In Korean dramas I have come accross "옥체" [jade like body] to refer to the body of a King as in:

밤이 늦어 전하의 옥체마저 상하실까 걱정이옵니다.

It is late at night, and I am afraid you [Your majesty's jade-body]may even end up harmed/sick.

Can this expression be used to refer to a boss' body example:

벌써 지치니까 회장님의 옥체마저 상하실까 걱정습니다

Since [you] are already tired, I am afraid you [Chairman's jade-body]may even end up harmed/sick.

2 Answers 2


There's a fine line between "polite" and "too polite." In modern Korean, terms like 옥체 is pretty much confined to historical dramas, as Korea no longer has a king. I'd argue that using 옥체 toward a living Korean person would constitute a "Wow this place is so dysfunctional that the boss thinks himself as a literal king" moment.

Perhaps I can draw parallel with a recent incident with a similarly old-fashioned expression. Last year, in a press conference, a reporter asked (then) president-elect Yoon a question, prefaced by "정말 외람되오나..." which would roughly translate to "Please pardon me daring to ask a question, but..."


하는 짓이 분수에 지나치다.

(I.e., doing something that should not be allowed from one's social status.)

It made a minor splash among Yoon's political opponents, as arguably asking questions to politicians is the job of journalists. There should be nothing socially unacceptable about a journalist asking a president-elect a question, and many felt that the expression was pretty out of place.

So, I'd argue 옥체 is similar. Hypothetically, if someone uses the term 옥체 toward their boss in, let's say, a place like Samsung or Hyundai, and if reporters hear about it, it will be a source of nationwide ridicule.


Naver's online dictionary lists a collection of the definitions of this word from various other dictionaries (표준국어대사전, 고려대한국어대사전, 우리말샘)

The primary meaning in all these cases seem to indicate this is used to refer to the body of the king or ruler

Eg: from 표준국어대사전
임금의 몸.

However, all the dictionaries seem to list a tertiary meaning of the word, where it is used to refer to any "body" in a dignified manner:

3. 남의 몸을 높여 이르는 말.

3. 편지 따위에서, 남의 몸을 높여 이르는 말.

3. noun 남의 몸을 높여 이르는 말.

So it looks like it does also have a more general meaning, in case you want to refer to someone in a more dignified manner. However, my personal opinion is that this is probably used in more formal situations, and depending on your relationship with the 회장님, if you suddenly use this to refer to him in a casual situation, it would probably look more like an insult or a joke.

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