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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Korean Crash Course

Hello everybody!!! I spent last weekend on the southern coast of Korea in "Dynamic Busan!" Busan (부산) is a large, temperate coastal city bordered by hills that bloom with cherry blossoms in the spring to the north, and to the south, beaches!

Sunning myself at Gwangalli beach

This time I'd like to introduce some Korean words and phrases that might be helpful to anybody who is interested in starting to learn Korean or is planning to take a trip to Korea in the future! I'll start with a brief introduction to Korean characters.

Korean characters were invented and designed to be logical and easy to learn, Korean is nearly perfectly phonetic with very few irregularities.  I'll list the characters with their romanticized letter equivalent and then an approximation of the sound.  Most of the consonants can be doubled to give a stronger sound, and when a vowel is doubled it makes a sound similar to adding a "y" before a letter in English. (ㅑ= "yah").  Vowels can also be combined to make diphthongs, so the vowels ㅜ("oo") and ㅣ("ee") make a sound like "wee."

ㄱ - k/g - "k" or "g" sound
ㄴ - n - "n" sound
ㄷ - d/t - "d" or "t" sound
ㄹ - l/r - "l" or "r" sound, usually more like "l"
ㅁ - m - "m" sound
ㅂ - b/p -"b" or "p" sound, usually like "b" at the beginning of a word and "p" at the end
ㅅ - s - "s" or "sh" sound
ㆁ - ng - placeholder before a vowel and "ng" sound at the end of a syllable
ㅈ - j - "j" or light "ch" sound
ㅊ - ch - "ch" sound
ㅋ - K - hard "k" sound (doubled ㄱ)
ㅌ - T - "t" sound (doubled ㄷ)
ㅍ - P - "p" sound with a little puff of breath, sometimes used to represent "f" in foreign words
ㅎ - h - "h" sound

ㅏ - a -"ah" sound
ㅓ - eo - "aw" or short "o" sound like in "hot," but sometimes like the "u" in "hut"
ㅗ - o - long "o" sound, as in "coat"
ㅜ - u - long "u" sound as in "flute" or "boot"
ㅡ - eu - "eu" sound, kind of like in "good" or the unaccented French "e" sound
ㅣ - i - "ee" sound, as in "feet"

The language is read left to right, up to down and the characters are arranged in syllables the same way. Syllables usually contain 3 characters but occasionally they contain 4. The word for Korean writing in Korean is:

한 글

Many people in Korea speak some English, so most of the time if you are in real trouble you can find somebody who can help you, but here are some essential words and phrases that might aid in getting around and understanding some of what is being said so you can respond appropriately. Adding 요 "yo" at the end of a verb makes it more polite in many cases.


Hello: 안녕하세요 "an-yeong-ha-se-yo" (It sometimes sounds more like "annyeonseyo")
Goodbye: 안녕히 계세요 "an-yeong-hi kae-se-yo"
Yes: 네 "Ne" or sometimes 예 "Ye"
No: 아니오 "a-ni-o", or informally 아니 "a-ni"
Thank you: 감사합니다 "gam-sa-ham-ni-da" or 고맙습니다 "go-map-seum-ni-da"
This: 이것 "i-geo"
Teacher/Sir: 선생님 "seon-saeng-nim"
Really: 진짜 "chin-jja"


Taxi: 택시 "taek-shi"
Bus: 버스 "beos-uh"
Car: 자동차 "ja-dong-cha"
Airplane: 비행기 "bi-heng-gi"
Train: 기차 "gi-cha"
Here: 여기 "yeo-gi"
There: 거기 "geo-gi"
Left (direction): 왼쪽 "wen-chok"
Right (direction): 오른쪽 "o-reun-chok"
North: 북 "buk"
South: 남 "nam"
East: 동 "dong" - be careful, 똥 "ddong" means "poop," usually 동 is attached to something else: 동대구 "dong-dae-gu" - "East Daegu"
West: 서 "seo"
Korea: 한국 "han-guk"
China: 중국 "jun-guk"
Japan: 일본 "il-bon"
Russia: 러시아 "reo-si-a"
USA: 미국 "mi-guk"
UK: 영국 "yeong-guk"
France: 프랑스 "Peu-rang-suh"
Germany: 독일 "dok-il"
Spain: 스페인 "seu-pae-in"
Italy: 이탈리아 "i-tal-li-a"
Greece: 그리스 "Geu-ri-suh"


There's not/don't have/is it gone?: 없다 "eob-da" 없어 "eobs-eo" or polite "eobs-eo-yo"
It's OK, I'm OK, are you OK?: 괜찮아요 "kan-chanh-a-yo"
I am hurt, it hurts, does it hurt?: 아파 "apa", 아파요 "apayo"
Bring me please: 주세요 "ju-se-yo"
Eat/drink: 먹어 "mog-o", 먹어요 "mog-o-yo"
Don't/wait: 하지 마 "ha-ji ma"
No, stop doing that: 안돼 "an-de", 안돼요 "an-de-yo"
Sit down: 앉아 "anja", 앉으세요 "anj-euseyo"
Wait: 기다려 "gi-da-ryeo"


Who?: 누구? "nugu?"
What?: 뭐? "mwo?"
When?: 언제? "eon-je?"
Why?: 왜? "wae?"
Where?: 어디로? "eo-di-lo?
How?: 어떻게? "eo-teo-ke?"


One: 하나 "ha-na" - or for money 일 "il"
Two: 두 "du" - 이 "i"
Three: 세 "se" - 삼 "sam"
Four: 네 "ne" - 사 "sa"
Five: 다섯 "da-seos" - 오 "o"
Six: 여섯 "yeo-seos" - 육 "yuk"
Seven: 일곱 "il-gob" - 칠 "chil"
Eight: 여덟 "yeo-deolb" - 팔 "pal"
Nine: 아홉 "a-hob" - 구 "gu"
Ten: 열 "yeol" - 십 "ship"
100: 백 "baek"
1000: 천 "cheon"
10000: 만 "man"

Foods and drinks:

Delicious: 맛있 "mash-iss"
Rice: 밥 "bap"
Seaweed: 김 "kim"
Spicy fermented cabbage and veggies: 김치 "kim-chi"
Rice rolled in seaweed: 김밥 "kim-bap"
Rice mixed with vegetables and egg: 비빔밥 "bi-bim-bap"
Ramen: 라면 "ra-myeon"
Noodles in black sauce "Chinese Noodles": 자장면 "ja-jang-myeon"
Meat (any kind): 고기 "go-gi"
Chicken: 닭 "dak"
Meat cooked over a flame: 불고기 "bul-go-gi"
Marinated meat: 갈비 "gal-bi"
Stew/soup: 찌개 "jji-gae"
Korean rice liquor: 소주 "so-ju"
Beer: 맥주 "maek-ju"

If you'd like to learn more Korean, there are many free sites like this one that can help you!

And here are some more pictures from my trip to Dynamic Busan!

On a pier with the "Me-World" amusement park in the background

Can you find me?

Enjoying a mocha at "Fuzzy Navel" by Gwangalli beach.

Dried fish!

Did you know I could do this?

And here I am riding the bus back home.

Until next time!

Michael TheMonkey


  1. We enjoy your pictures very much and tried to talk some words but we didn't dare to say them out loud, I like the characters they have. It makes us realize that the children at the school G. teaches must have the same troubles understanding our letters when they learn to read, just like it is hard for us to try and understand which sound goes with which character her in your lesson :-)

  2. Thanks for the language lessons, very interesting and useful :O)

  3. Thank you, Hammie and Raquel! That's great that you find it interesting!