Since Takeo Toi’s discussion in The Anatomy of Dependence (1973), the concept of amae has generated considerable interest in the fields of psychology, anthropology, communication and other fields. However, there have been few agreements on the definition and functions of amae (Behrens, 2004). Furthermore, it has rarely drawn interest from linguists in general and has rarely been discussed in the context of social interaction. This study aims to examine the concept of amae in Japanese and the corresponding phenomena in Korean, and attempts to explore the similarities and differences between them.
The prototype of the amae relationship is the mother-infant relationship (Doi,1973). Even an adult can assume the role of a baby, showing his or her need for dependence on others and expecting to be accepted. It turns out that amae-like phenomena frequently occur in everyday life in Korea as well (Lee, 1982). There is no single term for the concept, but it can be translated in many different ways in Korean, for example, aykyo, ayang, ungsek, erikwang, etc. It can have either positive or negative connotations depending on the situation.
It seems that the psychological system that causes dependent behaviors such as ungsek in Korea is cheong, one of the key terms characterizing the Korean culture. Cheong, like amae, starts in the mother-infant relationship extending to familial and to other relationships. A corpus-based analysis shows that cheong is conceptualized as gluing people together, growing over time, and also potentially fatal because it assumes illogical, uncalculated, and personal relationships.
In conclusion, unlike some Japanese scholars' claim that amae is the Japanese concept that exists only in Japan, it seems that similar phenomena do exist in Korea as well, but that Korean has no single term corresponding to amae in Japanese. It seems that cheong can be posited in Korean as the inner emotional system that makes amae-like behaviors possible, and that there is not single term, but many, designating the behaviors, possibly because the behaviors have a negative connotation and are not encouraged in Korean society.