If you haven't learned Korean proverbs yet, it isn't too late. Better start now, rather than never!

Proverbs play a key role in Korean language and culture. Unfortunately, proverbs might be tricky and those figurative meanings could confuse Korean language learners. Here's a list of the MOST POPULAR Korean proverbs. All the phrases are broken down into their smaller word parts. Enjoy!

수박 겉 핥기 

[subak geot halkki]

Literal meaning: Licking the surface of a watermelon

It would be equivalent to the English phrase ‘to scratch the surface.’ By only licking the surface, you’ll never taste the sweet inside part and truly experience the watermelon. This proverb means ‘to do something in a superficial way’ or ‘to examine only the superficial aspects.’

수박 [subak] watermelon

[geot] surface, skin

핥다 [haltta] to lick

병 주고 약 준다

[byeong jugo yak junda]

Literal meaning: Giving a disease then giving medicine

This proverb is used when a person who initially caused trouble for others is offering a remedy and trying to help. You can use this expression in the situation when someone gives an insult, then compliment after.

[byeong] disease, illness

주다 [juda] to give

[yak] medicine

짚신도 짝이 있다

[jipsindo jjagi itta]

Literal meaning: Even the straw shoe has a mate

This proverb is similar to the English phrase ‘Every Jack has his jill.’ It simply means ‘There is someone out there for oneself’ or ‘Everyone will eventually find a mate.’

짚신 [jipsin] straw shoe(s)

[do] also, too

[jjak] pair, mate

[i] (consonant +) subject marker

있다 [itta] to be, to have

배보다 배꼽이 더 크다 

[beboda bekkobi deo keuda]

Literal meaning: The belly button is bigger than the belly

Normally our belly buttons are far smaller than bellies. But what if belly buttons are far bigger than bellies? That would look very strange.

This proverb is used when minor things cost more money or time than major one. For example, if you buy a five-dollar book and spend $10 in shipping, the belly button (delivery charge) is larger than the belly (the book).

[be] belly

보다 [boda] than

배꼽 [bekkop] belly button

[i] (consonant +) subject marker

[deo] more


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