18 In Korean Culture/ Korean learning journey (:/ Korean Lessons/ Korean Slangs

Let’s learn 욕! #1 The basics

I always believe in learning all aspects of a language, and thus vulgarities and crude expressions are also on my radar.  It’s usually hard for foreigners to judge how strong or offensive such expressions are and especially in the Korean language where  the speech styles and honorific system is so complex. The golden rule: never use it with people older than you or people you are not familiar with. Vulgarities are very common in Korean movies but not dramas/variety shows. I classify vulgarities
as the ‘good to know’ knowledge and despite my *ahem* high personal interest in them, I won’t use it.

I’m no pro at 욕 but just sharing what I know! Learn and use at your discretion ^^;; 욕 배워보자!

There are a few prefixes / suffixes that can be added to other words to sound more crude and in certain circumstances, be used as vulgarities.

놈 / 새끼 – The crude way of calling a guy, although it can be used on girls sometimes. There’s no real equivalent in English, but you can see it as ‘bastard’. 놈 can be used in a softer way, like how girls can tell their boyfriend ‘나쁜 놈. 나 얼마나 걱정했는지 알아?’ or used in a joking manner among guys. 새끼 is more offensive, particularly if you are not close to the other party. It refers to the offspring of animals and hence is crude when applied to humans. And girls don’t use it to refer to their boyfriends in the same way 놈 is sometimes used.

– The girl equivalent ‘bitch’. But unlike English where you can use it more freely, 년 is very offensive. And girls don’t usually call each other that.

– A prefix (meaning: dog) where you add to other words to show your frustration, emphasizing on the shitty situation and making the expressions more crude. 개새끼, 개망신, 개짜증 etc you get the idea.

There are of course more, but let’s leave that for another day shall we? ^^


A very common expression heard in dramas/movies. It is the contracted version of 이 놈아 and it’s common to hear it used like ‘야 임마!’. Usually used among guys of similar age or by an elder to a younger male.

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  • Reply
    29 March, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    “년 is very offensive. And girls don’t usually call each other that.”

    Uh, you haven’t been around the same girls as me 🙂 While this is not a word used lightly, and in good company, just pour alcohol into girls and watch the ensuing fight…

    • Reply
      29 March, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      hahahaha!!! I guess that’s true xD

  • Reply
    30 March, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    Hi Shanna!

    You said you would make a post about my question if studying at a language school in Korea is really enough to be able to understand the professors at university level which is claimed by the language schools. I just wanted to see if you are still willing to do this? If you even remember ^^

    Thank you!

    • Reply
      30 March, 2012 at 1:30 AM

      OMGOSH! I’m so sorry! It must have slipped my mind. D: I’ll definitely get it out by tomorrow! ><

  • Reply
    Tom Stockwell (@waegook_tom)
    30 March, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Haha Shanna, this is brilliant! Great post! I learned swear words very soon after arriving in Korea – thanks, elementary school students! 미친년 and 병신 are two good ones, although my favourites are 변태 (pervert) and the wonderful 바바리맨 (flasher!)! Can’t wait to see more 욕 posts!

    • Reply
      30 March, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      Thanks! I had fun researching and writing it up. ㅎㅎㅎ 바바리맨! that sounds kinda cute >< 등신 is another good one too. I have quite a few posts planned already. This series can continue for quite a while

  • Reply
    Zach Sarette (@SuperRocketZach)
    30 March, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    Golden rule. Hold your tongue. Save face. Smile and nod.

    Seriously. I was at a party where this young gal who I’ve never met before politely introduced herself and told me that I look like Simpsons.

    I had a huge head ache and so I simply said.
    “You look like..”
    “Don’t say that…”

    It’s strange. Some Koreans can be so polite and yet others can be quite rude. But I try not to let it get me down and I just blame it on ‘cultural differences.'”

    So what did I do after that? Smile and nod. Save face. Unless she really is being mean. Then there’s no point in fighting with pigs. 🙂

    Oh that makes me think. I could have said “뚱뚱한 돼지처럼 보여!” But again. Don’t use it. Cuz that’s just mean.

    The cool thing about that is that my Korean is getting better. I couldn’t even put sentences like that together a few months ago. At least. I don’t remember if I could or not…

    Everything is a learning opportunity. You just have to find the lesson. Or…

    Just smile and nod. 😀

    • Reply
      31 March, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      ㅋㅋㅋ that’s a really weird and rude thing to say to a stranger O.o Since I can basically pass off as a Korean, I don’t get any weird stares or comments. But it seems like majority of my foreigner friends have had at least one weird experience 😛

      • Reply
        Zach Sarette (@SuperRocketZach)
        31 March, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        At least one? I guess if they stay in Korea for 10 seconds. 😀

        All you can do is look back at it and laugh. And perhaps learn a little from it too.

        This past week one of my fellow Canadian friends who also teaches in Ulsan wrote about an interesting experience. http://ihatecockroaches.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/cafeteria-chaos/

        In retrospect though, most people in Korea are generous and kind. It just so happens .

        I should do post about it.

        Never a dull moment. That’s for sure!

  • Reply
    31 March, 2012 at 3:56 AM

    although I rarely (practically never) use swear words, this topic is still interesting…Guess I don’t really have a chance to listen to this in real practice (as I am sure they won’t appear in dramas), it is good and interesting to know about them…. you are so creative in even thinking of this topic. I would have never thought of its possibility…..

    • Reply
      31 March, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      thanks! ^^ the ones shown here appear in dramas 😀 It’s not that strong yet. Even some of the stronger ones are shown in dramas.. come to think of it..

  • Reply
    31 March, 2012 at 6:00 AM

    I like this series! 🙂 As you know I got into Korean because of Kim Sam Soon and there are lots of swear words that I’ve learned from that drama (not as strong compared to movies, but definitely a lot more than a regular kdrama).
    By the way, have you seen the movie 방가 방가? It’s a movie about a Korean pretending to be a foreigner in order for him to get to work in factories. There’s one sequence in the film when he taught the other foreigners a lot of 욕 – in a classroom setting. I remember I took notes while watching it too. ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

    • Reply
      31 March, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ i watched the movie halfway D: will definitely have to search for that clip! thanks for the tipoff

      • Reply
        31 March, 2012 at 11:30 AM

        Found it since I’m also curious to see it again. Will email you the link. 🙂

  • Reply
    8 April, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    I was actually searching for the last expression months ago, or probably a year ago. I just like hearing actors say “야 임마” to each other. Or just plainly cuss. LOL. It wouldn’t be appealing if I heard them cussing in my native language though.

    I never thought that it came from ‘이 놈아’. I just wondered ’cause my sister previously told me that it was spelled as 인마. Is it the same thing?

    Btw, I like this series. Please do continue it. 😀

  • Reply
    16 April, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    just get the book ‘Dirty Korean’ on pdf format and you’ll get all (or almost all) the swear words you want. I downloaded a free copy off 4shared.

    • Reply
      16 April, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      ㅋㅋㅋ ohh thanks for the recommendation! but thought it would be nice to dig a little deeper into the eytmology of the words 😀

  • Reply
    20 July, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    한국어에서 욕의 세계는 심오해요. 너무 많이 알면 다칩니다. 전라도 욕이 좀 험악한 편이구요, 경상도 욕은 셉니다. 여기에 올린 욕들은 표준어에 속하는, 가장 흔히 사용되는 것들입니다.

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