[culture] Korean taboo subjects

When you travel in Korea, you will see on the elevator button F(four)  instead of ‘4‘. Some buildings don’t even have 4th floor or room number 4. Why? Sino number 4’s pronunciation is ‘(Sa)‘ and this is the same as a Chinese word ‘( Sa)‘ which means ‘death’.  Some Koreans still believe if they use number 4, they will have bad luck. However some new buildings just write number 4 because less and less people believe this superstition.

Not even only number 4, but writing a name with a red pen is also forbidden in Korea. In old days, Koreans wrote dead people’s name with red pen, and in modern days some Koreans still believe that is not good luck. So, DO NOT use a red pen to write your landlord’s name! 😉

배추김치 How to make cabbage Kimchi


  1. 2 Napa cabbage 배추 2 통
  2. White Asian radish(1.5 pound)  무
  3. 5 heads of green onion 쪽파
  4. two cups of coarse salt(kosher salt) 굵은 소금 (Natural premium sea salt for Kimchi)
  5. 10 cups of water 물
  6. 1 and a half cup of red pepper powder 고춧가루 (Korean red pepper powder)
  7. 2 Tbs of sugar 설탕
  8. 3/4 cup of fish sauce 멸치액젓 (Korean anchovy sauce)
  9. 3 Tbs of shrimp sauce 새우젓
  10. 2 cups of sticky rice / 2 cups of water 찹쌀가루 / 물
  11. 3/4 cups of minced garlic 마늘
  12. 2 Tbs of minced ginger 생강



  1. Mix 2 cups of coarse salt in 10 cups of water in a big bowl, melt it well.  Cut cabbages in 4 pieces. You can cut second cuts all the way or just for the head like the third picture.
  2. Put cabbages into the salted water and spread a little more coarse salt on the head which is the thickest part. Leave it for 8 hours. (After 4 hours, switch the top cabbage with the bottom cabbage. )
  3. After 8 hours, take them out from the water, rinse them a couple of times and drain at least for 2 hours.
  4. Mix 2 cups of sticky rice powder with 2 cups of water in a small pot and heat it to boil. When it starts boiling, turn it down the heat to low-medium heat and keep stir so it is not chunky.  Keep stirring for 3-4 minutes and remove it from the stove and leave it so it gets cool down.




  1. Slice white radish, mix red pepper powder. And mix all together with the sticky rice powder mix, fish sauce, sugar, shrimp sauce, garlic and ginger and add it into radish and pepper powder bowl.
  2. Stuff the mix into the cabbage each leaf. Put more radish mix in the head because head parts are thicker.
  3. Wrap the cabbage well with the last leaf(the outside leaf) and put it in the container. You should pack it on the top of the container. If your container is too big, then use fermentation weights.
  4. Leave the container in a normal temperature area for 3 days. After 3 days, put the container in the refrigerator. 7 days later, you can enjoy!


[Expression]어떻게 해요? vs 어떡해요?

어떻게(adverb) means ‘how’ and ‘해요(verb)‘ means ‘do’, so 어떻게 해요 means ‘what should I(you) do?”. And 어떡해요(adjective) is a short form for 어떻게 해요. Therefore, both mean “what should I do?”. They are used for when some BAD thing happened.

In conversations, it can be translated “Oh, no”, “Oh, my god!” or “Too bad”. I heard that a lot of people say ‘미안해요’ when they hear bad news because in English, they say “I am sorry to hear that.” when they hear a bad thing.

But “미안해요.” means “sorry/apologize”, not ‘feel sorry’.  You can say “아이고, 어떡해요.” or “어머, 정말 안 됐네요.(It is too bad)”.



A: 200만원을 잃어버렸어요. I lost 2,000,000 Won.
B: 아이고, 어떡해요. 그거 등록금이잖아요. Oh, my god! That was your tuition!

B: 왜 울고 있어요? 무슨 일 있어요? Why are you crying? What happened?
A: 어제 우리 집 강아지가 갑자기 죽었어요. My dog suddenly died yesterday.
B: 어머, 어떡해요… 무슨 병이 있었어요?  Oh, no… Was he sick before?

A: 지난 주에 정민 씨가 남자 친구하고 헤어졌어요. Jungmin broke up with her boyfriend last week.
B: 어머, 정말 안 됐네요. 정민 씨가 남자 친구를 많이 좋아했잖아요. That’s too bad, Jungmin really like him, right?




What is the Korean age system?

Koreans count their age different than other Western countries.

When a baby is born in Korea, she is already one year old because we count the pre-born time(9 months)  as 1 year. And when a new year starts, she/he turns TWO years old. Therefore if a baby was born in December, she/he will be two years old in a month in the Korean age, but she is only a ONE month old baby.  We call this full age system as . We use Korean age in our normal lives, but we use 만 나이 for papers.

I know it is weird age system we have, but they like this system because the age difference is very important to Koreans. If you are older than someone, the young one will use the honorific speech to you and they have to respect you more.

When I go back to Korea, I am older. When I come back to America, I am younger. So I like 만 나이 than 한국 나이 because I don’t want to be old!

Useful sentences>
만으로 나이(연세)가 어떻게 되세요? How old are you(is she) in the full age system?
저는 올해 한국 나이로 40이에요. I am 40 this year in the Korean age system.
한국 나이가 만 나이보다 많아요.  The Korean age system is a lot older than the full age system.

Do Koreans eat dogs?

Today I want to talk about if Koreans eat dog meat because I have been asked this question a lot foreign friends. It is a sensitive topic, but I want you to tell the truth.

In the past, Korea was very poor, so a lot of people died from hunger. Dog meat was the easiest and cheapest meat that we could get, so many people ate dog meat. However recently we can get beef and pork very easily, so less people eat dog meat. In addition, more Koreans have pets now, so they consider dogs as their family not food.

But there are some people-mostly old people- still like dog meat. They think it is delicious and good for health. Therefore they eat dog meat or soup on Bok-nal(the hottest day).




추석 Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving

image courtesy of http://m.post.naver.com/my.nhn?memberNo=10005291

추석(Chuseok) is one of the most important holidays for Korean along with 설날(Seollal). The word Chuseok means ‘a Fall night’ which expresses ‘A day that has the brightest moon in  Fall’. Chuseok is derived from Chinese letters, and the Korean word for Chuseok is 한가위(Han-gahWe). Han-gahwe means ‘The center of the month’ because Han-gahwe is August 15th on the Lunar Calendar. It is Korean Thanksgiving.

It is a national holiday which everyone take 3 days off. The holiday starts a day before Han-gahwe and ends a day after Han-gahwe because families have to prepare food for a ceremony in early morning on the holiday.

For food, they make a special rice cake for this holiday which is called 송편(Songpyoun). Songpyoun is a rice cake that is steamed with pine leaves, and it looks like a half moon(반달). Why does it look like a half moon even thought they celebrate for a full moon? Old Koreans hoped their lives would be filled with happiness like a full moon(보름달) from the half moon after the holiday, not like the full moon becomes smaller after the holiday.

At night, Koreans pray to a full moon for their happiness and health and appreciate mother nature for food. In the past, women went out with their female family members or neighbors dancing a special dance and singing for Han-gahwe. It is called 강강술래(Gahng Gahng Soollae).

<강강술래(Gahng Gahng Soollae) dance
image courtesy of  http://www.k-heritage.tv/main/heritage&gt;


If you have Korean friends, tell them “Happy Chuseok!”.  즐거운 추석 보내세요! 즐거운 한가위 보내세요!


Words for Chuseok>

추석 Chuseok
한가위 Han-gahwe
송편 Songpyoun
보름달 full moon
반달  half moon
강강술래 (Gahng-Gahng Soollae)
즐거운 추석 보내세요!  Happy Chuseok!
즐거운 한가위 보내세요!  Happy Han-gahwe!

You can listen to the audio files by clicking here. 



미역(seaweed) in Korean culture

Koreans eat ‘미역국(seaweed soup)’ on their birthdays. This custom derives from when moms have their babies, they eat 미역국 to supplement iron. They also have some special food for their birthday such as 불고기(Bulgogi), 잡채(Japchae) with a birthday cake for dessert.

Do you know how to sing the birthday song in Korean? Click here to learn the birthday song in Korean.

Koreans love 미역(seaweed), however there is a myth that if you eat 미역국 before a test, you will fail the exam. Why? 미역(seaweed) is very slippery, and there is an adjective for ‘slippery 미끄러지다’ which is the same meaning as ‘fail 시험에 떨어지다’. So when someone asks “또 미역국 먹었어?”, it means “Did you fail the exam again?”

I was the person who believed that myth when I was in middle school. My birthday was always in the middle of mid-term, so I told my mom not to make 미역국 on my birthday. Do I believe it now? I am a grown-up person! 🙂

I love 미역 and 미역국, it is easy to cook and delicious! And don’t get confused 미역 and(dried seaweed) which is salty side dish.

미역 seaweed


What is Kakaotalk? 카카오톡이 뭐예요?

카카오톡 (Kakaotalk) is a chatting app that most Koreans use, so Koreans often say “카카오톡 주세요.” (please send me a Kakaotalk message.) Sometimes we also say 카톡 which is a short from for 카카오톡.

You can send messages or pictures and you can even make a free video phone call  through 카카오톡.

  • 카톡 있어요? Do you have Kakaotalk? (click here to learn 있어요/없어요)
  • 카톡 주세요. Please send me a Kakaotalk message.
  • 카톡으로 보내 주세요. Please send it through Kakaotalk.
  • 카톡으로 얘기할까요? Shall we talk with Kakaotalk? (click here to learn -을까요?)
  • 지금 카톡할 수 없어요. I cannot use Kakaotalk now. (click here to learn -을 수 있다/없다)


Country names in Korean – Africa

Africa  아프리카

 Ghana 가나
 Gabon 가봉
 Gambia 감비아
 Guinea 기니
 Guinea Bissau 기니비사우
 Namibia 나미비아
 Nigeria 나이지리아
 Republic of  South Africa 남아프리카 공화국
 Niger 니제르
 Liberia 라이베리아
 Lesotho 레소토
 Rwanda 르완다
 Libya 리비아
 Madagascar 마다가스카르
 Malawi 말라위
 Mali 말리
 Morocco 모로코
 Mauritius 모리셔스
 Mauritanie 모리타니
 Mozambique 모잠비크
 Benin 베냉
 Botswana 보츠와나
 Burundi 부룬디
 Burkina Faso 부르키나파소
 Sao Tome and Principe 상투메프린시페
 Senegal 세네갈
 Seychelles 세이셸
 Somalia 소말리아
 Sudan 수단
 Swaziland 스와질란드
 Sierra Leone 시에라리온
 Algerie 알제리
 Angola 앙골라
 Eritrea 에리트레아
 Ethiopia 에티오피아
 Uganda 우간다
 Egypt 이집트
 Zambia 잠비아
 Equatorial Guinea 적도기니
 Central African Republic 중앙 아프리카 공화국
 Djibouti 지부티
 Zimbabwe 짐바브웨
 Chad 차드
 Cameroon 카메룬
 Cabo Verde 카보베르데
 Kenya 케냐
 Comoros 코모로
 Cote d’lvoire 코트디부아르
 Republic of  Congo 콩고 공화국
 Democratic Republic of Congo 콩고 민주 공화국
 Tanzania 탄자니아
 Togo 토고
 Tunisie 튀니지

You can listen to audio files by clicking here.