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Konglish (Korean: 콩글리시 or more formally Hangul한국어식 영어; Hanja韓國語式英語 "Korean language style English") is the macaronic use of English words or words derived from English words in a Korean context. Konglish terms, having initially been taken from the English language, are made from a combination of Korean and/or English words (such as Officetel 오피스텔 Office + Hotel) which are not used in English-speaking countries. Konglish is often used by South Koreans in the Americanized period after the miracle on the Han River, but native English speakers usually don't understand Konglish, making such terms pseudo-anglicisms.[1] Common grammar or vocabulary mistakes made by Koreans learning English as a foreign language have also been referred to as Konglish.[2][3][4] Words and phrases borrowed from English or other languages may be shortened if Koreans feel they are too long.[5][6] Kim Seong-kon, an English professor at Seoul National University, attributed these mistakes to an over-reliance on a Korean-English dictionary and a lack of understanding of culture and natural collocations; he stated Koreans should actively seek native English speakers to proof-read their English.[7]


"Legitimate Barbecue" as a mistranslation of 정통 바베큐 (authentic barbecue) a typical example of misuse of English, now commonly referred to as "Konglish"

Using English words in daily conversation, advertising, and entertainment is seen as trendy and cool. However this use can often lead to misunderstandings due to problems with pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary.[8] Modern use of Konglish has already created a linguistic divide between North Korea and South Korea. North Korean defectors can have trouble integrating into South Korean society because much of the Konglish used there is not used in North Korea. This can lead to confusion, misunderstandings and delay integration into the society. This is not the sole cause of the linguistic divide between the two nations as some Korean words are also used differently between the two countries.[9] While Konglish problems exist between the North and South they also exist between the metropolitan and rural.[10] Ahn Jung-hyo a Korean-English translator who is the author of "A False English Dictionary" was noted for saying that improper use of Konglish in other countries is likely to bring shame to Korea.[5] However, John Huer, a columnist for Korea Times, noted Konglish usage as one of his "10 Most Wonderful Things About Korea". He felt that it was both inventive and clever.[11] After that article Huer criticized Koreans for their bad English and improper use of loanwords, though.[12] Modern Konglish usage could even be viewed as art, yet there is a difference between a cultural use of a word like "Fighting!" and the bad grammar and vocabulary seen on signs, packages, and TV around Korea. Sebastian Harrisan has suggested that calling these kinds of things Konglish masks the problem with English education in Korea.[13] The Korean government has been criticized by civic groups for their use of Konglish in slogans and focusing too much on English education. They feel that the heavy focus on English will damage the Korean language and doesn't benefit international competitiveness.[14] In contrast, Jasper Kim, a law professor at Ewha Womans University, wrote that Konglish is necessary in a global context and that strict adherence to grammatical rules shouldn't trump getting the message across.[15]

The spread of Konglish in the Korean language has been cited as a reason to increase Koreans' exposure to native English speakers, especially during their educational time. Koreans instructing others can lead to cementing errors into the language.[16] Poor planning in the education system can result in unqualified Korean teachers being chosen to teach English with little or no time to prepare. These teachers end up using Konglish in the classroom.[17] Even teachers who prepare may end up using official materials that contain numerous errors and Konglish.[18] This can create a feeling of passiveness towards learning structurally and technically correct English. Students look to teachers as the example and if teachers are making mistakes, these are passed on to them.[19] The issue of bad Konglish has been raised in relation to tourism. There is a concern that poor English on signs, brochures, websites, or in other media might cause tourists to find another destination.[20][21] This is a concern not just in small or remote venues, but even major international locations like Incheon Airport. When the airport was first opened for business more than 49 signs were found to contain English errors.[19] In addition to keeping away tourists, Konglish usage can lead to the breakdown of business deals. Misunderstandings might lead a foreign business partner to lose confidence in a Korean company.[22] In 2010, a poll showed that 44% of local governments in South Korea used an English phrase in their marketing slogan.[23] The slogans at the time included: Lucky Dongjak, Dynamic Busan, Yes Gumi, Colorful Daegu, Ulsan for You, Happy Suwon, New Start! Yesan, Super Pyeongtaek, Hi-Touch Gongju, Nice Jecheon and Just Sangju.[23]

As Koreans emigrate to English-speaking countries, Konglish has also come to refer to Korean words being used in mainly English sentences.[24]

Common Konglish terms[edit]

South Koreans use the direct transliteration of "fighting" as the Konglish term hwaiting or paiting (화이팅/파이팅) to cheer someone on, meaning "don't give up". A studio apartment is referred to as opiseutel (오피스텔) as a portmanteau of "office" and "hotel". The phrase digital camera is shortened to dika (디카) in Konglish, just as "remote control" is shortened to rimokeon (리모컨) and apartment is apateu (아파트).

Loan words from other languages are often grouped together under Konglish, including "hand phone" (haendeupon 핸드폰), a blend of "mobile phone" ("hyudaepon" 휴대폰) and "handy" ("Kännykkä"), a genericized trademark of Nokia.

South Koreans with some command of spoken English may ask a foreigner "Have you eaten?" as the direct translation of a very common simple greeting (밥 먹었니?) that is not taken literally in Korean.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kang Seung-woo (12 September 2008). "Ruling Out Konglish". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  2. ^ Jeremy Garlick (24 December 2003). "Konglish inquiry traces evidence back to poor textbooks". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  3. ^ "Konglish Special News Section". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.  This section has photos and short descriptions which highlight Konglish use around Korea. These are often all vocabulary/grammar errors.
  4. ^ Park Soo-mee (8 June 2002). "One word at a time". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Kim Hyo-jin (10 June 2002). "English? Konglish? Purists concede to 'fighting' cheer". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  6. ^ "Korea Fighting!". JoongAng Daily. 18 June 2006. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  7. ^ "Funny and embarrassing Konglish". Korea Herald. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  8. ^ sujiney AT joongang.co.kr (26 March 2008). "It's just not cool to mangle the King's English". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  9. ^ Lee Eun-joo (10 November 2007). "A wordy problem faces the Koreas". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  10. ^ Rick Ruffin (23 June 2003). "[VIEWPOINT]Divided by a common language". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  11. ^ John Huer (5 April 2009). "Secret Pact With Lower Class". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  12. ^ John Huer (24 July 2009). "Is English in Korea Only for Koreans?". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  13. ^ Sebastian Harrisan (15 May 2007). "The State of the Art". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  14. ^ Kim Rahn (30 January 2008). "Groups Call for Scrapping of `English-Worshipping'". Korea Times. Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  15. ^ Jasper Kim (24 August 2008). "[New Perspective]Konglish as a second language?". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  16. ^ Tory S. Thorkelson (26 November 2008). "Future of English Language Teaching". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  17. ^ Cho Ji-hyun (27 September 2006). "Korea`s `English` classrooms: Held hostage by Konglish?". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  18. ^ Andrew Finch (19 May 2004). "[A READER'S VIEW]High stakes in English tests". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  19. ^ a b David Cohen (27 April 2001). "'Konglish' replaces good English". Guardian. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  20. ^ David A. Mason (12 October 2008). "Recommendations for Upgrading Tourism". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  21. ^ Matt Doyon (6 January 2009). "How Can Korea Attract Tourists?". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  22. ^ "The Competitive Power of English". Chosun Ilbo. Archived from the original on 24 May 2004. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  23. ^ a b Tae-hoon, Lee (2010-07-02). "English logos popular, but often humorous". Korea Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  24. ^ Lee Hyo-won (20 November 2007). "Director Explores Korean-American Identity". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.