생 has multiple meanings, including fresh, raw, live, unpasteurized, and a other related concepts. The Chinese character for it is 生 and it appears in numerous word compounds. But in this post, I am specifically interested in the use of 생 in the fresh or raw sense of the word, as I think this is a particular virtue in Korean culture. In the signs of restaurants, you’ll see this word at a far higher ratio than you would see ‘fresh’ or ‘raw’ in the ads or signs of North American restaurants.
The first example is this 생오리 (ori – duck) restaurant.
The restaurant pictured below is specializing in fresh 삼겹살 (sam-gyup-sal). 삼겹살 is a particular kind of thinly-sliced, fatty pork, very popular in Korea.When a meat restaurant advertises its 생-ness (freshness), I think what it is really trying to do is emphasize that its meat hasn’t been sitting for months in a freezer, nor has it come from around the world on a boat. The words at the top of this door say 국내산 (guk-nae-san), meaning that the meat has come from domestic 국내 pigs.
This 찜질방 says 생 in the sign for unknown reasons. Perhaps, fresh is how you feel once you’ve been here.
Another common use of 생 is in reference to draft beer. If you want a glass of beer, ask for 생맥주, whereas if you want a bottle ask for 병맥주. I took this picture of a beer garden at the base of Dobongsan (도봉산) mountain just north of Seoul.
Even though Koreans do not often use Chinese characters (hanja) these days, the character for 생 (生) is widely known and often appears in signs. This raw fish (회) restaurant is an example. At a Korean raw fish restaurant, the fish are often kept alive until moments before being cut and then eaten raw, so there really is no debate as to whether the fish is fresh.
This place sells fruit juice made from real fruit, as indicated by the word 생.
This soju (소주 – it is a well-known type of Korean alcohol) advertisement has the English word ‘fresh’ right in the middle of the ad. Most famous brands of modern soju are actually composed simply of ethanol mixed with flavoring, sugar, and water. Fresh isn’t really an adjective that I would use to describe ethanol.