Survival Korean
By John "Big John" Malcomson

This is a Korean primer originally developed by Big John. So, if you haven't picked up these handy and useful phrases by now, here's your chance.


안녕하세요 !

If you wish to be really formal you can say, "Annyonghasimnikka". Either one should be accompanied by either a slight nod or a bow according to your respect for the person. Nowadays no bows should be below forty-five degrees

Goodbye. (to someone leaving)

안녕히 가세요

Goodbye. (to someone staying)

안녕히 계세요

Meaning more or less "Are you at peace?" but used as if it were "How are you?" The answer, "Neh" (yes, fine), is equivalent to when we say "How are you?" and "Fine." Of course we don't usually mean it, especially with acquaintances.

Goodbye. (may you have fruitful labor)


Said when leaving a business or your place of work. It is meant to wish a business to have a lot of customers and make money, or to wish your colleagues to have a good day at work (or stay and work happily).

See you later.

(Ddo man-napshida)

Nice to meet you.

(Bangap sumnida)





Thank You!

감사합니다 !
(Kamsa hamnida!)

I'm sorry.


Can be used for "Excuse me."

It's okay.

(Kwenchan-a yo)

Also can mean: You're welcome. Don't mention it. Are you Okay? No problem, really!

Please give me


How much is it?

얼마입니까 ?
(Olma imnikka?)

Where is the bathroom?

화장실 어디입니까 ?

(Hwajangshil odii imnikka?)

I didn't understand (you).


A real necessity for dealing with people who want to believe you are proficient in Korean. Also an excellent way to avoid answering a question.

Did you understand?

이해 했습니다 ?
(Iye hassumnikka?)

Make sure you are understood(in English or Korean). I am afraid it is a common mistake that Koreans think they understand what you are saying, but they don't. They may simply give up, and or smile and nod. Unfortunately that is sometimes the only way we can respond to Korean or poor English that is spoken to us.

I don't know.


Variations of this appear to be favorite Korean expressions. The tendency to say, "I don't know" rather than make an educated guess is rampant behaviour in Korean society. This has to do with the hesitation to take a risk, appear as a know-it-all, or to avoid answering a question. I must admit that I use it all the time in Korean. It also functions as, "I don't understand" in many situations. Do expats say "I don't know" often in our home countries? Also if you receive a phone call by accident the best thing to say is, "Hangukmal(spoken Korean) morukessoy-yo." If you don't say this the person may continue talking, or even worse call back repeatedly

No problem.

(Munjae obsoyo)

There is a problem.

문재 있어요
(Munjae issoyo)


건배 !

Please let me talk to --(name).


This literally means "change the speakers" and is used when asking for someone on the phone. If the person is not there the response might be, "obsumnida" or "ankyeshimnida." If present you might hear, chamshimanyo" meaning "wait a moment." If the person is not there have patience, and rather than having to leave a message you can be confident that your friend will know you called, unless he or she gets many calls fom foreigners.

Happy New Year!

새해복 많이 받으세요
(Sehebok mani paduseyo)

Study up y'all, and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Using the language will make your stay here much nicer and easier.

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