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Chaebol 101: An Introduction to South Korea’s Corporate Oligarchy (The Korea File)

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University of Michigan PhD Candidate Michael Prentice interned for a year at a Seoul-area corporation, conducting semi-covert academic research on the unique corporate culture of South Korea. 

Here, he discusses the semantics, politics and evolution of the word ‘Chaebol’, the origins of post-Korean War corporate and economic development in the country as well as society’s fascination and obsession with the behaviour and excesses of its ruling oligarchy. 

This is the first of a 3-part conversation.

Music on this episode is from김연숙 ‘s 1987 single ‘그날’.

Photo: New Samsung HQ in San Jose, CA

   The Korea File

Korean Alcohol: 7 Drinks You Need to Try!

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When you think of Korea, what do you think of? K-Pop, kimchi, and Korean barbeque? What about alcohol? Korea is home to a wide variety of interesting (and delicious!) alcoholic concoctions that make enjoying a night out drinking with friends anything but boring.

Put down the beer, and read on for a list of must-try Korean alcoholic beverages that you should incorporate into your next evening out! Bottoms up!


Korean Alcohol #1: Soju

Korean alcohol soju

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It doesn’t get more Korean than soju, a quintessential Korean alcohol. That being said, Koreans aren’t the only ones who love soju – believe it or not, it’s the most widely consumed type of alcohol in the world!

Soju pairs well with a wide variety of popular Korean dishes, so it is considered by many to be a staple for a great, well-rounded dinner. However, be careful before you pour your third or fourth glass – soju is commonly 19-25% alcohol, so it is a much higher proof than beer and wine. Don’t let that scare you away, though! The distinct, sharp taste of soju is popular for a reason. Stop and pick up a bottle before your next dinner party and you’ll see what all the buzz is about!


Korean Alcohol #2: Bokbunja

Korean Alcohol 2 Bokbunja

Time for a quick wine lesson! As I’m sure you’re aware, wine is made from grapes, and the different flavors in different types of wine come from manipulating the fermenting process to enhance different properties of the grapes’ flavor. So, what would happen if a fruit like blackberries was used instead of grapes? A delicious beverage called bokbunja is what happens!

That being said, the similarities between bokbunja and wine stops there. Bokbunja has a much higher alcohol content than a standard glass of red or white wine – a glass of bokbunja averages 15-19% alcohol, and a glass of wine averages between 9-16%. Due to the high acidity of the blackberries, bokbunja is a delight to drink with lightly seasoned seafood dishes.

Bokbunja also has a less-known property that makes it a huge hit – it’s been linked to a rise in testosterone in men, making it a delicious aphrodisiac. Pick up a bottle of this tart Korean alcohol the next time you’re cooking fish, crab, or octopus for your date and you’ll be in for a treat!


Korean Alcohol #3: Maeshilju

Korean alcohol maeshiju

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Are you a fan of sweet dessert wines? If so, maeshilju is the drink for you! Maeshilju is a super sweet Korean alcohol made from green plums fermented with a sweetener, like light brown sugar or honey. The alcohol percentage of this drink is sitting at a decent 14%, which means you’ll be able to enjoy a few glasses without falling over or running into walls.

Maeshilju doesn’t pair particularly well with dinner because its sweetness can be overpowering, but a glass after a meal makes for a fantastic dessert. Break out some maeshilju the next time you’re hosting a dinner party and would like to bring the dining experience to a well-rounded finish for your friends or family. They won’t be disappointed!


Korean Alcohol #4: Makgeolli

Korean alcohol 4 Makgeolli

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Makgeolli is the original Korean alcohol – it’s much older than the other alcohols listed on this list, but it’s still a favorite in Korean bars and restaurants for good reason!

Makgeolli is a think, sweet rice wine that is sweet and tangy with a touch of carbonation to pull the drink together. In recent years, makgeolli has started becoming popular with the younger crowd when paired with a fruit cocktail to make it slightly sweeter. There are a ton of different types of makgeolli available for purchase – some renditions add additional flavors, while some renditions pride themselves on using pure, organic ingredients for an all-around smooth and unbeatable taste (at a slightly higher price). Shop around and find the makgeolli that you prefer, and take part in a tradition almost as old as Korea itself!


Korean Alcohol #5: Dongdongju

Korean alcohol 5 dongdongju

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Dongdongju is a less-popular (but still delicious!) variation of makgeolli. Makgeolli is made from rice, and as a result is thick and can be full of sediment if it’s unfiltered. Dongdongju is its unfiltered cousin – your standard glass of dongdongju will have rice particles in the bottom of the glass, adding an interesting texture to an already interesting drink. Aside from the difference in thickness and texture as a result of the filtering, dongdongju has a very similar flavor profile to makgeolli, so if you’re a fan of makgeolli give dongdongju a try!


Korean Alcohol #6: Sansachun

Korean Alcohol 6 sansachun

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Sansachun has been considered a “medicinal alcohol” for over 400 years – supposedly, sansachun is the drink to pour when you’re stressed or anxious, as it’s supposed to calm the nerves and soothe the body. Sign me up!

Brewed from hawthorn berries, sansachun is slightly sour and is said to enhance appetite if it’s consumed prior to eating, which makes it a popular pre-dinner drink. Use sansachun to unwind the next time you’ve had a long day, and let us know what you think in the comments below!


Korean Alcohol #7: Cheongju

Korean alcohol 7 cheongju

Cheongju is literally “clear liquor” in Korean, and true to its name, it’s a clear Korean rice wine. Think of it as a very mild, slightly sweet soju. The difference in taste comes from being fermented at least twice (rather than once), and the difference in the fermentation process produces a mild, sweet beverage that appeals to many drinkers who find the taste of soju too intense or unpalatable. If you gave soju a shot and you didn’t know what all the fuss was about, try cheongju for a dialed back drinking experience that you’ll be sure to enjoy!


Getting to know the food and drink of a particular culture can be intimidating if you don’t have a point of reference. Hopefully this list helps you navigate the Korean drinking scene and have some fun! Do you have a favorite Korean liquor that wasn’t on this list? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!


Main Photo: Graham Hills

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The pictures pretty much speak for themselves, but I’d say the...

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The pictures pretty much speak for themselves, but I’d say the Robot Show in Shinjuku is an experience worth having. Like everyone says: don’t buy the food there. I still don’t quite understand what I saw, but my visual and auditory senses were stimulated. 

About the girl

Hi, I'm Stacy. I am from Portland, Oregon, USA, and am currently living and teaching ESL in Busan, South Korea. Busy getting into lots of adventures, challenging myself, and loving people. Something more than an ethereal will-o-wisp.

Thank you so much for visiting and reading.

Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, LastfmFlickr, and FacebookAsk me anything


Only In Korea Podcast: HBC Gentrification

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Only in Korea Facebook Group creator Travis Hull joins Korea FM‘s Chance Dorland to discuss HBC gentrification & the government’s plan to turn Haebangchon (Hangul: 해방촌 Hanja: 解放村) into a “Green Culture Village.”

Subscribe to Korea FM Talk Radio & News Podcasts Via:

iTunes 96x33      Stitcher 96x33   Tune In Smaller   YouTube 79x33   RSS 83x33

 Interview answers, both in written & audio form, have been edited for length & clarity.








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The post Only In Korea Podcast: HBC Gentrification appeared first on Korea FM.

Agreeing to go to one theme-restaurant in Japan, we went to...

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Agreeing to go to one theme-restaurant in Japan, we went to Kagaya where their motto is “frog is stranger than fiction.” I had no idea what this place was about, but maybe it’s better going into it that way.

It felt like an art show and dinner, all-in-one. It’s a little weird but definitely fun and funny. At different times, there is audience participation and you’ll get to choose your own adventure, as well. The food is traditional Japanese and quite nice; I think the performer’s mother cooks and serves it.

The place is small and they do a good job of fitting a lot of people in a small space. Be prepared: everyone sits on the floor. 

It’s a one-minute walk from JR Shimbashi Station, but you should definitely make reservations ahead of time through their website.

Address: Japan, 〒105-0004 Tokyo, Minato, Shinbashi, 2 Chome−15−12, 花定ビル B1F

Phone: +81 3-3591-2347

Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities for False Beginners

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Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities for False Beginners


I taught English in South Korea for almost a decade and most of that time was spent teaching false beginners. False beginners are students who’ve studied English at some point in the past but had to stop for whatever reason.

Or more commonly in Korea, they’ve studied English for years, sometimes very advanced level concepts but didn’t really even grasp the basics. It was all too common amongst my students!

Some students realized that they were actually at quite a basic level, and they were easy to teach because they were willing to listen and accept my feedback. Those that believed they were far more advanced than they actually were, of course, were a bit of a struggle!

Anyway, let’s just say that I have plenty of experience teaching English to false beginners! The key is to use activities that don’t appear “beginner-like” but which you can adapt to keep the grammar and vocabulary simple enough for them.

Keep reading for my top 10 ESL Speaking Activities for False Beginners:

#1: English Central- YouTube for English Language Learners

English Central is basically YouTube for English learners. There is a paid version of it, but you should find that the free one suits your purposes quite well. There are videos on a whole host of topics, ranging from beginner to advanced so you should be able to find something that works for you. Of course you can turn English Central into a speaking activity by asking warm-up and follow-up questions, etc.  Here is more information about English Central.

#2: Is that Sentence Correct?

Is that Sentence Correct is a great warm-up for ESL students, especially beginners. Intermediate and advanced level students are usually too advanced to fool! Check out how to do this fun ESL warm-up activity. You can turn this one into a speaking activity by getting students to discuss with a partner or small group.

#3: Puzzle Finder Icebreaker Activity

Puzzle Finder is an ESL icebreaker activity that is challenging, but easy enough for false beginners. It’s a great way to get students to mix and mingle, meeting each other at the beginning of the semester. This is a great activity that firmly belongs on any list of Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities! Check out more information about Puzzle Finder.

#4: Riddles and Trivia

I love a good riddle or trivia night at the pub. And, I also love to use them in my classes! The only problem with trivia and riddles is that it’s pretty difficult to find good ones for ESL students, especially beginners. But, I finally found something that was written for ESL students specifically. Although I usually make all my own materials for my classes, I used the Monster Pack every single day. While mostly a reading activity, you can turn it into a speaking activity by getting students to answer the questions out loud as a class. Check out more details about the Monster Pack here.

#5: ESL Surveys

ESL surveys are kind of the ultimate 4-skills activity and they firmly belong on any list of Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities. Here are 6 ESL surveys that I designed to use while teaching in Korean universities.

#7: Conversation Starters for Adults

Conversation starters can be a fun way to get students talking at the beginning of the class. You can use them for a question of the day kind of thing. Of course false beginners won’t be able to sustain long, in-depth conversations but these ones mostly lend themselves to short, 3-5 minute partner conversations. You can also adapt them, or choose new ones for very low-level students. You’ll also need to reduce the speaking time. Check out my Top 10 Conversation Starters for Adults here.

#8: Agony Aunt-Problem/Advice

Even though students are false beginners, they often have a pretty decent grasp on giving advice, at least in South Korea. It’s something that’s pretty straightforward and they’ve often studied it for years. Agony Aunt belongs on my Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities list because it’s engaging, interactive and students really seem to enjoy it. More details about Agony Aunt here.

#9: Dictogloss

Dictogloss is one of those extremely versatile 4-skills ESL activities that lends itself to just about any topic or level of students. You can do it with writing, or speaking so do whatever your students need the most help with. Check out this challenging ESL activity here: Dictogloss details.

#10: Avoid the Hobby Unit Brain Rot

It seems like every single ESL textbook for beginners through intermediates has a unit on hobbies. I got sick of it and so did the students. In order to make things more interesting, I used this fun group-based activity. It’s a bit challenging, but students have preparation time before speaking so most false beginners can manage it without too much difficulty. And so rounding out our list of Top 10 ESL speaking activities is: Avoid the Hobby Unit Brain Rot!

Did you Enjoy Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities for False Beginners?


Then you’ll love this book, 101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. It’s the ultimate resource for ESL teachers because it’s written for teachers, by teachers. It’ll make your lesson planning easier, guaranteed. You can check it out on Amazon now:

—>Get 101 ESL Activities on Amazon Today<—

The post Top 10 ESL Speaking Activities for False Beginners appeared first on ESL Speaking.

Jackie Bolen: How to Get a University Job In Korea


My Life! Teaching in a Korean University

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Barmingo: Cocktails and Chinese in Hannam-dong

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I keep telling myself I won’t go more than a couple of days without updating this blog, but things just keep not working out that way. This time, I’ve gotten sidetracked by photography. I started out a few months back as worse than the average casual photographer. I used to be infamous among my friends for taking terrible, blurry photos, and photography is definitely what eats up most of my time in keeping this blog. Recently, a friend mentioned that she would be willing to sell me her Nikon for a song since she’s looking to upgrade. My current DSLR is worse than useless, but I’ve been putting off replacing it until I can justify the cost. A year ago, when I started to think seriously about figuring out how to take photos, shelling out for a new DSLR would’ve been akin to finger-painting with oil paints.

My photos won’t be winning any awards anytime soon, but I am starting to feel handicapped by the tools I have, which is a good sign — it’s what I wanted to feel before I went for the new camera. The friend’s announcement has had me spending a lot of time fiddling with photography this past week, which ate into actual blogging time.

Now that I’ve gone on about it, I have to post bar food photos, which are the worst. I need to work on how to handle low-light situations, and maybe a new camera could help with that.

On to the place.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

Barmingo opened at the end of February, and since then, it’s been getting some darling treatment from the press with mentions as a new Seoul hot spot in both Vogue and Olive.  Barmingo is the little sister of Baraboom, located just up the road, a place where it is infamously hard to get a seat without a reservation. It looks like things are pretty much the same with Barmingo — luckily, we dropped by early enough on a weeknight to grab a seat at the bar.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

The exterior of the bar is purposely ambiguous, the idea being that only those “in the know” will know it’s there, and the interior has a bit of the same kind of speakeasy feeling, but with an opium-den-meets-South-Florida kind of vibe. There is a ridiculous, massive paper dragon circling the entire front part of the bar, which is lit by lanterns and bare red light bulbs. Plenty of table seating, including a large wooden table running the length of the bar in front, and lots of screamingly vibrant colors that probably only work together given the dim lighting.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

The owner was very eager to help and make suggestions. After we settled on the Cointreau orange pork, he suggested we pair it with the house white wine, and when he realized they were out of the house white, he opened a bottle of sparkling white wine and served it to us for the house wine price. He also suggested we try the egg-fried rice after watching us hem and haw over our second item, reasoning that it would balance well with the pork.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

It was cute to watch the owner explain the pork dish. I get the feeling he has to defend it a lot, because it’s a reworking of a dish that is very familiar to the Korean palate (tangsuyuk). He explained that it’s battered in glutinous rice flour rather than wheat flour to add texture and chewiness and that the sauce is from a “French orange flavored liquor” — the Cointreau. He said, essentially, that it may not be what we were used to (primarily speaking to B) and that it was “tangsuyuk (sweet-and-sour pork) for adults, not children,” which would have come off as obnoxious had he not been so kind. What he meant, at any rate, was that it was heavy on the sour, light on the sweet.

Tangsuyuk is one of my favorite fast-food type meals here — I basically only ever eat jajangmyeon (black noodles) to get to the fried pork. That having been said, tangsuyuk is almost always way overcooked, probably because it may be two or three days old (and continuously re-fried) before it gets to you. It was really nice to have some cooked to order with a decent cut of meat. The sauce was on the verge of overpowering, but good enough that I was still sopping it up with the pork as I went.

Barmingo (11 of 12)

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

The owner was right that the egg-fried rice would’ve made for a nice counterpart, so it’s too bad the kitchen got backed up and we saw neither hide nor hair of it until the pork had been half an hour demolished, the empty plate long sent back to the kitchen.

It was still good, though. Made with long-grain rice, it was just salted enough for me, which means that it will be too salty for some, but it was definitely an elevation of the stuff my roommates and I used to snarf on street corners at 4 am after a night at the local in Brooklyn (a culinary practice I have dearly missed). Not a shred of soggy, not a drop too dry.

It is a bar, though. I know. I’m getting to that.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

The Flamingo is (obviously) the bar’s signature drink, and it was the first thing the owner suggested we try. It’s made with Botanist gin, cockscomb and lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice and sparkling white wine. I got none of that. It was good — a nicely balanced, tangy drink with bubbles. Would I pay another 18,000 won to have it again? No. I’d just as soon dump rum and Dr Pepper into a tumbler at home for the equivalent of a fiver.

I’m not a cocktail’s target audience, though, so take my opinion with a rock of salt. Also, I don’t have the foggiest idea what cockscomb is supposed to taste like.

Then came the Ppeppino, which the waitress said means “cucumber” in Italian. It doesn’t. That’s “pepino”. But close enough and forgiven, because it was the kind of drink that makes a chronic cocktail avoider reevaluate her life a little.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

But then I had a feeling it would. Botanist gin, absinthe, cucumber, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. I love absinthe, but I think we can all admit it is an abrasive drink. The gin helped to clean it up a little, while the cucumber toned it down and the lime balanced its bite. The simple syrup had adapted and blended in, as it should.

Barmingo offers a full menu of dishes including chili chicken gizzards, dried tofu and seafood stew, choy sum and deep fried pork skin. They even have a few desserts, including one made with flower buns and dulce de leche, which I personally would like to go back and try. The food ranges from small tapas plates from 5,000-12,000 won on up to the most expensive dish, oven-roasted duck with bao buns, for 35,000 won, with the average falling somewhere around 20,000. Other cocktails include the Opium Martini (Kaoliang, Kwai Feh, dry vermouth and lime juice), The Monkey Swing (Monkey Shoulder whisky, ginger syrup and Swinkels beer) and the Barmingo X Cointreau Fizz (Cointreau, Campari, lime and soda water), and prices range from 14,000-18,000 won (most being 18,000). They offer a decent but small selection of beers, wines and liquors, with a few surprising options. The menu was interesting enough that I will definitely go back just to try a few more of their dishes and cocktails, despite my preference for home-drinking. If you do drop in, definitely give the Ppeppino a try. And don’t forget to make a reservation.

Barmingo, cocktail bar serving Chinese food in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

서울시 용산구 이태원로54길 8
8 Itaewonro-54-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: (02) 790 1966

Tuesday-Sunday 12pm-3pm; 5pm-11:30pm
Closed Mondays

The post Barmingo: Cocktails and Chinese in Hannam-dong appeared first on Follow the River North.

Follow the River North

Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.

Books & Stuff    Cafés & Shops     Korean Food & Ingredients      Personal     Recipes       Restaurants & Bars

My favorite neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan is Harajuku because...

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My favorite neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan is Harajuku because it’s a great place for shopping and people watching, but also just the feel of the place is fun. The Airbnbs in the area are great, as well.

The weekend is busy with lots of lively, interesting people. Near Harajuku Station is a bridge where people dress-up in “wacky” clothes. The, just past the bridge is Yoyogi park and Meiji shrine, which you should definitely check out. Omotesando is the best place for window shopping. 

How to Say ‘Happy’ in Korean

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We can all use a little positivity and happiness in our lives.

Therefore, if you are happy and you know it, then you should say it!

Once you know how to say ‘happy’ in Korean, you will be able to let people know how you are feeling. Learning how to express different emotions can really help you get closer to your Korean friends.

Let’s get to the bottom of this happy Korean word!

‘Happy’ in Korean

There are two words that are used to say ‘happy’ in Korean. The first word for happy is 행복하다 (haengbokhada). The second word for happy is 기쁘다 (gippeuda). Dictionaries usually translate 기쁘다 as ‘glad’, rather than ‘happy’. However, its meaning is very similar to the English word for ‘happy’.


Formal ‘Happy’ in Korean

Happy in Korea Formal

1. 행복합니다 (haengbokhamnida)

2. 기쁩니다 (gippeumnida)


If you want to say ‘happy’ in formal Korean then you can use the above expressions. Formal Korean is used in interviews and presentations.


A: 행복합니까? (haengbokhamnikka?) – Are you happy?

B: 네, 행복합니다. (ne, haengbokhamnida.) – Yes, I’m happy.


Standard ‘Happy’ in Korean

Happy in Korea Standard

1. 행복해요 (haengbokhaeyo)

2. 기뻐요 (gippeoyo)

You can use these expressions when talking to people who are older or not particularly close to you. Notice how the forms of the words have changed from their dictionary form. All ‘하다’ words will change so that their endings become ‘해요’ in the standard form. Noticing how these words change can help you notice patterns more easily and learn Korean more quickly.


A: 행복하세요? (haengbokhaseyo?) – Are you happy?

B: 네, 행복해요. (ne, haengbokhaeyo.) – Yes, I’m happy.

그 사람과 있으면 행복해요? (geu saramgwa isseumyeon haengbokhaeyo?)

Are you happy being with him?

Informal ‘Happy’ in Korean

1. 행복해 (haengbokhae)

2. 기뻐 (gippeo)

You can use these expressions with people who are close to you and who are of a similar or younger age.


A: 기뻐? (gippeo?) – Are you happy?

B: 응, 기뻐. (eung, gippeo.) – Yes, I’m happy.


나는 아주 행복해. (naneun aju haengbokhae)

I am so happy.


A Happy Person in Korean

If you want to use the word ‘happy’ to describe a noun, then you have to change its form again. 행복하다 becomes 행복한, and 기쁘다 becomes 기쁜.

For example:

행복한 사람 (haengbokhan saram) – happy person

기쁜 남자 (gippeun namja) – happy man

행복한 여자 (gippeun yeoja) – happy woman


그때가 내 인생에서 가장 행복한 시기였다.

(geuttaega nae insaengeseo gajang haengbokhan shigiyeottda.)

That was the happiest time of my life.


Happiness in Korean

To say ‘happiness’ in Korean, you can say 행복(haengbok) or 기쁨 (gippeum).

For example:

행복을 찾다 (haengbokeul chatda)

To find happiness


A Word of Caution About Romanized Korean

If you want to sound natural when speaking Korean, then learning how to read the Korean alphabet is a must. It only takes a couple of hours, and you will see an instant improvement in your Korean ability.

If you are serious about learning Korean then the first thing you should do is learn the alphabet. If you want to continue your Korean study then our full Korean course can help you out with structured lessons to help you learn efficiently and effectively.


How to Say ‘Happy’ in Korean Wrap Up

Now that you know how to say ‘happy’ in Korean, let us know what Korean experiences make you feel happy!

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