Korean course

The endless rows of apartment buildings in Korea

Hong Kong is known to be packed with apartments. However, Hong Kong is just a city. Considering the size of the country, Korea is perhaps the only one country that is covered with sprawling apartment complexes throughout the country, whether it is in a metropolitan or a rural area.  It is due to high volume of population in the limited of land as well as preference of living style. Within limited space, people wanted to live in a warm cosy home without taking care of the place much. In Korea, houses traditionally used to be a common type of place to live. However, as Korea became more industrialised, the Koreans found more opportunity to get a job in the bigger city, and they prefer urban life style than agricultural life, which lead to the cities becoming concentrated. Even in the rural area, there are less people living than usual, they also enjoy living in apartments due to the convenience of home care and high security.

Given the fact that the Koreans cannot stand falling behind others, living in apartments means that everyone has the same size, design and layout shared by their neighbours. If anything is different, it immediately catches the eyes of neighbours. For example, rumours of someone having a new television would fly all over the apartment complex. Fierce competition would ensue. When there was something new, it would become extremely popular within the apartment complex, as everyone would know what their neighbours have and aim to have it too. For example, refrigerators made for Kimchi were introduced 90s and within only a few years, they became in great demand for people everywhere. The Koreans have taken their ‘equal profit sharing’ mentality to a whole new level.


Chuseok 추석 (Hangawi한가위) – One of the biggest holidays in Korea

Monday 8 September 2014 is Chuseok, which is also called Hangawi (한가위). The meaning of Hangawi is a combination of “Han” which means big and “Gawi” which is the idea of August or Autumn. As one of the biggest public holidays in Korea, Chuseok normally lasts for 3 days. Fortunately, this year the holiday starts from Monday and Koreans are excited to have a long, 5 days holiday including the weekend. During the holiday, Koreans who live in large cities typically come back to their family original hometown to meet other members of the family. They spend a quality time together and play traditional games while sharing food and drinks. People also perform ancestral worship rituals to thank to their ancestors for the abundant harvest called “Charye”. It is the ancestral memorial rite where people prepare food and greet their ancestors in order to return their favours and honour them. These memorial rites have been practiced for thousands of years across Korea since Koreans believe that people only die physically but their sprits live on forever. On Chuseok Day, the typical Korean family starts the morning with “Charye”, followed by a big breakfast with the whole family. Afterwards, the family visits their ancestor’s graves to greet and clear any weed around the area. Recent years have seen the emergence of a new trend where growing numbers of families decide to travel both in Korea and overseas. Although this could be seen as a break with tradition, it is widely regarded as a special moment of the year when families get to take some time out and have an opportunity to spend some time together, united as a family: this is what “Chuseok” is all about.

Important Tips When You are Invited to a Korean friend’s house: Bring a thing!

In Australia, when your friend invited you to a Sunday bbq at home, it is very common that people just bring their BYO drinks. However if you do the same in Korea, people might think that you don’t have a good sense or you are just very stingy.

Here are some tips to act right when a Korean person invites you to a home dinner.

Bring a gift and don’t be stingy

If you were invited to casual home dinner, those gifts do not need to be pricey. Probably you can bring something to eat or drink.

Good items: Cakes (Koreans do not like super sweet cakes. Avoid too heavy, sweet cakes like chocolate mud cake), fruits, ice-cream (not from supermarket but from an ice-cream shops) and quality juice bottles in the box (you can buy them from Korean grocery stores for $10~15), a bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers or herb pots. Bad items: a bag of chips plus a bottle of coke (unless you are year1), a bottle of soju (it’s only $1 in Seoul ^^)

Dress to look your best

Even he/she is your very close friend, Korean people think what you wear is reflecting who you are, especially if it is a home party. It is not polite to wear smelly t-shirt and dirty socks (remember, you will take off your shoes.). A clean/ironed outfit plus well-groomed hair/ nice make-up is basic when you are invited to a Korean home party.

Well, do you think that Koreans are too picky? Don’t worry. Once you are in their living room, they will treat you like a prince/princess by awesome foods and drinks.  Enjoy your Korean party!

Ashley (Korean teacher)

Korean Dining Etiquette

As you have learned in the class, politeness is the key feature of Korean culture. Hence we do have many things to be considered when you eat meals with someone. Today, let’s learn some Korean table manners.

Do not start your meal before the oldest person starts

Normally the host of the dinner will introduce you a seat. Do not sit until you are told where to seat. In addition, do not start your meal before the oldest person starts the meal. Please wait for the oldest person to lift their chopsticks and spoons first before you start eating.

Before you eat, say “ 먹겠습니다 (jal meokket seumnida~~)”

(i.e. I am excited to eat/ will enjoy the meal from now on)

Look at the person who cooked/hosted the dinner and say “잘 먹겠습니다 (jal meokket seumnida~)” which means that I am looking forward to eat this meal/ Thanks for your hard work.

Don’t eat too slow/ fast

Always check other people’s speed and try to finish your meal as others.

While you are eating foods

Do not speak too much when you have foods in your mouth. Never blow your nose. It’s good to say compliments about the foods to encourage the person who cooked the meal.

Do not hold your Soup and rice bowls

Unlike many other Asian countries like Japan or China, Korean people do not hold their soup/rice bowls. Put your bowls down on the table and eat slowly by using both chopsticks and a spoon.

Share the Side dishes with other people

We do have many side dishes to be shared. Do not take a certain food item too much even it’s your favourite food. Side dishes are to be shared.


When you drink alcohol with older people, it is polite to turn your head a little bit left/right (about 45degrees).

After you finish your meal, “ 먹었습니다 (jal meogeot seumnida)”

Don’t forget to say “잘 먹었습니다” when you finish your meal. It means “thank you very much for your food, I enjoyed it a lot”.


Ashley (Korean Teacher)

How To Conjugate Korean Adjectives and Verbs With Nouns

Every Korean verb finish with ~다 (da) which shows its identity as a verb when you look for the word from dictionaries. We call it “dictionary form of verb”. However we do not use those dictionary forms in the actual conversation which means that we need to change it into certain forms to make it naturally fit into the conversation.

When you connect adjectives to noun, you should use / – (depends on whether the adjective stem has the final consonants or not). Here are some examples,

다small, 가방 bag                     작은 가방 a small bag

예쁘다pretty, 친구 friend         예쁜 친구 a pretty friend

When you connect verbs to noun, is attached to the verb stems no matter what (does not matter whether the verb stem has the final consonants or not). For example,

좋아하다 like, 색 colour              좋아하는 색 the colour that I like

싫어하다 dislike, 음식 food       싫어하는 음식 the food that I dislike

Please remember that if you could be freely use adjectives in the appropriate contexts, your Korean will be dramatically improved in no time! 한국어 공부 파이팅! :=)


Ashley (Korean teacher)

Design Your Korean Trip With Beautiful Maple Trees

“When is the best season for Korean trip?”

If you are a huge fan of skiing or snowboarding, you might like Korean winter that enables you to see unlimited snow almost every day. If you enjoy watching flowers and eating fresh fruits, you would love Korean spring.

For me, Korean autumn is quite attractive.

Did you know that approximately 70percent of South Korean mainland is mountainous terrain? As a result of the tough terrain and huge difference of minimum and maximum temperatures during autumn season, the autumn leaves in Korea are vividly colored. These beautiful maple leaves attract so many tourists to the major mountains in Korea such as mt. Seorak,  Odae, Naejang and Jiri for about 1.5months from late September until mid-October (The maple season starts from northern mountains sunch as Seoral and Odae and finishes its short journey at southern mountains like mt. Jiri).

If your trip is not enough to see those faraway mountains, you still can see them in Seoul. You can go hiking to Bukansan which is the mountain in Seoul. Although it might be a bit smaller than major mountains, the vivid colours of maple tree leaves would be the same.

**you can visit KTO (Korean Tourism Organisation) website for further information regarding the timetable, maps of the major mountains and etc.

Enjoy your 단풍 구경 (maple trip)!


Ashley (Korean teacher)

~noun+부터 (bu teo) ~까지 (ggaji)

If you studied the level up to Korean beginners1_ week6, you may practised with your trainer regarding how to say time expressions by using “~부터 ~ 까지”. Actually, this expression is not complicated but very handy which makes your Korean speaking a lot better. Shall we try this further?

Together with time-related words such as hour, date, day, etc… ‘~부터” shows the beginning point of time, “~까지” indicates the ending point. For example, if you want to say “I worked from 9am to 5pm”, you can say that “저는 오전 아홉시부터 오후 다섯시까지 일 했어요 ( jeo neun ojeon ahopsi buteo ohoo daseot si ggaji il haesseoyo).”. In addition, you can use it for taking about days of the week. “저는 월요일부터 금요일까지 한국어를 공부해요 (jeo neun woryoil buteo geumyoil ggaji hangugeo reul gongbu haeyo) : I study Korean from Monday until Friday.”

Another handy way of saying it is when you talk about location or distance. For example, “센트럴에서 집까지 얼마나 걸려요? (central eseo jip ggaji eolmana geollyeoyo? ): How long does it take from Central to your home?”. It is useful when you try to say some time and distance expressions, but wish to limit the context.

Comparative and Superlative in Korean

How to express comparative and superlative sentences in Korean is not demanding at all. If you want to say ‘more’ /’less’ or compare two objects in Korean, you can simply put “ Deo” before adjectives/ verbs. For example, if you want to say “I would like to eat more”, you can simply say “ 먹고 싶어요 Deo meokgo shipeo yo”, and if It’s the opposite situation you can say “ 먹고 싶어요. Deol meokgo shipeo yo.”

In English, the words “most” and “best” can be used both adverbs and nouns. Similarly, we say 제일 (jeil) and 가장 (gajang) to express the superlative sentences in Korean. For example,
제일 예쁜 꽃 jeil yebbeun ggot” means the most beautiful flower, and 가장 예쁜 꽃 means the same.

Here are some examples:

1. 어떤 색깔이 가장 좋아요? Which colour is your favourite?

2. 요즘 제일 인기 있는 가수는 누구예요? Who is the most popular singer nowadays?

3. 호바트가 시드니보다 추워요. Hobart is colder than Sydney.


Ashley (Korean teacher)

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