Korean Hat Slang!

If you’re living in Korea, you’ve probably noticed the hats with clever bits of Korean written on them that started showing up in the major party districts about two years ago.  Since it’s never a good idea to wear a hat emblazoned with a phrase you can’t understand, I thought I’d take this opportunity to translate the witticisms found on this headwear.  All of the phrases here are in common usage and important to know.Row 1

  • 달인: Master (as in “master of a certain field” etc.  Similar to hats that say, “Boss” or “Ace” etc.)
  • 내일 입대: I enlist tomorrow (Means — jokingly — that the wearer is joining the army tomorrow.)
  • 오늘 생일: Today’s my birthday (This would probably be written, “Birthday Boy,” on similar hats in the US)
  • 곧미남: Future hottie.  Lit. “Soon-to-be beautiful man.”  This phrase is likely a play on the phrase in row 3, “꽃미남,” which is similar to “pretty boy.”
  • 싸가지: Bitch or jerk, depending on the gender of the wearer.


Row 2

  • 서민: Common folk (“Everyday guy” would probably also work.)
  • 품절남: A taken man (Lit. “sold-out man.”  Read: a guy that’s married or in a serious relationship.  Similar to “I’m called for.” etc.)
  • 품절녀: A taken woman
  • 꽃미녀: Beauty (Lit. a flower-like beauty)
  • 지존: Tops (as in the best or greatest)


Row 3

  • 숫총각: Virgin
  • 꽃미남: Pretty boy (Lit. flower-like male beauty)


Categories: All Levels, Korean Slang!, Level 5, Level 6 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m an Extrovert!

KChamp Podcast 11: ‘I’m an Extrovert!’ in Korean

When describing oneself in English, the traditional fallback terms are “extrovert” and “introvert” or their cousins, “sociable” and “antisocial.” Today we are going to take a look at how you can express those ideas in Korean.

Extrovert: 외향적인 사람
Extroverted: 외향적


  • A: 새 직원을 뽑는다고 들었어요. 어떤 사람을 구하세요?
  • B: 사람을 많이 상대하는 일이니까 외향적인 사람이면 좋겠어요.

I would seem like the antonym of “외향적” would be “내향적,” but alas, the much more commonly used word is “내성적.”
“내향적” is however used in more clinical contexts.

Introvert: 내성적인 사람
Introverted: 내성적

Personality: 성격

  • A: 이수진 씨는 마음에 드는 사람에게 먼저 다가가는 편이에요?
  • B: 제가 좀 내성적인 성격이어서 다른 사람에게 먼저 적극적으로 다가가지 못하는 편이에요.

Another good word to know is “사교적” or “sociable.”

It’s the perfect way to describe a person who makes friends easily and is a polished social butterfly.


  • A: 주희가 전학한 학교에서 친구들하고 잘 지낼 수 있을까요?
  • B: 걱정 말아요. 주희는 사교적인 성격이니까 금방 잘 적응할 거예요.

And last but not least is the category for the rest of us, “antisocial.”

This too, if translated directly would be “반사회적,” but that is used to describe actual political movements and policies. The word you need here is “비사교적.”


  • A: 민수 씨는 처음 보는 사람하고도 참 잘 어울리는 것 같아요.
  • B: 제가 원래는 비사교적인 성격이었는데 직장에 다니면서 성격이 많이 바뀌었어요.
Categories: All Levels, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Saying “It Depends” in Korean

If you’ve been working at Korean for more than a few weeks, I’m sure you’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to find an appropriate translation for a particular word or phrase. Sometimes it’s a Korean phrase that no one seems to be able to translate into English for you, and sometimes it’s an English phrase that you can’t seem to express in Korean. There are many phrases that people seem keen to pronounce “untranslatable” for whatever reason.

Maybe it’s because I’m a translator by trade, but my take is that everything can be translated. People tend to think the same thoughts the world over, and given enough time, you can always find the perfect translation for any verbal expression. It’s just that sometimes it takes a really, really long time to come up with the right word. In a few instances, I’ve spent more than a year trying to find the perfect analogue to some idiom or proverb. But in the end, there always is an answer.

Anyhow, I thought I’d start a series on phrases that often get the “Untranslatable!” treatment. Today’s phrase is “It depends on ____ .” I asked my Korean friends how to express this for years and never got a satisfactory answer until I finally just figured it out myself.

Today we’ll be taking a look at a few ways of saying “It depends” in Korean.


  • __에 달려 있어요.

This phrase is literally translated as, “It hangs on ___ ,” but the usage is almost identical to “It depends on ___ .”

A: 한국말을 잘 하려면 얼마나 공부해야 돼요?

B: 그건 정확히 말하기 어려워요. 얼마나 노력하느냐에 달려 있으니까요.

A: 내일 면접 시험에서 합격하면 거기서 일할 거야?

B: 글쎄. 아직 잘 모르겠어. 월급을 얼마나 주느냐에 달려 있어.


  • __ 나름이에요

This is probably what you’ll find when you look up “depend” in the English-Korean dictionary, but this phrase is rarely used. It was my solution to the “depends on” dilemma for a few years, and people always seemed to understand, but I never saw a Korean use that phrase in all that time.

A: 한국 사람은 다 노래방에 가는 걸 좋아하는 줄 알았는데 지원 씨는 별로 안 좋아하나 봐요.

B: 성격 나름이죠. 저는 노래방보다는 조용한 데서 대화하는 게 더 좋아요.

A: 아니, 저게 누구야? 홍민경 씨 저렇게 입으니까 정말 못 알아볼 정도네.

B: 그러게 말이에요. 역시 여자는 꾸미기 나름인가 봐요.


  • __에 따라 달라요

This phrase literally means “It differs commensurately to ___ ,” but is used very similarly to “It depends on ___ .” Just put the factor that things depends in in the first blank and you’ll be all set.

A: 지난번에 왔을 때는 김치볶음밥이 있었는데 오늘은 없어요?

B: 네, 점심 메뉴는 요일에 따라 달라요. 오늘 점심 메뉴는 생선찌개예요.

A: 이 휴대폰을 쓰면 한 달에 요금이 얼마나 나와요?

B: 어떤 요금제를 사용하느냐에 따라 달라요.


  • It depends

When it comes to the stand-alone phrase, “It depends,” your best bet is probably “그때 그때 달라요.” The phrase’s meaning is slightly different, but it plays almost exactly the same role as “It depends” in English.

For a bonus phrase, let’s take a look at “(누구)의 마음이다.” This phrase is probably closest to “It’s up to (someone)” or “It’s (someone’s) decision.”



Categories: All Levels, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Korean Study Tip: Comic Books

Breaker and Bakuman


If you’re looking to incorporate Korean study into your daily pop culture consumption routine but have a hard time stomaching Korean soap operas, comic books might just be the answer. Because the story is told through dialogue, comics provide the perfect opportunity to observe Korean phrases in action. Also, the written medium always you to see precisely what is being said — something that is not possible when studying by watching Korean TV.

One caveat though: comic books are not as easy as you might expect. Perhaps because of its image as a favorite pastime of the youth, comic-book reading seems like a very accessible, elementary-level foray into the realm of the written word. You will soon realize, however, that Korean comic books are no joke indeed. One can find all manner of phrases in the pages of a comic book: everything from Chinese-derived proverbs to street Korean. The good thing about comics though, is that the amount of dialogue per page is limited. That means that you can still indulge in a satisfying page turn every few minutes. Literature or newspaper articles on the other hand, can easily turn into a super slog-fest that sees you turning a page every half hour or even worse, depending on the content.

My recommendation with reading-comprehension work in general would be to try to adhere to a rule of only looking up one word every two pages. If you let yourself run wild with the dictionary, you’ll end up looking up so many words per page that you never make it through a book and you’ll soon lose interest. The important thing with any study method is continuing on, even when the going gets tough. Do yourself a favor and keep your feet to the fire. You can always come back and re-read the book in a few months anyway.

I always jot down every new word or phrase I come across. In the beginning stages of Korean, however, every phrase I encountered was new to me. I often got bogged down trying to make a record of every verbal curiosity. To arrest your slip into the morass of insatiable vocabulary avarice, triage your note-taking. Impose limits on how much you take down. The-more-the-better logic doesn’t pan out when you’re drowning in a vocabulary flood of your own making. You can only memorize a max of 20 or so new words per day, so make ’em count. Just highlight the words you don’t know, and come back for them later.

Here are a few comic books I recommend:

The story of two high-schoolers trying to make it as professional comic book writers.

A homegrown martial-arts series.

미스터 초밥왕
The story of a boy on a quest to become Japan’s greatest sushi chef.


Categories: All Levels, On Korean | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

10 Very Easy Korean Verbs

This set of Korean verbs is for the very elementary learners out there. If you’re taking basic Korean, this could serve as a useful review. If you’re teaching yourself online, these are probably some of the most widely used, most important verbs in Korean.

If you’re encountering these words for the first time, you’ll probably be curious about how to make phrases out of them. I’ve included a set of very rudimentary sentences here.

The following sentences are all in the 어/아요 form. The cool thing about that is that they all do double duty as imperative and a declarative statements. The provided translations are in the declarative form, but bear in mind that they could also be employed as commands as well. Most of the sentences below can even be used to mean “Let’s ____ .” For example, the first sentence could be read, “I’m studying Korean,” “Let’s study Korean,” or “Study Korean!.”

한국어를 공부해요.
I’m studying Korean.

친구를 만나요.
I’m meeting a friend.

동생한테 전화해요.
I’m calling my younger brother (or sister).

버스를 타요.
I’m taking the bus.

영화를 봐요.
I’m watching a movie.

뭔가 먹어요.
I’m eating (something).

책을 사요.
I’m buying a book.

한국어로 말해요.
I’m speaking Korean.

글을 써요.
I’m writing.

여기 앉아요.
I’m taking a seat here.

Categories: Level 1 | Tags: , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

It’s useless!

-어/아 보았자(봤자): Even if you _____ it’s not going to _____ / It’s no use to ____

This is the perfect pattern to use when you want to tell someone that the suggested course of action is unlikely to yield any positive results and they’d be better off not doing it at all. It suggests that a certain action would be in vain.

어떤 행동을 시도해본다는 뜻을 지닌 ‘어/아 보다’에 ‘-자’가 결합된 형태입니다. 앞에 나오는 어떤 행동을 해본다고 해도 결과가 기대한 대로 나오지 않을 거라는 의미를 나타냅니다.

Dialogue 1

  • A: 여보, 경수가 요즘 숙제도 안 하고 매일 비디오 게임만 해요.
  • B: 뭐라고 좀 혼내요.
  • A: 내가 말해 봤자 소용도 없어요. 당신이 한마디 해줘요.
  • A: Sweetie, Gyeongsu hasn’t been doing his homework recently and just plays video games all the time.
  • B: Well, you’d better give him a talking-to.
  • A: Me saying something won’t make any difference. Please just talk to him a bit.
Dialogue 2
  • A: 진수가 오늘 모임에는 나온다고 했는데 왜 여태 안 오지? 전화도 안 받고.
  • B: 기다려봤자 안 올 거예요. 온다고 하고 안 나온 게 어디 한두 번이에요?
  • A: Jinsu said he would be at the meeting today. Why isn’t he here yet? And he’s not answering the phone either.
  • B: Waiting is no use. He’s not going to show up. It’s not like this is the first time he’s pulled this.
Dialogue 3
  • A: 김대리가 자꾸 뒤에서 내 험담을 하고 다니는 것 같아. 아무래도 가만히 두면 안 되겠어. 오늘은 좀 따져 봐야지.
  • B: 그냥 둬. 그 사람 상대해 봤자 자네만 손해야. 또 어떤 말을 꾸며댈지 몰라.
  • A: I think Mr. Kim is talking trash about me behind my back. I don’t think I can just let this one slide. Today’s the day for us to have a little talk.
  • B: Just leave it alone. You stand nothing to gain from dealing with that guy. And you never know what other ridiculous stories he might end up telling about you.
Categories: Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Discussing the Olympics with your Korean friends!

This post was originally for EnglishinKorean.com, but I thought it would be of use over here as well.

우리 제일 중요한 말부터 시작합시다. 제가 이미 트위터 통해서 말씀드렸듯이 ‘올림픽’이라는 말을 영어로 옮기면 ‘Olympic’이 아니라 ‘Olympics’입니다. ‘Olympic’은 형용사이므로 ‘I’m watching the Olympic’같은 문장은 문법에 안 맞고 ‘I’m watching the Olympics’라고 말씀하시면 됩니다. 반면에 ‘Olympic’이라는 단어를 맞게 활용하시려면 명사 앞에 놓으셔야 됩니다. 예를 들어서 ‘Olympic swimmer’, ‘Olympic gold medalist’, ‘the Olympic Games’ 등등.

With the Olympics in full swing, I thought now might be a good time to discuss vocabulary and expressions related to the games.

Olympics-related Vocabulary

Verbs and Phrases:
To qualify: 예선을 통과하다
To win a medal: 메달을 따다
To set a record: 신기록을 세우다
To break a record: 기록을 깨다
To throw a match: 일부러 경기에서 지다
To fix a match: (도박이나 다른 이유로) 경기의 승부를 조작하다
To make it onto the podium: (1, 2, 3위 안에 올라) 시상대에 올라서다
To choke: 결정적인 순간에 제 실력을 발휘하지 못하다
To be disqualified: 실격되다
To dope: 경기력을 향상시키는 약물을 쓰다
To pull off a victory: 힘들게 이기다
To suffer a heartbreaking loss: 비참하게 지다
To challenge a ruling: (심판 등의) 판정에 항의하다
To overturn a decision: 기존의 판정을 뒤엎다

A match, event, competition, bout, tourney etc.: 경기
The quarterfinals: 8강
The semifinals: 4강, 준결승
The finals: 결승전
A come-from-behind victory: 역전승
An upset win: 예상을 뒤집은 승리
A favorite (to win): 유력한 선수/사람
A bad call: 오심
Good sportsmanship: 스포츠맨십 (패자가 승자를 축하해주고 승자는 패자를 위로해주는 태도)
The defending champion: 기존의 챔피언
The most decorated Olympian: 메달이나 승리를 제일 많이 거둔 선수
The winningest athlete: 제일 많이 이긴 사람
His signature event: 주종목, 제일 잘 하는 경기
A phenom: 신동이나 천재
Performance-enhancing drugs: 경기력을 향상시키는 약물

The ref made an obviously bad call and then expelled the players when they challenged his ruling.
심판은 명백한 오심을 내렸고 선수들이 판정에 항의하자 퇴장시켰다.

I never thought we would make it all the way to the semifinals. This is a new Olympic first for Korea.
우리 팀이 준결승까지 올라갈 거라고는 생각지도 못했다. 한국팀이 올림픽에서 준결승까지 올라간 것은 처음이다.

Some athletes at this year’s games have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
몇몇 선수들이 이번 올림픽에서 (경기력을 향상시키는) 약물 양성 반응이 나왔다.

He had his sights set on more Olympic gold, but those hopes were dashed when he suffered a career-ending injury.
그는 더 많은 올림픽 금메달 획득을 겨냥했지만 운동선수로서의 생명을 끝나게 한 부상으로 그런 희망은 꺾이고 말았다.

Categories: Level 4, Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Easy Korean Phrases for the Restaurant

The last few posts have been fairly difficult, so I decided to draw up something easier for our beginning visitors. If you memorize the following easy phrases, you’ll be equipped to deal with the basics at any restaurant in Korea. As far as the romanization goes, I’m not using any particular system, just the spellings that I think will bring about the best pronunciation.

A: 몇 분이세요? (Myot boony saeyo?)
B: 세 명이에요. (Sae myung eyaeyo.)
A: How many people in your party?
B: There are three of us.

A: 주문하시겠어요? (Joomoon hashi gessoyo?)
B: 네, 삼겹살 3인분하고 공기밥 2개 주세요. (Nay, samgyup sal saminboon hago gongi bap doogae joosaeyo)
A: May I take your order?
B: Yes, we’d like three servings of the pork and two bowls of rice, please.

A: 불판 갈아드릴까요? (Boolpan gara deurill kayo?)
B: 네, 갈아주세요. (Nay, gara joosayo.)
A: Would you like me to switch out the grill for you?
B: Yes, please do.

맥주 2잔 주세요. (Maekjoo doo jan joosayo.)
Two beers please.

여기 김치 좀 더 주세요. (Yawgee gimchi jom daw joosayo.)
A little bit more kimchi over here, please.

이 반찬 좀 더 주세요. (E banchan jom daw joosayo.)
(Could we have) a little bit more of this side dish, please?

A: 포장 돼요? (Pojang dwayo?)
B: 네, 됩니다. (Nay, dwemneeda.)
A: Can we get that to go?
B: Sure, no problem.

만두 3인분  싸 주세요. (포장해 주세요.) (Mandoo samin boon ssa joosayo.)
Give me three orders of dumplings to go, please.

A: 여기 계산할게요. 얼마예요? (Yawgee gaesan halkaeyo.)
B: 23,000원입니다. (E man samchun won imneeda.)
A: I’ll go ahead and pay the bill. How much was it?
B: 23,000 won.

A: 카드로 계산할 수 있어요? (Kaduro gaesan halsu issoyo?)
B: 죄송하지만 현금만 됩니다. (Jwaysong hajiman, hyungeum man dwemneeda.)
A: Can I pay for that with my card?
B: I’m so sorry, but we only take cash.

Categories: Level 1, Level 2 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Describing Different Personality Types

Here is a collection of Korean phrases useful for depicting the cast of characters that surrounds us every day. If you learn these idioms, you’ll be equipped to describe everyone — from a country bumpkin to a miserly friend. None of these are especially hard, so if you’re anywhere beyond the basic levels, you should familiarize yourself with all of them.

공주병 / 왕자병: princess complex / prince complex

A: 저 남자 아까부터 날 자꾸 쳐다 봐. 나한테 관심 있나?
B: 또 공주병이 도졌구나. 너 얼굴에 뭐 묻었거든.
도지다: to relapse

밥맛이다 (밥맛없다): someone who makes you lose your appetite, obnoxious

A: 어제 소개팅한 남자는 어땠어? 완전 킹카라면서?
B: 외모만 킹카면 뭘해? 어찌나 잘난 체를 많이 하는지 정말 밥맛이었어.

잘난 척하다 / 잘난 체하다: to brag or show off

재수없다: a(n unlucky) jerk

A: 요즘 왜 민서랑 안 다니니? 둘이 싸웠어?
B: 이기적이고 재수없게 굴어서 같이 안 놀기로 했어요.

짠돌이 / 짠순이: 구두쇠 – someone who is stingy, a scrooge, a miser

A: 나, 드디어 새 노트북 샀어!
B: 와, 그동안 그렇게 짠돌이처럼 살더니 드디어 샀구나.

인간성이 좋다: good-natured

A: 이민재 같이 잘생기고 능력있는 사람이 너 좋다는데 왜 마다해?
B: 그러면 뭐하니? 인간성이 별로인데…난 인간성 좋은 남자가 좋아.

마다하다: to turn someone down

주사가 있다: to be a mean drunk

A: 나 어제 회식 자리에서 이윤지한테 확 깼어.
B: 아니, 그렇게 좋다더니 왜?
A: 그렇게 안 보이는데 주사가 심하더라고.

술고래: a big drinker

A: 주량이 얼마나 돼요?
B: 소주 서너 병은 마시죠.
A: 와, 완전 술고래시네요.

주량: the amount someone can drink


촌티 나다: for one’s country nature to show through

A: 웬 꽃무늬 원피스야? 촌티가 줄줄 난다.
B: 너가 뭘 몰라서 그래. 요즘 이게 최신 유행하는 옷이야.

촌티: a sign of one’s country background
티나다: for signs of something to show through

Categories: Korean Slang!, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Korean for a Pick-up Artist

This is the script I wrote up for Street Korean a few weeks ago.

작업 걸다: to hit on
A: 어제 공원에 혼자 앉아서 책 보고 있는데 어떤 여자가 옆에 앉아도 되냐고 하더라.
B: 정말? 여자가 먼저 작업 거는 건 드문 일인데.

번호 따다: to get someone’s number
A: 왜 그렇게 기분이 좋아 보여?
B: 드디어 무용과 킹카 번호 따는 데 성공했어.

대시하다: to approach someone
A: 어제 클럽에서 네 여자친구한테 누군가 와서 대시하는 걸 봤어.
B: 아니, 그래? 그래서 어떻게 됐어?
A: 남친 있다고 돌려보내던데.

양다리 걸치다: to two-time someone
A: 철민이 양다리 걸치다가 여친한테 들켰대.
B: 그거 잘됐네. 이번 기회에 버릇을 고쳐야 돼.

바람 피우다 / 차이다: to cheat on someone / to get dumped
A: 경민이가 여친한테 차였대.
B: 왜?
A: 바람 피우다가 들켰대.

잘 나가다: to be popular
A: 혜리는 아직 혼자야?
B: 응. 옛날에는 잘 나갔는데…

쌩얼 / 화장발: someone’s face without makeup / the makeup effect
A: 수진이 정말 예쁘지?
B: 그거 다 화장발이야. 지난번 여행 갔을 때 걔 쌩얼 보고 다른 사람인 줄 알았어.

백일: a 100-day celebration of a relationship etc.
A: 우리 백일 다가오는데 뭐 해줄 거야?
B: 내가 계획해놓은 것 있어. 기대해.

찔러보다: to give someone a try / to hit on someone for the hell of it
A: 김철민 씨 너한테 관심 있는 것 같던데…
B: 그냥 한번 찔러보는 거겠지. 다른 여사원들한테도 잘 그러잖아.

Categories: All Levels, Korean Slang!, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6 | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments