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Hello and welcome!  This is a quick intro to how I write K-pop slash.  If you’re new to the world of K-pop, the glossary of terms at the bottom may be helpful.  If you’re a K-pop veteran, please at least look over the first few paragraphs covering some of my style choices.  Thank you for reading! 

I’m not Korean and I’ve never been to Korea.  Right up front, I apologize for my ignorance.  Any cultural inaccuracies are my fault.  If anything in my work strikes you as insensitive or racist, I am genuinely very sorry.  If you come across a problem, I’ll be glad to address it.

The syntax of my K-pop stories is different from that of my other work.  You might notice minor differences in speech patterns.  Random examples: You’ll see the exclamation “ya!” more than you’ll see “hey!”  You’ll also see older characters refer to younger characters as kids, even when everyone involved is an adult.  The most obvious difference might be the compact dialogue: “Not eating?”

I use American ages, not Korean ages.  If Jonghyun was born on April 8, 1990, then on April 8, 2014, I’ll call him 24.  (The Korean system skews a year or two older.)  I also order names by family name first, so you’ll see “Kim Jonghyun,” not “Jonghyun Kim.”

G.O. only uses one period in his name, C.A.P. only uses two, etc.  As you can see, I have a habit of tacking an additional period onto the end.  I’ll try to be consistent within each story, but from one story to the next, that period might come and go.  And I tend to write “Shinee,” as opposed to “SHINee.”  And “MyName,” as opposed to “MYNAME.”  Sorry.

Dorm layouts change from story to story and, since I can’t keep accurate track of how every group’s dorm looks from one move to the next, they rarely reflect reality.  Some of the time I keep Infinite in their dorm from “Sesame Player,” for example, even though they’ve moved numerous times since then.  Sometimes EXO lives in a configuration they mentioned on the radio months ago, and sometimes they live in a configuration I made up for the convenience of the story.  I keep everyone in the group in the same dorm together, even if they live separately in real life.  Basically, please don’t read with any expectations that the dorm in a particular story looks anything like where a group currently lives. 

In the glossary following, I’ll explain terms in a very simplified way.  This is not meant to be comprehensive; please don’t take it as gospel.  I’m just giving you enough of an explanation to get you through a story, so that when you come across a term you’ll have a rough idea of what it means in context.  Any inaccuracies or cultural insensitivities are completely my fault.

Some of the terms are words you already know, like “schedule,” which are used a little differently.  Some are poorly Romanized (like “noonbeet” for 눈빛).

[Idol Group]

K-pop uses the term “idol group,” not “boy band.”  They refer to the members of the group as “members” or “the members,” as in, “The members and I went to the store today,” or, “Ya!  Members!  Hurry up!”  Members will also refer to the group as a team, as in, “We don’t act that way on our team.”

Which company an idol group is with makes a significant difference in its financial backing, the level of public interest at debut, and more.  DBSK, Super Junior, Shinee, EXO, and a bunch of others are with SM, which is by far the biggest idol powerhouse in South Korea.  Groups like MyName and U-Kiss are with much smaller companies.  It’s safe to assume that idols from the same company are fairly close, or at least deal with each other more often than they deal with any other random idol.  (Semi-recently, SM merged with/took over/entered into business with Woollim, Infinite’s company, which I mention because it comes up from time to time.)

Some groups are with companies started by other idols.  MBLAQ is with J. Tune Camp, founded by Rain; Teen Top is with Top Media, founded by Shinhwa’s Andy; MyName is with H2 Media, founded by Fly to the Sky’s Hwanhee.

Hopeful people (usually minors) sign up with companies as trainees.  Some trainees join a company through an audition process; some are scouted.  Some bounce from company to company before finally being accepted.  Some trainees are cut; some are put into a group and debut as idols.  Some trainees are with the company for years, and some are fast-tracked to debut.  Many, many people train but never debut.

Some idols are known to be very close.  Infinite’s Hoya has been friends with BigStar’s Feeldog and Baram since before debut, when they were in a dance group together, so Feeldog makes brief cameos in a few Infinite stories.  Shinee’s Key and Infinite’s Woohyun are close enough that Key shows up in my Infinite stories as a matter of course.  After the SM-Woollim merger, they actually formed a unit group, Toheart, and promoted together.

[Unit Group - Infinite H]
A unit group is like a sub-unit or an offshoot of the original group (or, in Toheart’s case, a secondary group).  Three members of Super Junior, for example, came together to form a ballad group called Super Junior-K.R.Y. (named for the three members: Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung).  Other Super Junior unit groups are Super Junior-T, Super Junior-Happy, and Super Junior-M.  EXO breaks up into EXO-K and EXO-M.  Infinite has Infinite H (the “H” stands for “hip-hop”), which is a sub-unit formed by the group’s two rappers.

The music shows are weekly music programs featuring live performances.  During a promotional period, an idol group will usually perform on four or five music shows each week.  The shows calculate sales, video views, fan votes, etc., to determine a weekly winner.  The main shows are “Music Bank,” “Music Core,” and “Inkigayo.”  There’s also “M! Countdown” and “Show Champion.”  It’s like “TRL,” if “TRL” still existed and had live performances instead of playing videos.  (Yes, in K-pop you get live performances every single week on multiple shows.  And yes, all of my USA pop culture references are from 1999.)

Special stages are one-of-a-kind performances on music shows or award shows.  They usually feature a group covering someone else’s song, or you’ll see various people from several groups perform together.

An important part of social interaction is the hyung/dongsaeng dynamic.  If a guy is in a close relationship/friendship with an older guy, he’ll call him “hyung.”  If he’s in a close relationship with an older woman, he’ll call her “noona.”  If a woman’s in a close relationship with an older woman, she’ll call her “unnie.”  If she’s in a close relationship with an older man, she’ll call him “oppa.”  If you’re close to someone younger, you call that person “dongsaeng,” regardless of gender.

“Hyung” and “oppa” mean “older brother.”  “Noona” and “unnie” mean “older sister.”  Someone does not have to be a blood relative to use those terms.  It just means that you’re close.  It’s used between friends and in romantic relationships.  It’s also used by fans; most of a male idol group’s fans are girls younger than the idols, so it’s stereotypical for fans to call male idols “oppa.”

It’s considered informal (and therefore disrespectful) for a dongsaeng to say a hyung/noona’s name without attaching the word “hyung” or “noona” behind it.  For example, as the youngest, MBLAQ’s Mir will use “hyung” for all of his members whenever he says their names (Seungho hyung, Joon hyung, etc.) or he’ll refer to them simply as “hyung,” “my hyung,” or “this hyung.”  They’ll call him by his name or, on occasion, “dongsaeng-ah,” or (since he’s the youngest) “maknae.”

In my fiction, pretty much all of the guys will use “hyung” with older guys.  Ninety percent of the time, that’ll mimic reality, because that’s how they actually speak.  There are a few exceptions where I take artistic license.  In the MyName “Between Members” stories, for example, Gunwoo will call Insoo his hyung, even though as far as I’ve seen Gunwoo doesn’t do that in real life.

You’ll also see terms like “writer noona” or “stylist noona” or “manager hyung” for various professionals working with/around the idols.  It’s how idols refer to staff members they’re used to working with.

People born in the same year might not refer to the one born first as hyung/noona, but if they were born far enough apart (like one in February and one in November), they might.  It depends on what they’ve agreed upon.  For example, Sehun is EXO’s maknae.  He calls all of the other members “hyung,” with the exception of Kai, who was born in the same year.

Hangul (the Korean language) has several different levels of formality.  You speak informally with your peers or those younger than yourself, more formally to elders and people of authority, etc.  Since I’m writing in English, you won’t be able to tell who’s addressing whom informally, but on occasion it’ll come up.  Someone will accuse someone else of not speaking formally enough, or someone will decide that a budding friendship is at a more comfortable level and it’s time to speak informally.  Generally, you can assume that anyone younger speaks formally to anyone older.

[Sehun - Maknae]

[Xiumin - Mat-Hyung]

[Xiumin - Mat-Hyung]

[Sehun - Maknae]
Yaja time is when everyone engages in a role reversal and flips relationships around, so that the eldest in the situation are treated like the youngest, and the youngest are treated like the eldest.  This is usually treated as a game.  It gives the youngest a chance to be on top for once, demanding respect and formal speech from the eldest.  (For examples, you can see it in Infinite’s “Sesame Player,” episode 6, and EXO’s “Showtime,” episode 8.)

The maknae is the youngest person in the group.  Since everyone in the group is older than the maknae, he’ll often refer to the other members as “my hyungs” or “the hyungs.”

The mat-hyung (맏형, sounds kind of like “mahd hyung”) is the oldest in a male group.

Idols live in dorms.  Don’t think of a college dormitory; it’s more like an apartment provided by the label.  Newer groups and groups from smaller (poorer) companies tend to have very barebones dorms; more success brings nicer furnishings.  Early on, most groups sleep on blankets/pallets on the floor, not beds.

The group’s manager lives in the dorm with the members.  (Some groups have more than one.)  Most of the time I gloss over that fact and act like the idols are there alone.

This would be a good time to mention that I don’t slash non-idols or non-celebrities.  I do write plenty of original characters in my original fiction (short stories here, books here, weekly updated series here), but in slash you’ll only see idols with other idols.

Words like “debut” and “comeback” will show up from time to time.  They’re probably self-explanatory, but just in case: “debut” is when a group first enters the industry.  For example, Shinee debuted in 2008 with their first song, “Replay.”  A “comeback” is when a group brings out a new song and enters a new promotional period.  K-pop tends to cycle very quickly, and some groups have multiple comebacks each year.

Professionally speaking, your relative senior is your sunbae; your relative junior is your hoobae.  For instance, DBSK debuted in 2003, Shinee debuted in 2008, and EXO debuted in 2012.  From Shinee’s perspective, DBSK is a sunbae group and EXO is a hoobae group.  A member of Shinee would call a member of DBSK “sunbae” or, more formally, “sunbaenim,” and would call a member of EXO “hoobae.”  (But not “hoobaenim,” because “nim” is a term of respect and you don’t have to be as respectful to your juniors/hoobaes.)

Every idol group has a leader.  It’s an official position within the group.  You might think of Justin Timberlake as the “leader” of *NSYNC (am I dating myself with this reference?), but this is more formal than that.  The leader does a lot of behind-the-scenes organizing and managing, corralling the members, coordinating with managers and staff, etc.  It’s a position of authority and responsibility. The leader tends to be the mat-hyung or oldest unnie, but not always.

Other positions include main vocal, lead vocal, main rapper, lead rapper, dancer, visual (the official good-looking one), and maknae (see above).

Duizhang” is the Mandarin version of “leader.”

A selca is a “self-camera,” or a photo you take of yourself.  (Known in the USA as a selfie.)

A PD is a production director, the person in charge of a music show, reality show, or variety show.

Monitoring is basically reviewing footage, like watching a recording of a performance to see how it went.

The word “schedule” is used like “appointment,” as in, “We have a lot of schedules today,” or, “We have another schedule after this one.”

Noraebang is karaoke.  (Literal translation: “song room.”)  When you “go to noraebang” you usually go to a place with individual rooms where you can hold your own noraebang party.  There’s a video screen, a microphone, a door, and a table, and you can order drinks and snacks.

Fighting is a term of encouragement.  If you want to cheer someone on, you’ll say, “Hyung, fighting!”

Daebak means “great” or “the best.”  For example, “That performance was daebak!” or, simply, “Ah, daebak!”

Skinship is touching.  Like physical affection.  Hugging, putting an arm around someone, holding hands, etc.

Aegyo is cuteness.  If someone’s naturally adorable, he’s “full of aegyo.”  Maknaes are generally expected to “perform aegyo” to lift the group’s spirits.

The best way I can describe noonbeet is that it’s powerful eye contact.  A more direct translation is “eye light” or “eye shine.”  Teen Top’s Chunji, for example, has great noonbeet; when he looks directly into the camera, his eyes sparkle.

When someone is “greasy,” he’s a little too suave or embarrassingly slick.  The term comes up around Super Junior’s Eeteuk and Infinite’s Woohyun a lot.,” he’s a little too suave or embarrassingly slick.  The term comes up around Super Junior’s Eeteuk and Infinite’s Woohyun a lot.

19+ is a rating (like NC-17) which limits a TV show or movie to an audience of people 19 or older. If someone does something risqué on a variety show, the producers might put a joking “19+” symbol to cover it up. (19 Korean age = about 17/18.)

[Ideal Type]
Ideal type
comes up a lot.  One of the most popular questions which idols are asked in interviews is, “What’s your ideal type?”  It just means (in heteronormative fashion), “What kind of girl/woman are you into?”  Sometimes they’ll answer with a specific person’s name (a favorite actress, for example) or with a description (“I like girls with long hair and lots of aegyo”).

[Fan Service]

Fan service is attention given to fans or something done to please the fans.  Waving at fans, throwing hearts, and member-on-member skinship are all kinds of fan service.  “Throwing hearts” means forming a heart shape with your hands and then pretending to toss it or aim it at fans/an audience.  This is such a common practice among idols that they’ve been forced to become creative in their heart formations.

Antis are anti-fans, or haters.

Sasaengs are known as stalker fans or extreme fans.  They have a bad reputation.

[The Pepero Game]
Speaking of fan service, this would be a good time to mention the pepero game.  This comes up on reality shows and variety shows and behind-the-scenes challenges.  I hold a stick of pepero (a cookie stick) between my teeth on one end, and you take the other end of it between your teeth, and we chew towards each other like Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti.  The point is to chew the pepero stick down to a tiny nub without making contact with each other.  Whichever team of two people gets the smallest nub wins.  (If contact is made and the two people kiss accidentally, their team loses but the fans win, if you know what I’m saying.)

[The Paper Passing Game]
Idols also do things like the paper passing game or other suck-and-blow games, where an object is passed from one person’s mouth to another down the line, and whichever team passes the most pieces of paper/cards/whatever in the time allotted wins. 

(As far as the fans are concerned, the point is for the idols to miss and/or drop the piece of paper and accidentally kiss.  Are you sensing a theme here?)


Chocolate abs
are the equivalent of a washboard stomach.  The term is a reference to the segments of a chocolate bar (like a Hershey’s bar).

[Chocolate Abs]
[Courtesy of MyName's Insoo]

Hairstyles change from one comeback to another, sometimes even mid-comeback.  The haircut and/or hair color of most idols varies often enough that describing someone’s hair in too much detail immediately dates the story, tying it to one specific month.  Some people love Dongwoo’s pink hair or Leo’s long hair or Key’s half-shaved look; some people hate it.  As a result, sometimes I’ll be specific, and sometimes I’ll let your imagination fill in a few blanks.

A couple name is the name of a romantic idol pairing where two names are joined into one.  (It’s like Bennifer for Ben/Jennifer.  Am I dating myself again?  It’s like Kimye for Kim and Kanye.  Is Kimye a thing?  I think that it’s a thing.)  Sometimes the idols themselves come up with the couple name, like when Super Junior’s Eeteuk and Kangin named themselves “KangTeuk couple.”    My favorite couple name is Yadong for Infinite’s Hoya and Dongwoo, because “yadong” means “porn,” so they’re basically the porn couple.  This amuses me.  Speaking of Infinite, while international fans call Sunggyu/Woohyun “Woogyu,” Korean fans call them “Hyunsung,” so that’s the term I use when it comes up.

Some homes/dorms have shower curtains while others don’t.  As a result, some stories will mention a shower curtain while at other times the guys have an unobstructed view directly into the shower.

Technically, a chaebol is a “a family-controlled industrial conglomerate.”  Popularly, “chaebol” is also the term used to refer to the heir of a family business.  (Picture the handsome, wealthy leading man in any Korean drama.  Also picture Super Junior’s Siwon.)

Infinite’s Nam Woohyun’s name is written as 남우현 남우 sounds like 나무, which means “tree,” so occasionally he’s referred to as a tree.

Fan club names and even colors come up from time to time, so here’s a handy list:

DBSK – Cassiopeia – pearl red

Super Junior – Elf – pearl sapphire blue

Shinee – Shawol – pearl aqua

U-Kiss – Kiss Me – pearl pink

MBLAQ – A+ – pearl chocolate

Infinite – Inspirit – pearl metal gold

Teen Top – Angel – pearl light lavender

MyName – MYgirl

VIXX – Starlight

You should probably also keep in mind that the members of EXO have superpowers, because that comes up a few times.  (I wrote that sentence with a straight face, then paused to ponder my life’s choices.)

Thank you for reading!


Super Junior
Teen Top

Between Members (multiple groups)
The Note (crossover)
Let's Love (crossover)

MHT Writing Style
K-pop Intro and Glossary
MHT History

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