Photo: Squid Game/Netflix

The 14 Funniest Korean Expressions (and How To Use Them)

South Korea Languages
by Ching Oct 5, 2021

According to the famous language-learning app Duolingo, in October 2021, there were 40 percent more new Korean learners in the US than there were in 2020. The increase might be linked to the huge success of the Korean series Squid Game available on Netflix since mid-September 2021, or it might just be the reflection of a more general interest in Korean culture. Indeed, in 2021, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), added more than 20 new words of Korean origin to its edition, The Guardian reports.

If you’re keen to be part of the trend and dive head first into Korean culture, try learning some funny Korean expressions. You’ll impress your friends with your new skills, you might be able to decipher what the cast of Squid Game is actually saying, and when travel to Korea opens again, you’ll be all set for making local friends. Here are 14 of the funniest Korean expressions for you to learn right now.

1. In Korean, you don’t ask for forgiveness, you ask someone to “please see you one time.” (한 번 봐주세요, han beon bwa-chu-se-yo)

2. You don’t just “look alike”, you “look like a fish-shaped pastry called bungeobbang“. (붕어빵이다, bung-eo-bbang-i-da)

3. And you don’t have “goosebumps”, you have “chicken skin”. (닭살, dak-sal)

4. In Korean, you don’t “make up your mind”, you “eat your heart”. (마음을 먹다, ma-eum-eul meok-da)

5. And you don’t just “grow old”, you “eat your age”. (나이를 먹다, na-i-reul meok-da)

6. In Korean, something isn’t “a piece of cake”, it is like “eating cold congee”. (식은 죽 먹기, sik-eun juk meok-ki)

7. You don’t have a “wide social network”, you have “wide feet”. (발이 넓다, pal-i neolb-da)

8. In Korean, you aren’t “gullible”, you have “thin ears”. (귀가 얇다, kwi-ga yalb-da)

9. And you aren’t “generous”, you have “big hands”. (손이 크다, son-i keu-da)

10. In Korean, the grass isn’t “greener on the other side of the fence”, but someone else’s “rice cake looks bigger”. (남의 떡이 커 보인다, nam-ui ddeok-i keo bo-in-da)

11. In Korea, you won’t be referred to as a “Jack-of-all-trades”, you are an “eight-direction beauty”. (팔방미인, pal-bang-mi-in)

12. And you aren’t “big-hearted”, you have a “wide heart”. (마음이 넓다, ma-eum-i neolb-da)

13. In Korea, beauty doesn’t “lie in the eyes of the beholder”, it is “glasses for your eyes”. (제 눈에 안경, je nun-e an-gyeong)

14. And too many cooks don’t “spoil the broth”, rather when there are “too many boatmen, the boat goes to the mountain”. (사공이 많으면 배가 산으로 간다, sa-gong-i manh-eu-myeon bae-ga san-eu-ro kan-da)

A version of this article was previously published on November 9, 2017, and was updated on October 5, 2021, with more information.

Discover Matador