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I had originally been taught that "부엌" means kitchen, but recently I came across this word "주방." What is the difference between these two words? Are they typically interchangeable, or are there situations when its only appropriate to use one and not the other?

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When the National Korean Language Institute (국립국어원, the official government authority on Korean language) was asked this same question, they did not indicate any major difference between these two words.

부엌 is pure Korean, and 주방 (廚房) is derived from Chinese characters. They mean the same thing, so it is a matter of personal taste and they can be interchanged without greatly affecting the meaning of a sentence.

Generally, pure Korean words are more colloquial and used more often in everyday conversation, while Chinese character words are more formal and used more often in written documents.

Although there is no direct analog for "kitchen," I would consider the difference similar to the one between "bathroom" and "lavatory" in English. (부엌:bathroom::주방:lavatory.) Sometimes one sounds better than the other; you can usually interchange them without greatly changing the meaning. A Korean analogy might be 부엌:사람::주방:분.






If you are interested in references/sources for the difference in usage of native Korean words versus Sino-Korean words (words derived from Chinese characters):

Sino-Korean words today make up about 60% of the Korean vocabulary, though in actual speech (especially informally) native words are vastly more common.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Korean_vocabulary (Wikipedia further cites two books.)

It is not unusual to find native Korean and Sino-Korean words with similar or overlapping meanings. When this happens, the native Korean word tends to be more colloquial, while the Sino-Korean word is usually more formal and literary. (e.g. 엄마/아버지 versus the formal and impersonal 모친/부친)...

The majority of the vocabulary used in written materials such as newspapers, magazines, documents, and books is of Sino-Korean origin. The same is true of news broadcasts, lectures, and ceremonies, as well as just about any conversation on a topic that goes beyond ordinary life.

This passage is followed by numerous examples.

Choo, Mi-Ho, and Hye-Young Kwak. Using Korean a Guide to Contemporary Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. 85. Print.

This book gives an explanation of why this might be so:

The vocabulary of Korean has two principal sources. Approximately forty-five percent of its words can be traced back to Middle and Old Korean. These so-called 'native Korean' words tend to denote things and concepts central to everyday life--body parts, traditional foods and cultural practices, kinship relations, basic actions, native plants and animals, and so forth.

Choo, Miho, and William D. O'Grady. Handbook of Korean Vocabulary: A Resource for Word Recognition and Comprehension. Seoul: Hanguk Munhwasa, 2002. Ix. Print.

I think another influence was that the use use of hanja was historically limited to the upper class. Similar to how French/Latin-based words tend to be more formal ("lavatory") in English compared to their Germanic counterparts ("bathroom").

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Just to put yet another opinion in here, another native speaker I asked said that...

부엌 has a slightly 'old' feel, and makes you think of a small cooking area in a traditional Korean home.

주방 suggests a larger room, and so might be more appropriate for a large, well-equipped, modern kitchen.

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  • I think this can be one of emotional approach. It's controversial, though. Let's consider you are a rich person, so you have large, well-equipped, modern kitchen in your house. I think 부엌 is still proper to refer kitchen. – Ting Choe Mar 9 '17 at 9:22
  • Anyway it's true that 부엌 sometimes reminds of an small kitchen in a traditional Korean home. I had no idea why. – Ting Choe Mar 9 '17 at 9:24
  • Interesting thing is that I talked with my father about this and he explained like yours. Haha. Of course, he was not sure it was correct or not. But it was quite the same to yours. I think old people(over 40s) think like that. – Ting Choe Mar 9 '17 at 10:33
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    @TINGCHOE I will tell my wife that she thinks like an older person :) – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 9 '17 at 17:12
  • Sure. It's quite interesting. haha. How old is she? and I don't know why I couldn't refer your name using @ at the beginning of comment. – Ting Choe Mar 9 '17 at 17:17
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Here(link), there you go.

주방, 부엌, 취사장 모두 음식을 만드는 공간을 가리킨다. 어디에 있느냐에 따라 달리 불린다. 부엌은 주로 일반 주택에 딸려 있을 때를 말한다. 주방은 식당과 같은 요식업소에 있는 것을 가리킬 때 사용된다. 아파트나 현대식 주택에 딸린 것을 뜻할 때도 있다. 취사장은 많은 사람이 공동생활을 하는 곳에 있는 것을 뜻한다. 취사장은 규모가 큰 것을 가리킨다.

There are three words; 주방, 부엌, 취사장.

All of them mean a place in which food is cooked. We can gage what to use according to buildings where it is.

부엌 is used when the place is in the residence. For example, your house or friends house. Or apartment, condominium. That kind of thing.

주방 is used when the place is in the restaurants. Sometimes it's used when the place is in apartments or modern residence, though.

취사장 is used when the place is in the community place such as school and military service. It is quite big size.

I think this information is fairly correct according my experience. At home, I use 부엌. At restaurants, I use 주방. I used 취사장 when I served my military service.

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    There may be a convention to use the words this way, but it is not a strict rule. The National Korean Language Institute (국립국어원) did not make such a distinction when asked how 주방 and 부엌 differ, only saying they are different words for the same concept: twitter.com/urimal365/status/332360171252772865 – Leftium Mar 9 '17 at 6:27
  • Further comments moved to chat. – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 9 '17 at 16:54
  • Aw. I wanted to move all of these comments. What's the criteria between chats and comments? – Ting Choe Mar 9 '17 at 17:23
  • @TINGCHOE there's no clear line, but in my opinion, comments add useful information to an answer, while chat is better for discussion that is tangential or not directly relevant. – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 9 '17 at 19:11
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    @TINGCHOE other users can move discussions if they get long. Can you see a link saying "Please avoid extended discussions in comments. Would you like to automatically move this discussion to chat?" on my answer to this question? – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 10 '17 at 7:53

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