Are you looking for an informal guide to Korea? Do you need someone to practice your Korean with? Or are you hoping to star in your own real-life k-drama? Well, it’s easier than you think. Join us and learn how to rent an oppa in Korean or another language.
What Is “Oppa” in Korean and How Do I Use It?
If you’ve watched k-dramas and listened to songs like Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” then you know the word “oppa” (오빠). “Oppa” in Korean means “older brother” and is usually used by a young woman to address her older brother. But there are other people who use this word.
Note: Watch out for the hangul for "oppa" onscreen between 0:31-1:03!
Girls who are really close to a guy their age or older use “oppa.” (Guys will use “hyung” (형), or “older brother.”) And of course, they’ll use it with their boyfriends, as you might recall from k-dramas!
“Oppa” is NEVER used for strangers or seniors in the workplace or school. The only exception is idols, where fans call their favorite male members “oppa” to show their affection. It’s both cringey and cute and part of K-pop life!
Image Credits: Han JiSung (한 지성) Spain via Twitter
How Do You Rent an Oppa?
Let’s address the elephant in the room: renting an oppa is NOT the same thing as dating. The oppa here is just being rented for a few hours to show you around the city, similar to a rent-a-friend service.
Image Credits: Lim Jeong-yeo via The Korean Herald
The most popular oppa rental company was Oh My Oppa, founded in 2018 by Lee Joon-woo. In an interview with The Korean Herald, Lee explained that it wasn’t intended to be serious. “It started out as a joke that foreigners coming to Korea expect to find men like the ones they see on dramas, but no, there aren’t any men on the streets that are as good-looking, tall and nice as the TV stars.”
Image Credits: BuzzFeedVideo via YouTube
However, the social media response was better than he expected, and he launched a real website. It featured seven locals who could be hired out to do tours, take pictures, and just talk to tourists, who were mainly from European and Southeast Asian countries.
The service worked this way: women could choose an oppa based on looks, his personality, and what languages he spoke. Then they picked a date and time, with the fee depending on the number of hours he was rented out (between $70-$150). Finally, they enjoyed their time together, with some people renting an oppa again in the future!
Due to COVID-19, Oh My Oppa paused operations. As of 2023, its website is no longer running, and there’s no word on if or when it will resume business. If female tourists are still interested in meeting an oppa, they’ll have to do it through Kakao Talk or word of mouth. Sorry to disappoint you, Seoulmates!
Rules for Meeting Oppa
Regardless about how you meet an oppa, there are certain guidelines you need to follow. Like we mentioned before, renting an oppa isn’t the same as dating. He’s simply there to show you around Korea and familiarize yourself with Korean culture.
Image Credits: Oh My Oppa via Facebook
While services like Oh My Oppa offered oppas who could speak in English and other languages, it doesn’t mean they’re fluent. You may run into a language barrier. Learn some Korean phrases and be patient if there’s something neither of you understands.
Image Credits: Asian Boss via YouTube
Unlike Oh My Oppa, which didn’t operate at night or encourage drinking with tourists, you might meet an oppa at a bar or club. If you do, use common sense. A real gentleman won't drink too much and will make sure you get home safely. Beware of red flags!
Image Credits: Image via Civitatis
Finally, separate the k-drama and idol men from real life. Like Lee said, foreign tourists have unrealistic expectations of Koreans from media. Your “oppa” might not be as handsome or cool as the characters onscreen, but he'll be nice and kind in his own way, or even better! Go into your meeting not looking for a k-drama romance but a real-life and long-lasting friendship.
Image Credits: Oh My Oppa via Facebook
Whether you use Oh My Oppa or other sites, you’re bound to meet someone who can help you learn more about the Korean language, culture, and everything in between. Remember to be yourself and be respectful, so that both of you can have a good time!
Have you rented an oppa before? Tell us your experience below!