Slang you should know in South Korea

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Just like any other country, Korea has its own set of trendy slang words that are useful to know when you travel to Korea or you’re just watching a Korean show.

Korea’s slang mainly consists of bigger words contracted together much like English slang. A lot of recent Korean slang also comes from English slang so you might notice some similarities.

Korean exclamations

1. 대박 – (Daebak)

Meaning: That’s awesome!

Stars in Korean dramas and variety shows use this word frequently. It describes when something is awesome or it’s a way of showing enthusiasm. A lot of the time it also describes a state of awe or shock.

2. 짱 – (Jjang)

Meaning: Great or Amazing!

This is another way to say something is amazing or awesome in Korean. However, you can add this to describe a certain person’s feature such as 얼짱 (eoljjang), which means good looking or 몸짱 (momjjang), which means having a good body.

3. 헐 – (Hul)

Meaning: Oh My God!

This word expresses shock. Mainly something negative as opposed to daebak but it can be used both ways.

4. 잼 – (Jaem)

Meaning: Fun

This is the shortened version of the word 재미 (jae-mi, fun). This describes whether something or someone is fun or not. The word is used in two different ways. One way is to express great fun by saying 꿀잼 (ggool jaem, literally honey fun) or you can express something is no fun at all by saying 노잼 (no jaem, no from English plus jaem).

5. 콜 – (kol)

Meaning: I’m in or sounds good.

This is used when you’re either down to go to the movies or about to do something reckless. It’s that nonchalant expression that could be used to express that you’re committing to a fun social activity or you’re willing to go cliff jumping.

6. 화이팅 – (hwaiting)

Meaning: I’m rooting for you!

This has been used countless times in Korean slang history. Used in sporting events or to encourage someone you care about.

Korean relationships & romance

1. 남친 / 여친 – (namchin / yeochin)

Meaning: boyfriend/girlfriend

This is a shortened way of saying 남자 친구 (nam-ja chin-goo) and 여자 친구 (yeo-ja chin-goo). This is similar to shortening boyfriend and girlfriend in English using gf and bf.

2. 썸 – (ssum)

Meaning: Developing feelings between two people.

This describes a time between two people right before they officially start dating. Basically saying there is SOMEthing going on between them. It’s verb form is 썸타다 (sseomtada) or 썸을 타다 (sseomeul tada). To describe the other person that is showing interest, you can use 썸남 (sseomnam) for men, and 썸녀 (sseomnyeo) for women.

3. 밀당 – (mildang)

Meaning: Push and pull

Literally putting the first syllables of push and pull together, 밀다 (mil-da, to push) and 당기다 (danggi-da, to pull). This describes someone in a romantic situation who is being flaky or “playing games”.

4. 애교 – (aegyo)

Meaning: Acting cute 

This describes when someone is acting cute or baby-like. Used mainly among idols to display fan service but it’s also seen as a way of flirting.

Bonus slang!

1. 뻥 – (Ppung)

Meaning: Joke/lie

This word is commonly describes a joke or false information. It’s normally used like this: 뻥치지마 (Ppung-chi-ji-ma, “Don’t lie to me” or “Stop joking with me”).

2. 셀카 – (selka

Meaning: Selfie

This is the shortened version of the two words 셀프 (selpeu, self) and 카메라 (kamera, camera). You can call selfie sticks 셀카봉 (selkabong) in Korean.

3. 베프 – (bepeu)
Meaning: Best friend

This is the shortened version of the Konglish (Korean English) phrase 베스트 프렌드 (beseuteu peurendeu, best friend).

4. 내가 쏠게 – (naega ssolge)

Meaning: I’ll pay/treat

Literally meaning “I’ll shoot”, these are words everyone wants to hear after a large meal. This is used to say that you will be the one paying as it is a common tradition in Korea that each person in the group takes turns paying for meals. The verb 쏘다 (So-da) actually means to shoot rather than using the verb 사다 (sa-da, to buy).

Do you want to study Korean in Korea? Not ready to commit to long-term studies? Give it a try during one of our short-term 2-3 week Study Trips!

We hope you enjoyed this article! For more information on Korean language and culture, keep following the Go! Go! Hanguk blog and do not hesitate to contact us about living and studying in Korea.

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