Travel Essentials: 5 phrases you have to learn before you go to South Korea

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics kick off in South Korea in just two days! Our Melbourne writer Anastasia is currently travelling across the country and in the second part of her Travel Essential series from the country, Ana gives us a handful of some language basics that are useful to brush up on before you touch down at Incheon Airport. 

While basic English is widely known across Korea, it is almost imperative to at least know some Korean language basics. Not only will it make it easier for you to get around, but locals will also more readily understand you if you have a few of these basic phrases underneath your belt – a little effort definitely goes a long way, particularly if you are a foreigner in a new country.

To avoid complexity the suggestions below take on their honorific form – while they may seem a little strange in more casual or friendly situations, it is probably best to be too formal than not formal enough.

You can use this phrase as you would use “hello”. While it may seem like an obvious inclusion within this list, it is an important word to know; undoubtedly, it is one of the most common phrases you will hear and use while in Korea.

Another obvious inclusion, as you should use this a lot while in Korea. This phrase is a formal way to offer your gratitude and thanks; you would use this phrase as you would use “thank you” in English,

Loosely translated as “please give”, ju-se-yo is used to make a polite request for something from another individual. Here it can be said alone or directly after specifying exactly what it is that you want.

This phrase, too, is said at the end of the sentence and is translated as “where is it” – you will undoubtedly use this at some point (even if it is to find the nearest bathroom); in this particular case, you would say “Hwa-jang-shil uh-di-eh-yo?” (Where is the bathroom?).

Lastly, if you are reading this list, it may be safe to assume that you are new to the Korean language. This is exactly why  this phrase becomes useful – you will use this phrase to signify that you don’t understand a lot of Korean. In most cases, the person you are speaking to you may try and simplify what they are saying, or may even speak to you in English.


This content has recently been ported from its original home on AU Abroad and may have formatting errors – images may not be showing up, or duplicated, and galleries may not be working. We are slowly fixing these issue. If you spot any major malfunctions making it impossible to read the content, however, please let us know at editor AT