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Konglish (Korean콩글리시; RRkonggeullisi; [kʰoŋ.ɡɯl.li.ɕi]), more formally- Korean-style English (Korean한국어식 영어; Hanja韓國語式英語; RRhangugeo-sik yeongeo; [han.ɡu.ɡʌ.ɕik̚ jʌŋ.ʌ]) is a style of English used by Korean speakers.[1]

The name is a portmanteau of the names of the two languages and was first recorded earliest in 1975. Other less common terms are Korlish (recorded from 1988), Korenglish (1992), Korglish (2000) and Kinglish (2000).[2]

Konglish has English loanwords that have been appropriated into Korean and are used in ways that are not readily understandable to native English speakers.[3][4] A common example is the Korean term "hand phone" for the English "mobile phone."[5] Konglish also has direct English loanwords, mistranslations from English to Korean, or pseudo-English words coined in Japan that came to Korean usage.[1][4]

The use of Konglish is widespread in South Korea as a result of U.S. cultural influence, but it is not familiar to North Koreans.[6]


This list of Konglish terms generally contains Konglish terms not readily understandable to a native English speaker, similar to wasei-eigo terms in the Japanese language. Many Konglish terms were invented by Koreans through non-standard abbreviations or combinations of English words or by applying a new meaning or usage to a common English word.

Loanwords from Japan[edit]

Many loanwords entered into Korean from Japan, especially during the Japanese forced occupation, when the teaching and speaking of Korean was prohibited.[7] Those Konglish words are loanwords from, and thus similar to, Wasei-eigo used in Japan.

A simple example would be how the meaning of the English word "cunning" changes when used in a Konglish sentence. In South Korea, keonning means cheating, as the loanword was adapted from Japanglish kanningu (カンニング), which means "cheating".[8] Konglish words may or may not have a similar meaning to the original word when used, and a well-known brand name can become a generalized trademark and replace the general word: older Korean people tend to use the word babari ("Burberry") or babari-koteu ("Burberry coat"), which came from Japanese bābari-kōto (meaning "gabardine raincoat") to refer to all trench coats.[8] Coates made by Burberry are called beobeori-koteu (버버리 코트), rather than babari-koteu in Korean (as the brand name, entered to Korean language directly from English, is Beobeori).

Compared to Japanese, both English and Korean have more vowels and permit more coda consonants. Oftentimes when Japanesized English words enter into the Korean language, the "original" English words from which the Japanglish words were derived are reverse-traced, and the words undergo de-Japanesization (sometimes with hypercorrection).

Pseudo-Konglish loanwords[edit]

Some foreign-origin words such as areubaiteu (아르바이트, [a.ɾɯ.ba.i.tʰɯ], "part-time"), a loanword from German Arbeit ([ˈar.baɪ̯t], "work"), are sometimes mistakenly considered as Konglish and are corrected into "accurate" English loanword forms such as pateutaim (파트타임, [pʰa.tʰɯ.tʰa.im]).

Apartment names[edit]

A trend in the naming of apartment buildings in Seoul is blending English words together because developers believe this will enhance the luxury brand image of the properties.[11] Some examples of apartment names with blended English words include: Luxtige, Blesstige, Tristige and Forestige, XI; these words are combinations of luxury, bless, prestige, trinity, forest, extra and intelligence.[11]


Misuse or corruption of the English language by Koreans learning English as a foreign language have also been referred to as Konglish.[12][13][14] Using English words in daily conversation, advertising, and entertainment is seen as trendy and cool.[citation needed] However this use can often lead to misunderstandings due to problems with pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary.[15]

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 in 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.[16] While Konglish problems exist between the North and South they also exist between the metropolitan and rural.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] After that article Huer criticized Koreans for their bad English and improper use of loanwords, though.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] Even teachers who prepare may end up using official materials that contain numerous errors and Konglish.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28][29] 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.[27] 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.[30] In 2010, a poll showed that 44% of local governments in South Korea used an English phrase in their marketing slogan.[31] 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.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ahn, Hyejeong (2017). Attitudes to World Englishes: Implications for Teaching English in South Korea. Taylor & Francis. pp. 30–33. ISBN 1315394294.
  2. ^ Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 27. DOI: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  3. ^ Rhodes, Margaret (2016-09-29). "The Rise of Konglish, the Korean-English Hybrid That's Both Beautiful and Perilous". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  4. ^ a b Hadikin, Glenn (2014). Korean English: A corpus-driven study of a new English. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 8–12. ISBN 9027269947.
  5. ^ Suk, Gee-hyun (2015-07-22). "'Konglish' floods into apartment brand names". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  6. ^ Kim, Hyung-Jin (2017-03-25). "After 70 years of division, North and South Koreans losing shared language". The Globe and Mail. Associated Press. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  7. ^ Hopfner, Jonathan (2009). Moon Living Abroad in South Korea. Berkeley, CA: Moon Publications. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-59880-250-4.
  8. ^ a b c d e Smith, Sean (January 16, 2008). "Time to clean up cunning Konglish". The Korea Herald.
  9. ^ Pyon, Elizabeth (June 25, 2002) [Letters to the Editor] Konglish: It's not that bad. THE KOREA HERALD, Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic
  10. ^ a b "Not Konglish (Part 2). Korea Times". The Korea Times. June 20, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "'Konglish' floods into apartment brand names". The Korea Herald. July 22, 2015.
  12. ^ Jeremy Garlick (24 December 2003). "Konglish inquiry traces evidence back to poor textbooks". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ Park Soo-mee (8 June 2002). "One word at a time". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Lee Eun-joo (10 November 2007). "A wordy problem faces the Koreas". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  17. ^ Rick Ruffin (23 June 2003). "[VIEWPOINT]Divided by a common language". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  18. ^ Kim Hyo-jin (10 June 2002). "English? Konglish? Purists concede to 'fighting' cheer". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  19. ^ John Huer (5 April 2009). "Secret Pact With Lower Class". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  20. ^ John Huer (24 July 2009). "Is English in Korea Only for Koreans?". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  21. ^ Sebastian Harrisan (15 May 2007). "The State of the Art". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Jasper Kim (24 August 2008). "[New Perspective]Konglish as a second language?". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  24. ^ Tory S. Thorkelson (26 November 2008). "Future of English Language Teaching". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  25. ^ Cho Ji-hyun (27 September 2006). "Korea`s `English` classrooms: Held hostage by Konglish?". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  26. ^ Andrew Finch (19 May 2004). "[A READER'S VIEW]High stakes in English tests". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  27. ^ a b David Cohen (27 April 2001). "'Konglish' replaces good English". Guardian. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  28. ^ David A. Mason (12 October 2008). "Recommendations for Upgrading Tourism". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  29. ^ Matt Doyon (6 January 2009). "How Can Korea Attract Tourists?". Korea Times. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  30. ^ "The Competitive Power of English". Chosun Ilbo. Archived from the original on 24 May 2004. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  31. ^ a b Tae-hoon, Lee (2010-07-02). "English logos popular, but often humorous". Korea Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.

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