Survival Korean – Essential Parts of the Language


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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!


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. For a complete list of Korean phrases, go here:

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 – 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo)/안녕히계세요 (annyeonghigyeseyo)

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 you – 만나서 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 만나서 반가워요 (mannaseo bangawoyo). 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? – 어떻게 지내세요? (eotteoke jinaeseyo?)

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? – 뭐하면서 지내세요? (mwohamyeonseo jinaeseyo?)

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 뭐하면서 지내요? (mwohamyeonseo jinaeyo?)

Are you doing well? – 잘 지내세요? (jal jinaeseyo?)

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)/잠깐만요 (jamkkanmanyo)

Both of these survival Korean phrases mean the same thing. There’s a video on this page that explains the nuances between the two.

Please wait a moment – 잠시만 기다리세요 (jamsiman gidariseyo)/ 잠시만 기다려주세요 (jamsiman gidaryeojuseyo)

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 me – 실례합니다 (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 여기요 (yeogiyo) or 저기요(jeogiyo).

I’m sorry – 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida)

This is a very useful survival Korean phrase. You may also hear the phrase 미안합니다 (mianhamnida), 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… – 제 이름은 x예요 (je ireumeun X yeyo) /제 이름은 x입니다 (je ireumeun X imnida)

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

What is your name? – 성함이 어떻게 되세요? (seonghami eotteoke doeseyo)

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

I am from… – 저는 X에서 왔어요 (jeoneun X eseo wasseoyo)/저는 x나라 사람이에요 (jeoneun X nara saramieyo)

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.


Getting Around

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

Where is… – …어디에요? (eodieyo?)/어디세요? (eodiseyo?)

  • Bathroom – 화장실 (hwajangsil)
  • Subway station – 지하철역 (jihacheollyeok)
  • Bus stop – 버스정류장 (beoseujeongnyujang)

The latter is more formal, so you may prefer using that one if you want to sound extra polite.

Do you know where is… – …어딘지 아세요? (eodinji aseyo?)

Right/Left/Straight – 오른쪽 (oreunjjok)/왼쪽 (oenjjok)/직진 (jikjin)

Please take me to… – …로 가주세요 (ro gajuseyo)

Use this survival Korean when you take a taxi. Speak slowly and repeat yourself if necessary.


Restaurants and Shopping

Menu, please – 메뉴 주세요 (menyu juseyo)/메뉴판 주세요 (menyupan juseyo)

Typically the menu is already available at the table or on the walls, or brought to you as you sit down, when you go to a restaurant. But sometimes you may want to order some more after your first order, and for that you should ask for the menu separately.

Without X food item – X 빼주세요 (X ppaejuseyo)

If you have food allergies and such, it’s important to use this when ordering.

Do you have…?/Does it have…? – …있어요? (isseoyo?) 있습니까? (itseumnikka?)

This can be used to ask about specific items or dishes at a store or a restaurant, or even if you want to ask if the food has a certain ingredient in it.

Please give me – 주세요 (juseyo)

Whenever you are requesting something, you may want to add this to the sentence.

This one – 이것 (igeot)

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? – 얼마예요? (eolmayeyo?)

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 – 깍아주세요 (kkagajuseyo)

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 by credit card? – 카드 결제 가능해요?(kadeu gyeolje ganeunghaeyo?)

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

Please help! – 도와주세요! (dowajuseyo!)

It’s an emergency – 긴급상황이에요 (gingeupsanghwangieyo)

Call the police – 경찰 부르세요 (gyeongchal bureuseyo)/경찰 불러 주세요 (gyeongchal bulleo juseyo)

It hurts here – 여기 아파요 (yeogi apayo)

Please take me to the hospital – 병원으로 가 주세요 (byeongwoneuro ga juseyo)

I need a doctor – 저는 의사가 필요해요 (jeoneun uisaga pillyohaeyo)


Communication Trouble

I don’t understand – 잘 모르겠어요 (jal moreugesseoyo)/이해 못해요 (ihae mothaeyo)

The first option can also be used to say that you don’t know the answer to the question you’ve been asked.

I can’t speak Korean well – 한국말을 잘 못해요 (hangungmareul jal mothaeyo)

Do you speak English? – 영어를 할 수 있어요? (yeongeoreul hal su isseoyo?)/영어가 가능하세요? (yeongeoga ganeunghaseyo?)

Please speak slowly – 천천히 말씀해주세요 (cheoncheonhi malsseumhaejuseyo)

Can you say it again? – 다시 한번 말씀해줄 수 있으세요? (dasi hanbeon malsseumhaejul su isseuseyo?)

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

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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