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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

How to Succeed in Korean Without Really Trying

Basic Korean words, Landmarks, Taxis, and Restaurants

Learning Korean is hard. It’s one of the most difficult languages for English-speakers to learn, along with Chinese and Japanese. The only reason those are harder is the Korean alphabet is simple and phonetic.

But you’re here, and while English is becoming more common, it’s not pervasive, and if you leave the comfort zone of Starbucks and  foreigner bars, having some basic language skills will help you get much more out of your time here. I’ve already provided a basic guide to reading Hangeul, which most people should be able to master within a weekend with a bit of effort.

For those with an aptitude for languages, or who have the time and patience to study, there are a variety of options. The Global Centre at City Hall runs classes, as do both Ulsan University andUNIST. Hiring a private tutor for yourself, or joining the study group is another way to go. You can even just pick up books or download programs off the internet. There are  a few articles on here that will help you navigate your learning options. There’s also an excellent series in the old Ulsan Pear called “Beyond Konglish”, so if you’re interested, check out the old PDF’s, available here.

For others, learning this language seems like a daunting task, and since most Koreans you meet will want to practice their English with you, it’s easy to shrug your shoulders, leave the books on the shelf, and fumble through your time here with Konglish and gestures. This article is going to introduce some very basic phrases that will help you fumble a little less, and will cause many responses of “Oh, your Korean so good!” It will also impress any friends or family that come to visit, which is obviously an important factor in language learning.

This is basic – there’s no sentence structure or grammar here. This is just enough to scrape by. You’ll probably still need some charades. Keep in mind, when Romanized, some of the letters are pronounced differently to English phonetics. “a” is usually more like”ah”, like Ah-Ha! “eo” is “aw” or like a short “o”, “o” is like a long O (Oak-dong, not Awk-dong), “i” is “ee”, and “si” sounds like “she”… Seriously, check out the Hangeul article, if you haven’t already, to save us all some time…

The Basics:

Hello – Anyong-ha-se-yo (informally, just Anyong) – 안녕하세요

Please – Ju-se-yo (actually more like, “give to me”) – 주세요

Bathroom – Hwa-jang-shil (make it sound like a question, and people will point the way) 화장실

Nice to meet you – Ban-gap-sum-ni-da – 반갑슴니다

Yes – neh, or yeh – 네 / 예

No – ah-ni-yo – 아니오

Thank you – Kam-sa-ham-ni-da (though it sounds more like “kam-sam-nee-da” unless you’re being formal) – 감사합니다

When leaving a store/business – su-go-ha-shyeoss-eo-yo – 수고하셨어요

You’re welcome – cheon-man-eh-yo – 천만에요

That’s alright – Kwaen-chan-a-yo (sounds more like “kon-chan-a-yo”) – 괜찮아요

Just a moment – Cham-kkan-man-yo (sounds more like “chak-a-man-yo”) – 잠깐만요

Excuse me/sorry – Me-an-ham-ni-da  – 미안합니다 or shil-lye-ham-ni-da (sounds more like “shilla-ham-ni-da)- 실례합니다

How much? – Eol-my-yeh-oh? (sounds more like Ol-my-yo) – 얼마에요

Where? – Eo-dee-eh-oh? (sounds more like Oh-dee-oh?) – 어디에요

I don’t know – Mol-la-yoh (or just “muh”, usually accompanied by a shoulder shrug) – 몰라요

Exists/have/in attendance – iss-eo-yo – 있어요

Does not exist/don’t have/absent – eobs-eo-yo (sounds more like “ub-saw-yo”) – 없어요

Goodbye – Anyong-hi-keh-sey-oh (say to person leaving) – 안녕히게세요/ Anyong-hi-kyeo-sey-oh (say to person staying) – 안녕히겨세요


Giving directions in Korea is a challenge, as Korean addresses make sense only to postal workers, and while the streets here are beginning to be named, no one knows what the roads are called. Taxi drivers and general citizens tend to give directions by landmarks – large buildings that everyone would be familiar with, or intersections (which have names that don’t always correspond with the roads that are intersecting). Here are some of the more useful landmarks to know.

Department store = Baek-hwa-jeom (just remember, there are two Hyundai Bekhwajeoms in Ulsan – one in Samsandong, Namgu, and one in Seobudong, Donggu) – 뱩화점

Apartment complex = Apartuh – 아파트

Intersections = Name, number + Gori (거리), so if there are 4 directions, it’s Sa-Gori (사거리), 3 directions is Sam-Gori (삼거리). A personal favourite is Babo-Sagori (바보사거리) in Mugeodong, which basically means “stupid/crazy 4-way-intersection”, because the traffic jams there used to be ridiculous.

Hosptial = Byeong-won – 병원

School = hak-yo. – 학교 – Elementary school is Cho-dung Hakyo (초등학교), Middle school is Joong Hakyo (중학교), High school is Go-dung Hakyo (고등학교), university is Dae hakyo (대학교) (Koreans like to create nicknames for things by taking the first syllable of each word, so Ul Dae (울대) works for Ulsan Uni, Gwa-gi-Dae (과기대) works for UNIST, Gwa-hak-Dae-hak (과학대학) works for Ulsan College)

Park – Gongwon. (공원) Ulsan Grand Park is Ulsan Dae Gongwon (울산 대공원). Taehwa River Park is Taehwagang Gongwon (태화강 공원).

Market – shi jang – 시장

City Hall – shi cheong – 시청

Taxi Korean:

When you get in a cab, you need to tell the taxi diver a landmark near where you want to go, then you can give more precise directions from there:

Take me there, please  – Ga-ju-say-oh =  가 주세요

Left – Wen-choke = 왼쪽

Right – Oreun-choke = 오른쪽

Go straight – jick-jin =  직진

Here – Yogi-oh = 여기오

Over there- Chogi-yo = 저기오

Restaurant Korean:

The hard part with restaurants is knowing what’s on the menu. Learning to read Hangeul will be helpful, because you’ll know some of the dishes (bibimbap, jjigae, dweggi gogi, etc). Phone dictionaries are also helpful, though it can often take a while to translate things properly. Really, it just takes time and experience, and a willingness to eat whatever’s brought, to learn what different food is out there. But here are some basics for ordering:

First, we’ll start with counting, so you can say how many you want. This is weird in Korean, because there are two number systems, and they’re used in different ways. For instance, you would say “sam cheonon” for “3 thousand-won”, but “seh-byeong” for “3 bottles”.

1 – hana – il – 하나 / 일

2 – duel – Ee – 둘 / 이

3 – set – sam – 셋 / 삼

4 – net – sa – 넷 / 사

5 – ta-seot – oh – 다섯 / 오

6 – yeo-seot – yuk – 여섯 / 육

7 – il-gop – cheel -일곱 / 칠

8 – yeo-deol – pal – 여덟 / 팔

9 – ah-hop – goo – 아흡 / 구

10 – yeol – ship – 열 / 십

When ordering a number of things, you shorten 1-4, so (han-byeong or du-byeong or seh-myeong or neh-myeong), but leave the other numbers whole (ilgop byeong).

Person/people = myeong (Four people = neh-myeong) – 명 (네 명)

Menu = meh-nyu – 메뉴

Beer = Mekju – 맥주

Object (like servings of meat or a few things) – gae – 개 (so three servings of pork ribs would be “dweggi galbi se-gae, juseyo” 돼지 갈비, 세개, 주세요)

Water – Mool – 물

Bottle = Byeong – 병 (4 bottles of beer – “mekju, ne-byeong, juseyo” 맥주, 네병, 주세요)

Glass/cup = Jan – 잔

Lots/ plenty = mah-ni (sounds a lot like many) – 많이

garlic – man-eul – 마늘

Side-dishes – ban-chan – 반찬

Leaves – sang-chu (The sesame leaves are kkaet nip) – 상추

chili/soy dipping sauce for meat – sam-jang – 삼장

pork – dweggi gogi – 돼지 고기

beef – so gogi – 소고기

Chicken – dak – 닭

duck – ori gogi – 오리 고기

rib-meat – galbi – 갈비

barbequed meat – bulgogi – 불고기

bacon-like strips – sam-gyup-sal – 삼겹살

radish = moo – 무

radish kimchi – kkak-du-gi – 깍두기

chili peppers = go-chu (also slang for penis…) – 고추

soy sauce – gan-jang – 간장

salt – so-geum – 소금

spicy (as a modifier) – mae-oon – 매운 as in mae-oon go-chu (spicy pepper)

spicy – mae-da – 맵다 / 매워요

except (without) – bbae-go – 빼고 (vegetarians – take note – gogi bbae-go – 고기빼고 is “without meat”)

delicious – ma-shi-sseo-yo – 맛이있어요

chopsticks – cheo-kka-rak – 젓가락

spoon – soo-ka-rak – 숟가락

fork – po-kuh – 포오크

ashtray – jae-deo-li – 재떨이

Of course, I could go on all day, but there are phrase books that do this more thoroughly.

When you’re traveling, it’s important to learn a few basic words in each culture you pass through. Being able to say, Hello, Please, Thank you and Goodbye, show basic manners and respect for the people you’re encountering. When you live in a country for more than a few weeks, it seems only right to learn at least a few basic phrases to show that you are making an effort to communicate. It takes 10,000 hours to become fluent in a language, but it only takes a few to become polite.