If you don’t live in Korea or at least do so vicariously through Korean dramas and movies, chances are that you have not heard the term “mildang”, or 밀당 in Korean, before. Mildang is an abbreviation of milgodanggigi (밀고당기기), literally meaning push and pull, and refers to the constant power struggle between two people of the opposite sex.
In English, this can sometimes be translated as “playing hard to get” or “playing games”. Koreans can be masters in the arts of mildang, but may not necessarily want to admit it. In many cases it may be because they do it so naturally that they do not even consider it real mildang. It seems a common perception that mildang is necessary in each relationship, and a quick google search will show that many teenagers are looking for advice on how to do mildang right.
It often varies from guys to girls how the mildang act is being played out. And bear in mind that this is best played among couples not quite dating yet. After all, it’s all about keeping the other part interested while still appearing like you don’t care about them at all. Girls may play mildang by acting all sweet and flirtatious in one moment and then cold, and indifferent the next. They may also play coy and tell a guy that they had a dream about him, and then refuse to tell him what the dream was about. Or tell him that he’s really handsome. Almost as handsome as… You get the point. It’s all about keeping someone on the hook and building the suspense.
The preferred strategy for guys is usually by the powerful tool of texting – or should I say not texting. If a Korean guy is doing his mildang right, he’ll text a girl repeatedly only to leave her hanging when she then texts him back. Depending on his resolve, he may even leave her hanging for a couple of days, before he’ll take up the chat again. Just to show her that she’s not the only thing that matters in his world. This is where the two Korean slangwords 읽씹하다 or 안읽씹하다 come into play. (They mean to read and not reply to a text and to ignore a text, respectively.) If he’s really cold, he’ll also pay her some backhanded compliments or even tell her that her accomplishments are not all that great. When he does it best, he’ll be performing the ‘병주고약주다’ act, in which he undermines her self-esteem only to follow up by showering her with a series of heart-felt compliments.
Seems cruel? It sure can be. It may sound like something taken straight out of Barney Stinson’s playbook, but it can also be a lot of fun. For Koreans, it’s simply a way of flirting, and it’s perfect for your 썸남/썸녀 meaning someone you’re in a ‘flirtationship’ with. Just never take it too far, or you’ll risk ending up losing them.
If you want to know more about mildang, you can watch Hyunwoo and Adrien explain it in more detail in the video below.
Did you ever do mildang (or have you had it done to you)? Do share!