Korean proverbs, sayings and idioms are a beautiful way to show the uniqueness of Korean culture. They have been passed down from generation to generation and their meanings can be interpreted in many different ways. In this blog post, we will explore 16 great Korean proverbs, sayings and idioms – and their meanings so you can get more familiar with them!
1. 고생 끝에 낙이 온다 (Go-saeng kkeut-e nag-i on-da)
Translation: At the end of hardship comes happiness.
Meaning: This proverb is used to encourage somebody who has experienced hardship and is now in a better place.
2. 그의 아파트에도 불구하고, 피자 한 조각이면 양식은 많이 들어갈 것 같다. (Kue-ui apa-teu edo bulgahago, pi-ja han jo-ggak imyeon yangshikkeun mani deulgeol geot gat-da.)
Translation: Even though he lives in the apartment, if you give him one slice of pizza, it seems like he will eat a lot.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that somebody always takes advantage of other people’s generosity and never does anything for them. It can also be used as an encouragement to those who might feel unappreciated by their friends or family members.
3. 아들이 떠난다고 해서 여태 하지 못한 일을 다 하게 될 거야. 피자한 조각이면 다 먹고, 그냥 나와. (A-deuri tteonandago haeseo yeota han ji moshan il-eul da hage doel geoya. Pi-ja han jo-ggak imyeon dat moekgo, geunyang na-wa.)
Translation: After you leave I will finally be able to do the things that I haven’t been able to for all these years because of our son; if it’s one slice of pizza he eats it all, so just go.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker will finally be able to do something now that the person they were depending on is no longer there.
4. 형님은 이제 졸도 끝이니 가스통한테 그만 물 하십시오. (Hyeong-nim-eun ije joldo kkeut-i ni gasseutinga geuman mul hashibsio.)
Translation: Since hyungnim has finished his marathon, please stop asking for things from him now.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that somebody has shown their generosity in the past and they should not be asked for anything else anymore because it seems like they will no longer provide help.
5. 이번에 만회하고 난 뒤에도, 피자한 조각이면 먹을 생각은 안 해. (I-beon-e manhwehago nan dwie edo, pi-ja han jo-ggak imyeon meogeul saeng-gag-eun an hae.)
Translation: Even after this event is over I will not think about eating one slice of pizza anymore.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker will no longer do something even though they have done it multiple times before.
6. 이 문제를 하게 되면, 모자라지 않을 테니까. (I mun-jeul ha-ge doemyeon, mojaraji anheul tenikka.)
Translation: If this problem comes up I won’t be able to handle it so please stop talking about it now.
Meaning: This proverb is used when somebody knows and expects a difficult situation and does not want other people around them to speak about it.
7. 탈북자가 더 이상의 공로를 알 수 없다? (Ta-leobukja gadeo i-sangui Gong-ro beol al su eopdas?)
Translation: Do defectors now have to do even more heroic deeds than before in order to gain recognition?
Meaning: This proverb is used when something that the speaker expected has not happened. It can also mean “you cannot expect any more from them anymore”.
8. 사랑하게 되면, 집에 가서 안달일 필요 없다. (Sarang hage doemyeon jibe ga-seo andalil piryo eopdah.)
Translation: If you fall in love it’s not necessary for you to go home anymore because I will come over.
Meaning: This proverb is used when the speaker does not want their partner to leave them but instead wants them stay with them forever and always be by their side.
9. 날 사랑하게 돼미안. (Nal sarang-hage dwae mi-an.)
Translation: I love you so much that it hurts.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker loves the person they are talking to a lot and it makes them feel pain.
10. 네가 유리처럼 보이니, 나는 판에다가 쓸 생각을 한다. (Ne-ga yuricheoreom boini, na-neun paneda-ga sseul saenggak-eul han da.)
Translation: Seeing you makes me think of smashing you into pieces on the ground.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker hates or dislikes the person they are talking to. It can also mean that the speaker wants to hurt or kill the person they are talking to.
11. 열심히 노력하니까, 어느 날 그의 사상을 밝히게 된다. (Yeolshimhi nohyeokhanikka, eoneu nal geu-ui sa-sang-eul balghige doen da.)
Translation: If you work hard, one day you will be able to see his thoughts.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker will eventually be able to understand what the person they are talking to is thinking.
12. 나는 이제 너의 말을 알게 돼. (Na-neun ije neo-ui mal-eul alge dwae.)
Translation: I now know what you’re saying.
Meaning: This proverb is used when the speaker has finally understood what the person they are talking to is trying to say.
13. 너의 사상이라니까, 아무것도 모른다. (Neo-ui sa-sangi-ranikka, amugeotdo moreundah.)
Translation: Saying that you know his thoughts is like not knowing anything at all.
Meaning: This proverb is used when the speaker thinks that saying that they understand the person they are talking to is like knowing nothing about them whatsoever.
14. 어쩔 수 없이 할 수밖에 없다. (Eojjeol su eop-shi hal su bakke eopdah.)
Translation: We can only do what we can do, there’s nothing else we can do.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker cannot do anything about the situation they are in and they should just accept it.
15. 내가 만든 걸 아는 것이 아니다. (Nae-ga man-deun geor ae-neun geo-ni da.)
Translation: Knowing how I made it is not the same as knowing how it was made.
Meaning: This proverb is used when the speaker knows what they did to make something but they do not know what happened before that.
16. 천사가 내려갈 때, 하늘은 언제나 붉다. (Cheon-sa-ga nae-ryeo-gal ttae, haneul-eun eonjena bulgtta.)
Translation: When an angel comes down from heaven, the sky is always red.
Meaning: This proverb is used to say that the speaker always knows when something good or bad is going to happen because they can see the signs.