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10 Korean Idioms To Remember
May 25, 2021

Korean idioms and expressions  are an important part of everyday Korean culture. They come up  all the time in both written and spoken forms. Because idioms don’t always make sense literally, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the meaning and usage of each idiom.

That may seem like a lot of work, but learning idioms is fun, especially when you compare Korean idioms to the idioms in your own language.

Learning to use common idioms and expressions will make your Korean sound more native, so it’s a good idea to master some of these expressions. You can start by learning the very common Korean idioms, since these are the ones you’ll encounter regularly watching Korean movies or TV, or visiting Korea. When you’ve mastered those, move on to rest. In Korean these are called “속담”(Sogdam) and “관용어”(Gwanyongeo),you can memorize.

Here are 10 common idioms to start with.


  1. 그림의 떡

Literal meaning : Rice cake in a picture. Something that you can only wish for. 

그림의 떡

Eg : 인도 여행을 가고 싶지만 그림의 떡이다

(I want to travel to India, but it’s a rice cake in the picture.)

2. 배가 아프다

Literal meaning : When you’re envious or extremely jealous of other's happiness or success.

배가 아프다

Eg : 사촌이 큰 집을 사서 배가 아프다 

(My cousin bought a big house, so my stomach hurts.)

  1. 눈 깜짝 할 사이

Literal meaning : In the blink of an eye. In a fraction of seconds. 

눈 깜짝 할 사이

Eg : 아이는 배가 많이 고팠던 지 눈 깜짝 할 사이에 밥 한 공기를 뚝딱 비웠다.

(The child emptied a bowl of rice in the blink of an eye since he was very hungry.)

4. 시작이 반이다

Literal meaning : Taking the initiative is half the work done.

시작이 반이다

Eg: 시작이 반이다~ 처음에는 어렵더라도 모든 게 잘 될 거예요 !! 

(Taking the initiative is half the work done. Even though it'll be difficult in the beginning, everything will turn out good.)

  1. 눈이 열리다

Literal meaning : One's eyes are open. To realize something.

눈이 열리다

Eg: 정부의 잘못된 위법행위 대해 이제 눈이 열려요.

(My eyes are now open to the wrongdoing of the government.)

  1. 눈이 낮다

Literal meaning : To have low eyes. To have refined or sophisticated taste in things.

눈이 낮다

Eg : 그녀는 단순한 생활을 하고 있고 눈이 낮다.

(She has a simple life and has sophisticate taste in things.)

  1.  꼬리를 치다/흔들다.

Literal meaning : Wagging tail. Flattering or enticing others.

꼬리를 치다/흔들다

Eg : 여자가 남자에게 꼬리를 치다

(The woman is wagging her tail at the man.)

  1. 여름비는 잠비고, 가을비는 떡비

Literal meaning : Summer rain is quiet, and autumn rain is rice cake. In other words, summer is an agricultural season, so people take a nap when it rains, and fall is the harvest season, so they eat well when it rains.

여름비는 잠비고, 가을비는 떡비

Eg : 여름비는 잠비고 가을비는 떡비….밥도잘 먹고 꼭 쉬어야지~

(Summer rain is to rest and autumn rain is to eat plentifully, you should eat and rest well.)

  1. 열 길 물속은 알아도 한 길 사람 속은 모른다.

Literal meaning : You can know how deep the water is but you can't know the man's heart.

열 길 물속은 알아도 한 길 사람 속은 모른다.

Eg: 사람들은 예측이 불가능하다. 열 길 물속은 알아도 한 길 사람 속은 모른다고요.

(People can't predict. Even though you know how deep the water is, you can't know what's inside a man's heart.)

  1. 눈코 뜰 새 없다

Literal meaning : I don’t have time to open my eyes and nose. Used when you are so busy you don't have time to open your eyes or nose. 

눈코 뜰 새 없다

Eg: 일이 좀 있어서 눈코 뜰 새 없다 

(I have lots of work so I'm very busy.)

Hope you enjoyed learning these Idioms and their meanings. You can use these in daily conversation with Koreans. Memorize and practice these idioms and  we’ll come back with another interesting topic.

Thank you !

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