I only have the English translation of this from a Korean client whose English is not very good. He is not happy with a service provider and used this phrase, is it a Korean idiom or expression?

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    This didn't ring any bells with one Korean i asked! Dec 20, 2017 at 9:40
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    Is more context surrounding this phrase available? (where this phrase was used, what the customer was unhappy about, is he just saying he or someone else is displeased, or is he pointing out a particular flaw that displeased him, etc)
    – user17915
    Dec 21, 2017 at 6:34
  • "Making bread and selling the crumbs" sounds like a synonym for being greedy, i.e. providing bad service while earning lots of money from it.
    – dROOOze
    Dec 21, 2017 at 14:22
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    I am a native Korean and the sentence doesn't give me any ideas. I don't think it is a kind of an idiom or a proverb. Maybe, he was trying to use a figure of speech.
    – jungyh0218
    Dec 26, 2017 at 9:19
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    I'm native, too... Doesn't ring any bells with me.
    – Lemon
    Jan 4, 2018 at 23:48

2 Answers 2


This sounds like a phrase an older Korean would use, and my first thought is that it may not be about bread and bread crumbs, but rather about 떡 and 떡고물.

떡고물 is often used as a word like "bread crumbs" when talking about money.

Some examples:

Me: Hey mom, you won the lottery so can I get some money?
Mom: 뭐, 떡고물이라도 떨어질 줄 아니? (What, do you think I will drop some crumbs?)

Me: Our latest project was a huge financial success for the company, no doubt our CEO will give us a fat bonus.
Coworker: 우리한테 떨어질 떡고물이 어디 있겠어? 다 윗선으로 가는 거지 (Where do you expect there to be fallen crumbs for us? Everything goes to our superiors)

This usage of 떡고물 is quite dynamic, so it can be used in many different ways. This makes it an "idiom".

An idiomatic phrase that is always produced in the same way, like "사자는 풀을 뜯지 않는다", is called a proverb.

I can totally see how an older Korean would use that kind of language to say something like "He is making 떡 and selling the 떡고물".

By the way for those readers who like "sources" and only trust experts and native Korean speakers I'm a tall white guy whose first language is English who has had 300 Korean girlfriends, so you can trust me on this one.

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    The answer seemed normal until the last sentence. Needs more verification.
    – user17915
    Feb 2, 2018 at 0:22
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    The point is that the content should be what matters, not whether someone types "native Korean speaker here" at the front. I'm not a native Korean speaker but I obviously have very juicy information about this topic.
    – user1471
    Feb 2, 2018 at 6:06
  • And if I said "Native Korean speaker here" you would have believed it 100%, now you are highly skeptical. If anything, I believe someone who has spent their life studying something will be more of an expert than someone who "just happens" to know something about that topic because they occasionally heard about it from their parents while they were growing up
    – user1471
    Feb 2, 2018 at 6:07
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    @safebookverified It doesn't matter whether you are a native Korean speaker or not. "I have 300 Korean girlfriends, so you can trust me on this one." doesn't really lend credibility to this answer.
    – user17915
    Feb 2, 2018 at 10:02
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    @safebookverified anyway, thank you for your input and welcome to the site. Please add proper references to this answer if possible.
    – user17915
    Feb 2, 2018 at 10:03

There is no known idiom in Korean for "making bread but selling the crumbs". I have asked dozens of intelligent, well-read Koreans.

I did find this.

From https://www.today.com/health/breadcrumbing-what-it-how-spot-it-t107900

“Breadcrumbing basically means not being super interested in someone, but continuing to lead someone on,” said Bela Gandhi, founder the of Smart Dating Academy and a dating and relationship expert. “It’s leading somebody on with no intent of following through.”

That could look like a few different scenarios: it might be an ex who continues to “check in” with you, but never goes so far as to suggest meeting up. It may be a guy that you’ve been flirting with back and forth, who will disappear for weeks, and then send an ambiguous “Hey, how’s it going?” text.

Being Led On

Perhaps your client read this and is extending the meaning to "being led on" in the business relationship with the service provider.

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