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Hangul 영감
Hanja 令監
Revised Romanization Younggam, Young-gam
McCune–Reischauer Youngkam, Young-kam

Yeong-gam or Younggam (hangul:영감, in hanja:令監) is a nickname or Korean honorific for an old man[1] in Korea. Yeong-gam was historically an honorific title for second-level and third-level civil servants;[2] Vice-Minister, Assistant Secretary[3] of the Korean Goryeo Dynasty and Joseon Dynastys.

Over time the word became an honorific or nickname for a judge, county governor,[4] head of a township[5] or old man.[4] In recent years, yeong-gam has come to be used primarily as a nickname for elderly men.[6] Yeong-gam has been used in Korea for more than a thousand years.


second-level civil servant of Joseon Dynastys

Yeong-gam was first used as an honorific for a lower level civil servants [7][8] of the Goryeo Dynasty and Joseon Dynastys, though the first instance of its use is unknown. Nyeong-gam(녕감, 령감), was the first spelling used for this name, it was later changed to yeong-gam. The term yeong-gam comes after public office and peerage titles in a man's name.

In the Joseon Dynastys, men over their 80th birthday were bestowed the honorary position Assistant Secretary. At their 90th birthday they were given the honorary position of Vice-Minister. [7]

With the fall of Joseon, the position of 'Sang-gam(상감)'. Along with the change in the meaning of these positions, Korean patriarchal perspectives were added to the usages of young-gam, which became a common designation; 1. When judges refer to each other 2. When others who are not judges refer to judges 3. When people refer to the mayor 4. When people refer to their elders 5. When women refer to their husbands.

After the Joseon dynastys, the use of yeong-gam continued in Japan and Colonial Korea as an honorific for the position of country governor, judge, prosecutor, and district attorney.[9]

Modern usage[edit]

After 1962, the Supreme Court of South Korea[9] sought to eliminate the habit of using the term ‘Young-gam’ for judges since it was considered to be an anti-democratic thought. In modern Korea 'Young-gam’ is commonly used as a suffix that comes after the last name of elderly men.[10]

During the Goryeo Dynasty and Joseon Dynastys yeong-gam followed one's title, in modern use yeong-gam is used by itself.


Young-gam is a homograph. It is not only a title for elderly men, it means 'inspiration' in Korean (Hangul).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [News] OnKey In Jonghyun’s Birthday Fanacc (Update)
  2. ^ [최용민의 좌충우돌] 국회의원, ‘머슴’과 ‘영감’의 역설 아시아투데이 2011-01-17
  3. ^ 의전서열 한겨레 2005.07.25
  4. ^ a b 이 대단한 분 중도일보 2004-03-22 (in Korean)
  5. ^ korean name is 'myeon'(면 ; 面)
  6. ^ 일상에 남은 옛말의 흔적 한국경제 2011/04/01 (in Korean)
  7. ^ a b [금요칼럼] 겉만 번지르르한 '실버 공약' Busanilbo 2007.12.14
  8. ^ 삼도수군통제사 이순신 조선시대 고위직 '종2품' hangyorye 2005.02.20 (in Korean)
  9. ^ a b [한마당-염성덕] 영감과 영감탱이 2010.09.13 (in Korean)
  10. ^ ‘영감’에 깃든 우리말 변천사 한국경제 2011/03/25

External links[edit]