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“Gapjil” refers to an entity in a position of power abusing that power to bully, take advantage of, or basically make life miserable in an unjustifiable way for a person of inferior position.
This could range from a high-ranking official unfairly taking away a subordinate’s privileges or a head of a company telling employees to run personal errands for him or her, to a customer of a golf course forcing an employee to kneel before him -- the last of which actually happened recently and was reported by local media Tuesday.
Gapjil is coined by combining two Korean words -- gap and jil.
“Gap” is a term widely used in legal contracts in reference to the first party, with subsequent parties referred to as eul, byeong, jeong and so on. So, a two-party contract is basically an agreement between gap and eul.
“Jil” is a derogatory term for a certain action.
The usage of the expression has significantly grown over the past decade, making occasional appearances in news headlines such as the 2014 Korean Air "nut rage" scandal.
While gapjil is broadly used to describe a toxic workplace culture, from sexual harassment to bullying and verbal abuse, a derivative of the expression is also gaining traction: “euljil.”
This refers to a person of conventionally inferior position conveniently using his or her position to shun work or responsibility and unfairly taking advantage of superiors. For example, a low-level employee calling it quits at 6 p.m. sharp, regardless of a task that needs to be done asap.
Another related phrase is “super eul,” which refers to a person in the eul position but with all the negotiating power, like a contracted worker who is so talented that nearly every company in the industry covets that person’s service.