On a recent upload to her Instagram, Sulli shared a picture of herself posing with actor Lee Sung Min, whom she had met through the movie “Real”, and captioned it “In the past with Sung Min-ssi”. While the post seems harmless, some of Sulli’s fans immediately became concerned with her use of the term “-ssi (씨)” to a senior from the acting industry, especially on a first name basis.
The “-ssi” term at the end of a person’s full or first name is a form of honorifics in the Korean language. According to Wikipedia, it “is the most commonly used honorific amongst people of approximately equal speech level.” So theoretically, the “-ssi” term can be used either respectfully and endearingly, and is widely accepted as both. However, to some Koreans, and heavily depending on the context, it is also culturally considered to be used in superiority, as to address someone who is junior to the speaker.
Those troubled with Sulli’s caption, calling Lee Sung Min by his first name followed by this term, are claiming that it was inappropriate for Sulli to address someone who is not only older than her, but also a huge “sunbae” to her in the industry by this term. The fans explained that it could be seen as disrespectful and become problematic for Sulli herself. As the concern grew, these fans drafted a document titled “Appeal” for Sulli that request her to be more careful when she speaks.
Translation: “Sulli’s fan community “Sulli Gallery” has been a loyal and supportive fandom to Sulli since her debut as a child actress in 2005 with the K-Drama “Seodongyo” and throughout her years of promotion as a part of the K-Pop group f(x).
As her fans, we appreciate the fact that Sulli is very open and communicative on her Instagram account. The general public is still paying a lot of attention to Sulli and the fans can stay connected to her, thanks to these carefree uploads.
Unfortunately, we have come to draft this appeal out of love because we are concerned.
On May 22, Sulli uploaded a picture of herself with an actor who is extremely her senior in the acting industry. The two met through a movie. In this process, Sulli used the term “-ssi” to address this actor. She has made this mistake before and gotten in trouble for it. We don’t want her to repeat the same mistake, so we are appealing to have that corrected.”
Sulli uploaded a copy of this appeal, along with a screenshot of a search on the definition of the word “appeal” which reads, “An appeal: A document that outlines a person’s complaints about something unfair and/or wrong.” And in the following caption, Sulli wrote, “Oh? You felt wronged? I see…” While Sulli did not explain her position any further, seeing from the contents of the post and the caption, she does not seem to believe she did anything wrong.
In a separate post, Sulli also explained a little further the story behind the “-ssi” term. She listed all the actors whom she has befriended and call by this term. Sulli made it clear that the friendly first-name basis has been accepted by the other party involved as well. She pointed out, “I obviously know what I’m doing, so why get all worked up?” and directly shut down the “fans” who tried to correct her.
Translation: “When Ui Seong-ssi and I first met, we decided to be friends. That’s why I’m Sulli-ssi and he is Ui Seong-ssi. Same goes for Sung Min-ssi, Jung Geun-ssi, Hae Jin-ssi, Chul Min-ssi, Seong Woong-ssi, and Won Hae-ssi. We’re all colleagues and friends who love each other. I obviously know what I’m doing, so why get all worked up?”
Back in 2016, Sulli actually went through the same exact controversy for addressing the same actor by the same term. While it did cause a bit of an issue back then, she explained that it is a nickname she has for the actor. Now that she has used the same “nickname” again, fans are more so convinced that the term “Sung Min-ssi” is mutually agreed upon between Sulli and actor Lee Sung Min and that there is nothing to appeal as being disrespectful or inappropriate.
The comments section of the recent post is flooding with encouragement for Sulli, from the understanding fans diminishing the controversy to insignificant. Some are praising Sulli for shutting down the “appeal” publicly like this and proving that such unnecessary hatred does not affect her.
Isn’t it good to hear her call him -ssi though? I think it’s actually very respectful and polite, yet not bound by any status differences… I really don’t get why this is a big deal. LOL. If this bothers you, you’re probably an old preachy asshole.