How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean – Ways to apologize

Last Updated on November 16, 2022 by 90 Day Korean
How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean

When in a foreign country like Korea, you are bound to make cultural mistakes and other general errors. Learning how to say “I’m sorry” in Korean just might come in handy! As long as you know how to apologize for those mistakes, that’s OK. 

How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean

Not only will it help you smooth out mistakes and misunderstandings, but it will also show what great manners Mom taught you. If you plan on spending any amount of time in Korea, it’s best to know this phrase, just in case!

 We’ve also included a free PDF guide for how to say “I’m Sorry” in Korean that you can take with you on the go. Check it out below:

Here we go!

“I’m Sorry” in Korean

There are several ways to say “I’m sorry” in Korean. We’ve added written them below in Korean alphabet and romanization. Not only will you be able to apologize, but you’ll also be able to listen for apologies. If you can’t read the Korean alphabet yet, known as the 한글 (Hangeul), we recommend you learn that first. It’ll assist all your future Korean studies.

To start, here’s a video on how to say “sorry” in Korean.

How to Say SORRY in Korean | 90 Day Korean

Although the title of this article is “how to say “I’m sorry” in Korean” when speaking, the “I” part is omitted. In Korean, it is obvious that you are the person who is sorry. Therefore, you just need to say the word “sorry.”

Formal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

Like saying “thank you” in Korean, there are two different words for sorry in its formal version.

The first one, , is slightly more respectful, and this word would be the one that we recommend using if you only feel like learning one word for “sorry.”

Remember to use your body language and voice tone to help convey your message. Face the person you are saying sorry to and slightly bow your head a little bit when saying sorry to acknowledge that you have made a mistake.

How to Say I'm sorry in Korean formal

The second one, 미안합니다 (mianhamnida), will also work well, so choose which one you like better!

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Association for the Formal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

We’ll use some associations to help us remember these Korean phrases. Associations are helpful tools that help you recall the vocabulary or phrase by using a story or image that’s easier to remember. You can use our associations or take them as an example to make your own.

Do you know the American cartoon and movies G.I. Joe? It was popular in the ’80s to 90’s, and we’ll use them to help us remember 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida).

Their cartoon intro song was very memorable so imagine that the Joe song is needed to apologize formally in Korea. Just imagine you’re saying to yourself, “Joe song, I need it.” This phrase isn’t exactly the same as 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida), but that’s not always necessary. What’s important is that it helps you remember 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida).

Standard “I’m Sorry” in Korean

Next is the standard version, which also has two ways to say it. This is the standard level of politeness. In this case, both words can be used interchangeably.

The first word is 

But keep in mind that when saying sorry, like saying thank you, people often use a level of politeness higher than they would normally. Therefore, often it is better to say 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida) rather than 죄송해요 (joesonghaeyo).

How to Say I'm sorry in Korean standard

The second way is

Associations for Standard “I’m Sorry” in Korean

This can use the same association of G.I. Joe again, only that -합니다 (-hamnida) is changed to -해요 (-haeyo), but this is really easy!

The G.I. Joe catchphrase was “Go Joe!” which sounds a lot like “Hey yo!” -해요 (-haeyo). So just imagine the “Joe song” uses “Hey yo!” as its catchphrase in standard situations.

Informal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

When speaking to people of a similar age who are close to you, use . You can also use it when speaking to young children.

If you are in a relationship with a Korean, then learn this word now, as it can save your relationship! Note that 죄송해 (joesonghae) isn’t used.

How to Say I'm sorry in Korean informal

Try Your Own for Informal “I’m Sorry”

By now, you can see that making associations can be fun and easy. Better yet, they help you remember the phrase much better (especially if the association is strange or unique). Can you make your own association for 미안해 (mianhae)? We’ll start you out, it sounds kind of like “me” “and” “hey.” What story could you make for these words to associate with the informal “I’m sorry”?

Other Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean

You can use “I’m sorry” in Korean to express apologies. However, there are alternate expressions that you should use in certain cases where you’d use “sorry” in English.

1.

This phrase means “just a moment” or “hold on a second.” You would use this phrase when you’re trying to get through a crowded subway in Seoul. Rather than say “sorry,” you’d say 잠시만요 (jamsimanyo).

You might also use this phrase when you’re on the phone or in the middle of a conversation and someone is trying to get your attention. This will be useful to tell the other person to hold on for a moment.

How to Say I'm Sorry in Korean - just a moment

2. 

This phrase means “excuse me,” as in “I am sorry for interrupting.” You might use this if you’re about to interrupt someone. The word 실례 (sillye) means “discourtesy or bad manners,” so the phrase translates to “I do/have bad manners.”

How to Say I'm sorry in Korean - Excuse me

Using “I’m Sorry” in a Sentence

If you’d like to be more specific on what you’re apologizing for, you can add them to your sentence. Here’s a guide on how you should do it.

At the end of a sentence:

1. -아/어서 죄송합니다 (a/eoseo joesonghamnida)

If you want to say I’m sorry that I am … then you can use the above structure.

Example:

늦어서 죄송합니다 (neujeoseo joesonghamnida)

I’m sorry that I am late.

At the start of a sentence:

Alternatively, you can put the word “sorry” at the start of the sentence.

1.

Example:

죄송하지만 못 가요 (joesonghajiman mot gayo)

I’m sorry but I can’t go.

This can also be used when asking for a favor.

2.

Example:

죄송한데 사진 좀 찍어 주시겠어요? (joesonghande sajin jom jjigeo jusigesseoyo)

I’m sorry, but could you take a picture for me, please?

How to say “I’m really sorry” in Korean

If you’re feeling extra apologetic about something and you’d want to say, “I’m really sorry,” there are various ways to say this in Korean.

We’ve listed them below.

Formal:

정말 죄송합니다 (jeongmal joesonghamnida)

미안합니다 (mianhamnida )

Standard:

죄송해요 (joesonghaeyo)

미안해요 (mianhaeyo)

Example:

불편을 드려서 정말 죄송합니다. (bulpyeoneul deuryeoseo jeongmal joesonghamnida.)

I’m really sorry for the inconvenience.

그 문제에 대해서는 정말 미안해요. ( geu munjee daehaeseoneun jeongmal mianhaeyo.)

I’m really sorry about that.

Here are other Korean words related to “I’m sorry” that you can add to your vocabulary.

“Apology” in Korean

The word for “apology” in Korean is 사과 (sagwa). The same word means “apple” in Korean, but it’ll be easy to tell them apart based on the context of the sentence.

Example:

제 사과를 받아주세요. (je sagwareul badajuseyo.)

Please accept my apology.

사과는 필요 없어요. (sagwaneun piryo eopseoyo.)

I don’t need an apology.

“To apologize” in Korean

For the verb form of “apology,” 하다 (hada), which means “to do,” is added to 사과 (sagwa). This forms 사과하다 (sagwahada), meaning to “apologize.”

Example:

지금 당장 그에게 사과해요. (jigeum dangjang geuege sagwahaeyo.)

Apologize to him right now.

내 무례함에 대해 사과해야겠어요. (nae muryehame daehae sagwahaeyagesseoyo.)

I should apologize for the rudeness.

Wrap Up

Now that you know how to say “sorry” in Korean, you can start using it with other basic phrases like hello and goodbye. Remember that its usage is slightly different from how the word “sorry” is used in English, so listen to Koreans, start with watching Korean movies, and try to see how the word “sorry” is used naturally in everyday Korean.

If you want to learn and communicate in Korean, we have a structured online Korean course that will teach you how to have a 3-minute conversation with your Korean loved ones in the first 90 days.

    49 replies to "How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean – Ways to apologize"

    • Avatar for Yi So Hyeon Yi So Hyeon

      Annyeong,
      I think I get all these but could you help with “Sunghaona” and when it’s used?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        안녕하세요! “Sunghaona” doesn’t mean anything. If you know this word in Hangeul, please leave it in another comment, I’ll be happy to help. ^^

    • Avatar for deavionwallace deavionwallace

      I have been learning Korean for about a year now, and both the language and culture are very beautiful to me. But I am still confused about the different versions of I’m sorry. I know that joesonghamnida is sino-korean and mianaeyo is pure Korean, but are all the examples listed have the same meaning of I’m sorry? If so, besides formal and informal being the main difference, does it matter which one is used when speaking?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi! Yes, 죄송합니다 and 미안합니다 both mean “I’m sorry” and they are interchangeable. 죄송해요 and 미안해요 are less formal than them but still polite. For informal/casual, you can say 미안해.

    • Avatar for jennie jennie

      hi i am newbee i love Korean language its really very helpful site thank finally i found out the best Korean learning site thank you ^^

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