Telling Time in Korean – How to say clock hours & minutes

Last Updated on August 13, 2021 by 90 Day Korean
Businessman running worried with a huge clock in the background

Want to learn all about telling time in Korean? You came to the right place! No Korean learning plan is complete without knowing the time.

We’ll give you the essential Korean vocabulary and phrases you need for telling the time so you’ll never be late for your next appointment. If you’d like to know how to say “time” in Korean, that’s a separate blog post. This post is all about telling the time itself.

Much of this article will use the Hangeul (한글), so you can reference the romanization if you can’t read it yet. But we highly recommend you learn the alphabet ASAP. You can get a guide here.

Well then, let’s mind the hour and start!

Businessman running worried with a huge clock in the background - Time in South Korea

Here is a free PDF guide that you can download and take with you:

Getting started with numbers

To tell the time in Korean, you need to know a bit about numbers in Korean. There are two number systems used, and both are used when telling the time in South Korea. We have a great blog post about Korean numbers so study up on that if you’re interested.

For now, you can reference this chart:

In brief, the numbers on the left (Korea system) are used for hours, and the numbers on the right (China system) are used for minutes.

Just know that to say a number from the China system greater than 20, use 이십 (20 | isip), 삼십 (30 | samsip), etc. + the number below 10. So 22 is 이십이 (isipi), 34 is 삼십사 (samsipsa) and so on.

In our lesson on numbers, we cover this more in-depth (link to the blog post above chart). So with that out of the way, let’s get to telling the time in South Korea!

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Telling Hours

When telling the hour in South Korea, you use the word 시 (si) or 시간 (sigan). Remember you use a number from the 하나, 둘, 셋 (hana, dul, set) number system when using hours.

시 (si) is used specifically for telling time (4 o’clock = 네시 | nesi), whereas 시간 (sigan) is for an amount of time (4 hours = 네 시간 | ne sigan ) instead of telling it. Look at these time examples.

Example:

2 o’clock = 두시 | dusi

5 o’clock = 다섯시 | daseotsi

Telling Minutes

If you are telling the minutes, then you use the word 분 (bun). You should use a number from the 일 (il), 이 (i), 삼 (sam) number system when using minutes.

Unlike hours, 분 (bun) is used both for telling time and indicating an amount. Here are some examples of what the time in minutes would look like.

Example:

34 minutes = 삼십사분 (samsipsabun)

42 minutes = 사십이 분 (sasipi bun)

Telling Time in Korean

Now that we’ve covered our Korean numbers and know about telling hours (시 | si) and telling minutes (분 | bun), we can put them all together. A few things to know before diving further into the time South Korea though. Korean also has a word for “half past” (ie. 4:30), which is 반 (ban). This literally means “half” in Korean. It makes things a bit simpler when reading the time. Look at this time example.

Example:

4:30 = 네시 반 | naesi ban

It’s also ok to say 네시 삼십분 (naesi samsipbun), but 네시 반 (naesi ban) is a bit easier for telling the time, wouldn’t you say? Note that although there is a word for “half past” when telling the time, there aren’t equivalents for “quarter past” or “quarter till.” You’ll just have to read it out in the time.

Also, words usually have spaces in between them. However, with hours and minutes in telling time, there’s no space. So while you may see 2 o’clock written as 두시 (dusi) and 두 시 (du si), the first one, 두시 (dusi), is the proper form for Korean time. But this isn’t a strict rule for the time in South Korea.

So with that out of the way, we can start practicing!


Do you know how you would say the time 2:33?

2:34 = 두시 삼십사분 (dusi samsipsabun)

Great! How about the time 5:42?

5:42 = 다섯시 사십이 분 (daseotsi sasipi bun)

You can practice this a bit yourself, and there's a bit more we need to know about telling the time in Korean before we can say we've mastered this, though.

12hr clock or 24hr clock?

You may be aware of the two different ways of telling the time, the 12hr clock (AM, PM) and the 24hr clock usually used by the military (HH:mm). South Korea uses both these systems for telling the time in daily life, but in different situations.

In a vast majority of situations, you'll hear the 12hr clock used in South Korea. However, you may encounter the 24hr clock when you see the time written in scheduling, like in timetables at the airport or with tv time schedules. In the 24hr form, it's the number+시 (si).

Example:

14:35 = 십사시 삼십오분 (sipsasi samsibobun)

Notice a difference here? When telling the time in the 24hr form, it's read using only the China system numbers. But while those in the Korean military or officials would read the time as above, you'll very rarely encounter it spoken this way in South Korea.

In almost all other situations, even where it's written in the 24hr form, people would still say the time in the 12hr form. So most people would read the above time as 두시 삼십오분 (dusi samsipobun), and we recommend you do as well.

Now how to distinguish between AM and PM? We'll get to that now.

Telling AM and PM

In South Korea, the vocabulary for AM is 오전 (ojeon). You would use this for telling the time in the morning hours before noon.

The vocabulary for PM is 오후 (ohu). You would use this for telling time in South Korea in the afternoon and evening hours afternoon. Note that 오후 (ohu) is also a word for "evening."

However, unlike in most places, these are placed at the beginning instead of at the end. Here are some time examples.

Example:

2:13 AM = 오전 두시 십삼분 (ojeon dusi sipsambun)

7:30 PM = 오후 일곱시 삼십분 (ohu ilgopsi samsipbun) or 오후 일곱시 반 (ohu ilgopsi ban)

You may, on occasion, see AM and PM put at the end of the time. Or if someone is talking about the morning, 아침 (achim), or evening, 저녁 (jeonyeok), then AM and PM would be omitted entirely. For the most part, though, you'll want to say them first when telling the time out loud.

If that's all clear, let's recap on our time vocabulary and add some phrases you can start using for telling the time in the conversation!

Essential Time Vocabulary

Hours - 시 | si

Minutes - 분 | bun

AM - 오전 | ojeon

PM - 오후 | ohu

Half-past - 반 | ban

Dawn in Korean

Dawn is the time of the day when the sunlight starts to appear, and it usually symbolizes a new start. This English word means 새벽 (saebyeok) in Korean. If you're a morning person, you most likely are already up by dawn.

Dusk in Korean

In definition, dusk happens just before nighttime when the sun has set, but it is not yet completely dark. In Korean, you can say it as 황혼 (hwanghon) or 땅거미 (ttangeomi) however, 해질녘 (haejilnyeok) is a more common term used for dusk.

Midnight in Korean

Midnight signals the transition from one day to the next, specifically at 12 o'clock at night. In Korean, it is usually said as 자정 (jajeong) or 밤 12(열두)시 (bam yeoldusi).

Noon in Korean

Noon or midday is 12 o'clock in the daytime. In Korean, the most common ways to say it are 정오 (jeong-o) or 낮 12(열두)시 (naj yeoldusi).

Time in South Korea

The time in South Korea follows the Korea Standard Time (KST) Time Zone (UTC/GMT + 9 hours). To help you visualize the time difference, we've listed some of the cities around the world and their time zones compared to the Korea Standard Time zone followed in South Korea. Some countries listed observe the Daylight Saving Time (DST). However, in South Korea, Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

New York City, USA 

South Korea is ahead of New York for 13 hours, following the (GMT-4) time zone. This means if it's 8 pm, Thursday in New York (EST), then the time in South Korea (KST) is 9 am on Friday.

Tokyo, Japan

The time in South Korea and Japan are the same since both countries have the same time zones (GMT + 9 hours). However, Japan's time zone is known as Japan Standard Time (JST).

London, United Kingdom

The time in South Korea is ahead of London, with a time difference of 8 hours. For example, if it's 8 am in London, which follows the British Standard Time (BST) time zone, it's already 4 pm in South Korea (KST). Another example is if it's 6 am (KST) in South Korea on a Wednesday, then it's still 10 pm (BST) in London on a Tuesday.

Manila, Philippines

South Korea is only an hour ahead of the Philippines, so it's quite easy to determine the Korea Standard Time compared to Manila.

Paris, France

The time in South Korea is 7 hours ahead of France. They observe 12 different time zones depending on the Daylight Saving Time.

Beijing, China

Similar to Manila, the time in South Korea is also 1 hour ahead of  Beijing, which follows the China Standard Time (CST) time zone. The time difference will not be difficult to remember.

Korean Time Sample Sentences

Here we'll give you some common Korean phrases at different levels of politeness so you can always be ready.

Formal Korean

You should use this Korean in a professional environment or with those older than you, who are not close with.

1. 오후 다섯시 삼십분 비행기입니다. 잊지 마십시오. → Your flight is leaving at 17:30. Please don't be late.

ohu daseotsi samsipbun bihaenggiimnida. itji masipsio

2. 서울행 버스는 15분 지연되어 오전 여덟시 사십오분에 출발 예정입니다. → The next bus to Seoul will be 15 minutes late and will now depart at 8:45 AM.

seoulhaeng beoseuneun sipobun jiyeondoeeo ojeon yeodeolsi sasibobune chulbal yejeongimnida

Standard Korean

You can use these sentences about time in South Korea in just about every situation, and they’re considered polite.

1. 지금 몇 예요? → What is the time now?

jigeum myeot siyeyo?

2. 지금 오전 아홉시예요. → It's 9 AM now.

jigeum ahopsiyeyo.

3. 우리 몇 에 만날까요? → What time should we meet?

uri myeot sie mannalkkayo?

4. 오후 두시 반에 만나요. → Let's meet at 2:30 PM.

ohu dusi bane mannayo

Informal Korean Sample Sentences

In South Korea, this speaking style is used with friends, family, or others that you're close with.

1. 몇 영화야? → What time is the movie?

myeot si yeonghwaya?

2. 여섯시 십분에 시작해. → It starts at 6:10.

yeoseotsi sipbune sijakae

Now you know all about the South Korea time and telling the time in Korean!

For related lessons:

That's a lot of information! If you have any questions about the content of this lesson, feel free to leave a comment below. Don't go claiming the mantle of Time Lord just yet, and there's still a lot more Korean to master. But now, you must also know the time difference you have with South Korea with the time zones shown above. Check out our other posts, all geared to help you learn essential Korean phrases! We also have an online course that can help you improve your Korean language skills.

    47 replies to "Telling Time in Korean – How to say clock hours & minutes"

    • Avatar for SM SM

      How do we say how much time have passed

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        You can use 지나다(=to pass). For example 한 시간이 지났어요 means “It’s been an hour/1 hour has passed”.

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