Popular Korean Proverbs

There are many commonly used proverbs in Korea. However, they can be very difficult to understand for non-native speakers without a proper explanation. And so, here are some of the most popular Korean proverbs.

An Introduction to Proverbs

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Surely you’ve heard this phrase somewhere, but have you ever stopped to think about the literal meaning? Imagine how hard it would be to understand for English learners, or how awkward it would sound directly translated into another language.

Phrases are passed down from generation to generation, often in the form of advice or rebuke. Sometimes, there are phrases that spread and become ingrained in the culture and language. They often don’t make literal sense, but rather make sense because of their associations. Generally, these phrases provide insight and culture into a group of people. As such, learning proverbs is not only important for language learners but also for historians and anthropologists.

There are so many Korean proverbs with interesting nuggets of knowledge behind them, so lets get to learning!

If you eat a pheasant, you will also eat an egg

꿩 먹고 알 먹는다 (kkwong meokgo al meongneunda)

You know the circumstance when you get two results at the same time for performing a single action? In English, we often say that you “Killed two birds with one stone”. This is the Korean proverb with the same meaning!

Glasses in my eyes

제 눈에 안경이다 (je nune angyeongida)

You know when you see a very beautiful person, but then, you tell your friend and they just don’t see it? The meaning of this Korean proverb is similar to “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. It is when someone is attractive to you, but not attractive to othes.

This is spilled water

엎질러진 물이다 (eopjilleojin murida)

This Korean proverb is used when there is a sense of complaining or being saddened by something bad that has already happened, something that is no longer worth it.

The crayfish supports the crab

가재는 게 편이라 (Ga-jae-neun ge pyeon-i-la)

Do you know when you are very similar, in personality, to a person or to your own parents? So, that’s basically what this saying wants to get across to people.

If beautiful words go, the words that come back will be beautiful

가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다 (ganeun mari gowaya oneun mari gopda)

Do you know when you speak well of someone and receive something even better? If you do or say good things, what you will receive will be even better.

A soybean grows where you plant a soybean and a kidney bean grows where you plant a kidney bean

콩 심은 데 콩 나고 팥 심은 데 팥 난다 (kong simeun de kong nago pat simeun de pat nanda).

You know when you do something bad to someone and you get something worse in return? That is what this proverb is saying. However, it can also be used in a positive context. Basically, beware karma!

How will smoke come out of the chimney if there is no fire?

아니 땐 굴뚝에 연기 날까 (ani ttaen gulttuge yeongi nalkka)

Sometimes there are little signs that you should not trust someone. One-by-one, small things might not be a sign that someone is untrustworthy. However, all together they create a big reason not to trust someone. If there is reason to distrust a person, then you are right to distrust.

All languages ​​have proverbs and the Korean language is not different. In addition to these, there are countless other proverbs to be explored in the Korean language. Would you like to know more about them?




Are you interested in learning more Korean phrases? Click Here to learn Korean slang!

🇧🇷 Rayssa

Graduated in Business Administration and Marketing. I love producing content on social media and I am addicted to writing. Writing is one of my favorite hobbies. A person passionate about music, world and South Korea. I am discovering all about living in Korea and all the wonders of this country and I want to share it all with you. Shall we travel with me? Follow me on my instagram @rah_hayashi ♥