The Korea Herald


Newly coined word “rini” demeans children: rights watchdog

By Park Han-na

Published : May 4, 2022 - 17:00

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Popular internet slang words derived from the Korean word “eorini,” which means children, may promote negative stereotypes and discrimination against children, the country’s human rights watchdog said Tuesday.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea urged related government bodies to find ways for the public to refrain from using the newly coined words that compare a beginner in a certain field to a child, saying it can demean children.

“Eorini” is a formal way of referring to children, according to the National Institute of Korean Language dictionary.

In recent years, internet users started to coin new words using “rini” from eorini like a suffix to refer to someone who has just begun to take an interest, or have a low skill level in, a certain area. For example, a novice in cooking is described as “yorini,” a compound of “yori,” meaning cooking in Korean and “rini.” A beginner in stock investment is called as “jurini” – with the prefix from the Korean word for stocks, “jushik.“ A layperson in real estate investment is called “burini” – with the prefix from “budongsan,” or real estate.

The watchdog called on the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to come up with promotional and educational measures to prevent the use of the word “rini” in official documents of public institutions.

It also delivered its opinion to the chairman of the Korea Communications Standards Commission to map out appropriate measures to ensure that such expressions are not used in broadcasting and the Internet.

Children are “subjects of rights” and “independent individuals who deserve special protection and respect,” the watchdog said in its statement.

“As these expressions are indiscriminately expanded and reproduced through broadcasting or the Internet, distorted perceptions and evaluations of children can take root in society,” it said.

The ruling came after a petitioner filed complaints with the rights body in May later year over the use of “rini,” arguing that the term instigates discrimination against children by viewing them as “imperfect and immature” beings.

The petitioner asserted that it is necessary to prohibit the use of such expressions in public documents and broadcasts.

The watchdog, while advising public agencies not to use such terms, dismissed the petition itself, saying that the case had no specific victims or damages to deal with.

In response, the Culture Ministry took a cautious stance. “There is also the thought that it is unreasonable to view it as a discriminatory expression, as it appears that the word is being used to describe people affectionately rather than to belittle them.”