Survival Korean – Essential Parts of the Language

Last Updated on November 2, 2020 by 90 Day Korean

Do you know survival Korean? Imagine this.

The day has finally come for your South Korea trip. Everything is planned out, but could there still be something missing before the puzzle is complete?

Oh no, how do you plan to communicate with the locals once you arrive?

Not to worry, we’ve got you covered! We’re going to give you the most essential parts of the Korean language so you comfortably communicate. 

Learn this basic survival Korean, and you will love your trip to Korea even more!


Want a free PDF version of this guide to take with you on the go? Grab your download here:

You may wonder “will Koreans talk to me in Korean?“. Learn the phrases below, and you’ll be able to speak Korean for your next trip out here.

Greetings, Pleasantries and Common Courtesies

These are the survival Korean phrases and questions that you’re going to want to learn first. We’ve given them to you in both Korean and romanized English. To hear the audio, click the text with the yellow speaker icon.

For a complete list of Korean phrases, go here:

Use the phrase below for your next trip to South Korea instead of the phrases you’d find in a guide book.

Hello 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)

There are a few ways to say “hello” in Korean, but this is the best one to use. It’s by far the most common, and can be used in all situations. It’s the first survival Korean phrase that you should learn.

Goodbye (to the person leaving) 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo)

Goodbye (to the person staying) 안녕히계세요 (annyeonghigyeseyo)

This is a bit different than “goodbye” in English. The difference between these two survival Korean phrases is that the latter is said when the person you are saying goodbye to will stay in the place you are leaving. For example, if you are a group dinner and a friend is leaving, you would say 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo). Your friend would in turn say 안녕히계세요 (annyeonghigyeseyo).

If both of you are leaving the shared location at the same time, then both of you can say 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo).

Nice to meet you만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida)

This is the formal version of this survival Korean phrase, and the one you are most likely to hear. For a slightly less formal, but still polite version, you can say . Feel free to use it with someone who is around your age.

Note that Korean age is different than international age. It’s not critical for learning the language, but age is a common question that comes up when you first meet Koreans.

Thank you –   감사합니다 (gamsahamnida)

Unless you are close with the person, this is the main way to say ‘thank you’. You can also use the survival Korean phrase 고맙습니다 (gomapseumnida). They both mean the same thing and have the same level of formality and politeness. 

How are you? –

This is the formal version of the survival Korean question that uses Korean honorifics. You may also drop the honorifics and simply use 어떻게 지내요? (eotteoke jinaeyo?) if the person is closer to you or one of your friends.

What have you been doing these days? –

This survival Korean phrase is formal, and is similar to “How are you?”. For the polite but less formal version of this phrase, you can use 뭐 하면서 지내요? (mwo hamyeonseo jinaeyo?)

Are you doing well? –

For this survival Korean phrase, you can use the alternative of 지내요 (jinaeyo). The Korean verb 지내요 (jinaeyo) is quite common, so it’s very useful when learning the language. 

I am doing good –  잘 지내요 (jal jinaeyo)

This is a useful survival Korean response. You wouldn’t use the Korean honorific form when talking about yourself. This phrase is the standard and polite version.

Just a moment –  잠시만요 (jamsimanyo) 

Just a moment – 잠깐만요 (jamkkanmanyo)

Both of these survival Korean phrases mean the same thing. 잠깐만요 (jamkkanmanyo) can also be used to get someone’s attention, such as when you want to say “excuse me” to pass someone on the subway.

How do you say “just a moment” in Korean?

Please wait a moment

Please wait a moment (more polite)

This survival Korean phrase is very similar to the “just a moment” phrases above, but it has some additional formality added in. That is why they are longer.

Excuse me실례합니다 (sillyehamnida)

This survival Korean phrase is typically used when you either need to pass someone walking in front of you or inside the subway, or if you need to catch someone’s attention to ask a question in public.

For getting the restaurant staff’s attention, you’d use or .

I’m sorry 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida)

This is a very useful survival Korean phrase. You may also hear the phrase , which also means thank you and has the same formality. 


If you can’t read Hangeul (the Korean Alphabet) yet, check out this step-by-step guide:

Basic Introductions

Here are some survival Korean phrases that are useful when introducing yourself.

My name is John (standard) –
My name is John (formal)

The latter survival Korean phrase is more formal, but it is actually not used as much as the first option.

What is your name?

Using the noun 성함이 (seonghami) is the honorific and polite version. You may also hear the word 이름이 (ireumi) used.

I am from America
I am a German

The first survival Korean phrase literally translates to “I came from X country” whereas the second option translates to “I am from X country”. Either one is perfectly fine to use. You can substitute your country in the blanks using this list of countries in Korean


Getting Around

Use these survival Korean phrases and questions to help you navigate around the cities in South Korea. These will be especially helpful when asking for and giving directions.

Where is the closest hospital? –

You can use different places in place of the blank word. The 이 (i) is a particle that is commonly used in the Korean language, but you can omit if you’d like. It is optional and can make learning this phrase a bit simpler.

Where is the bathroom? –

This is a really useful pattern for asking questions. You can substitute many different words into the blanks above. For example:

  • Bathroom – 화장실 (hwajangsil)
  • Subway station – 지하철역 (jihacheollyeok)
  • Bus stop – 버스정류장 (beoseujeongnyujang)
  • Movie theatre – 영화관 (yeonghwagwan)
  • Hospital – 병원 (byeongwon)

Do you know where Apgujeong station is? –

Go Right –
Go Left –
Go Straight –  

Take me to the hospital –

Use this survival Korean when you take a taxi. Speak slowly and repeat yourself if necessary. There are some different words for driving directions, but taxi drivers in Korea will understand you if you use the above phrases. 


Restaurants and Shopping

Please give me a menu –

In South Korea, typically the menu is already available at the table or on the walls. Alternatively, it may be brought to you as you sit down when you go to a restaurant. Sometimes there is an English menu or the equivalent translations will be written below each dish in English. 

You may want to order some more after your first order. In those cases, you should ask for the menu separately.

Hold the whipped cream. –

If you have food allergies and such, it’s important to use this when ordering. Note that the word 빼 (ppae) has a strong pronunciation sound at the beginning, which doesn’t exist in English. 

Do you have wifi here? –
Do you have wifi here? (formal) –

Most restaurants, cafes, and main areas in Korea have free public wifi.

Please give me _____ _____ 주세요 (juseyo)

Whenever you are requesting something, you may want to add this to the sentence. You can substitute different words into the blank. Many words you may already know because they are derived from English words. That makes learning them easy, you just need to get the pronunciation correct. 

This one –

If you don’t know the name of the item you want, you may simply point to it or touch it and use 이것 (igeot) to specify it.

How much is this? –

If you are shopping at markets or street shops, there are not always prices laid down on the items and you will have to ask and haggle for them specifically. Knowing the Korean numbers will help. You can learn them here

Please give me a discount –

It is getting less and less prominent to haggle in Korea, but if you go to the markets of Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, you may still get lucky enough to get a discount.

Can I pay with a credit card? –

While these days most Koreans opt to use their cards when paying instead of cash, it is good especially in the very small stores and restaurants to double-check if that is a payment option.

Emergency Phrases

These are useful phrases to study for your trip to Korea. Although Korea is a safe country, it’s always good to be prepared for emergency situations. It’s easy to

Please help!도와주세요! (dowajuseyo)

It’s an emergency –

Call the police –

Where is the nearest police station? –

I have a headache –

Please take me to the hospital-

I need a doctor –


Communication Trouble

I don’t know –

I don’t understand

I can’t speak Korean well –

Do you speak English? –

Please speak slowly –

Please repeat that for me. –

If you liked this and want to learn more Korean, then head over to our guide here:

We also have a structured online Korean language course that will teach you how to have a 3-minute conversation in the first 90 days.

Now that you have this survival Korean in your repertoire, you’re ready for your South Korean adventure! We hope you have an amazing trip.

What survival Korean would you like to know? Let us know in the comments below!

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