a "squatting tiger" movie.

    I might update this post in the next day or two because I want to try to clear this up. By the way, you may have noticed that these words are related in form. They either have "~그리다" or "~크리다." Here is a list:

    쪼그리다 (작은말)
    쭈그리다 (큰말)
    쭈크리다 (거센말)

    옹그리다 (작은말)
    웅그리다 (큰말)
    옹크리다 (거센말

    오그리다 (작은말)
    우그리다 (큰말)


    옴츠리다 (작은말)
    움츠리다 (큰말)
    움치다 (움츠리다의 준말)
    옴치다 (옴츠리다의 준말)

  7. 쭈그리다 means squat.

    when you are walking down the street during winter and feel really cold, what you do is '웅크리다.'

  8. Annonymous,

    You bring up a good point. 웅크리다 is used to mean "crouch up to stay warm," not 쭈그리다. It can also be used to mean "crouch up out of fear." Nevertheless, Koreans also seem to use 웅크리다 to mean "squat." See the examples here.


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