I was reading a manhwwa when someone said "운전기사, 식모살이나 하는 주제에!" angrily to the protagonist.

The protagonist's parents are a chauffer and a maid, so I think she is saying "The driver, the maid are dead!" I'm not sure though?

Is 식모살이나 a maid? And is "하는 주제에!" meaning that they're dead?

I thought 주제에 was subject. I am confused.

2 Answers 2


First, "운전기사, 식모살이나 하는 주제에" is not a full sentence. It is like saying "When you're ..." or "With ..." without giving the main clause. The implication is "Why do you act like that (when you're only [something bad])?".

식모 is a very disparaging word for the old style live-in maid with very low pay (the word is rarely if ever used anymore because it sounds offensive). 식모살이 means living (살이) as such a maid and 식모살이를 하다 is making a living doing that menial job.

주제 here is not related to "subject" and means a shameful state of being poor, dastardly, etc. It is a disparaging expression (with a varying degree) mostly used in phrases like NOUN-인 주제에 (when you're only NOUN, where NOUN is a despised thing) or VERB-는 주제에 to suggest the person is no more than being or doing such a lowly thing, a little like "Look at you/them, you're/they're (doing) such a despisable thing". It is used when such a person expects too much for themselves or acts too out of line with their situation.

Example: 돈도 없는 주제에 고급 레스토랑만 찾는다 = He is penniless but he's still keen on going to high class restaurants.


It roughly translates into How dare you, you lowly driver and maid!

That's what the syntax 감히 누구 주제에 or 감히 뭘하는 주제에 stands for, how dare you, you (what).

(1) 감히 천한놈 주제에 나한테 반말이냐! How dare you speak to me without honorifics, you low class scum!

(2) 감히 똥간이나 치우는 주제에 나한테 반말이냐! How dare you speak to me without honorifics, you sewer cleaner!

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