This post goes hand in hand with Hannah’s! She gave you real life examples of how she experienced a switch that you can read here-> ( https://satyanghaekorean.org/2021/11/07/a-note-on-korean-formalities-dropping-them-examples/ )
Remember that I am not native, so this is just my own conjecture based on the response given by my language partner to a sample conversation where 존댓말 is used and suddenly dropped once the elder finds out they are older:
He said it really depends on the context of the situation and the individual person you are talking to. There really is no “set rule”
WHEN CAN I FREELY USE IT
With people who are OBVIOUSLY children and with fellow classmates (primary and middle school. I recently learned this doesnt necessarily hold true in highschool. In Korea, strangers are owed a level of respect despite age). Since koreans count age by year vs actual date of birth, you are technically the same age as everyone in your class, so you can freely use 반말 (at least til high school)
SO WHEN CAN I USE IT?
If you find out the person is younger than you, you DO NOT automatically switch to 반말 of your own accord! You either ask for permission, or permission is granted.
SO HOW DO I GET PERMISSION?
The older person can ask the younger permission by saying 말 놔도 되요?
grammatically correct= 말 놓아도 돼요
(놓아 is often spelled as 놔 due to pronunciation)
놓다- release/let go of
literal translation- Can I let go of words?
The younger can give the elder permission by saying:
말 놓으세요– Please let go of words (you can speak casually)
People of the same age:
말 놓을 까요? = Shall we let go of words? (shall we speak comfortably?
반말 할까요? Shall we do 반말? (speak casually)
WHEN IS IT OK TO ASK TO DROP WORDS?
This is when the individual person and your closeness is key
It can seem rude if the elder asks to speak casually (you are still strangers afterall, which requires a level of respect in korea)
It can be rude for the younger who feels close to the elder to ask to speak casually (as the elder deserves a level of respect and may not feel close enough to the younger)
If your same age and past middle school stage, you are still strangers which deserves a level of respect so it can still come off as rude. (He told me he was roommates with someone of same age and they used 존댓말 for about 3 months)
HOW TO NOT COME OFF AS RUDE?
Use 존댓말 until you are given permission to drop it as even koreans struggle with this at times (just my opinion though)
INTERNET SETTING= SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCE
As the internet is extremely informal it has lax rules
He said someone switching to 반말 once finding out theyre older on here is acceptable as we are just conversating; however, doing so to their face (in person) can seem rude.
Feel free to add your own takes on this in the comments!
To sum up this blog, always always use 존댓말 unless you received permission to use 반말