What is this 속담 (어물전 망신은 꼴뚜기가 시킨다) supposed to mean? What is its literal meaning? From what I understand, it is sort of an equivalent of the English proverb "one bad apple spoils the bunch", but I am not sure about the meaning nuances. If possible, please give some usage examples.

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    It means either "Pencil squids disgrace the fishmonger's." or "Pencil squids disgrace the other fishes in the same fishmonger's." Pencil squids and also squids (오징어) refer to ugly people. This proverb is used when one's bad action or behavior makes (the) others in the same group, field, or place feel ashamed. Google "어물전 망신은 꼴뚜기가 시킨다더니," and you will find several examples.
    – Klmo
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 5:41

1 Answer 1


어물전 망신은 꼴뚜기가 시킨다

It's a proverb in Korea which means "One bad person brings disgrace to his/her colleague/family/group."

To know it's literal meaning, we can divide the proverb into 3 parts :

어물전 : (魚物廛) fish stores (fishmongers) that existed in Chosun era.

망신시킨다 : to disgrace, to embarrass

꼴뚜기 : pencil squid

So we can interpret the sentence as :

"The pencil squid brings disgrace to the fish shop."

In Korean proverbs, 꼴뚜기(pencil squid) is often portrayed as someone(something) who does something that damages one's reputation or does something that doesn't get any respect from others.

one example would be "망둥이가 뛰니 꼴뚜기도 뛴다 (Pencil squid jumps when mudskipper jumps)" which can be used when we see someone who doesn't have his/her own belief.

This is because 꼴뚜기 is considered to be one of ugly creatures in Korea. When customers saw 꼴뚜기 in 어물전, they wouldn't buy it, and some customers even left the store because they didn't want to look at that ugly creature.

Some usage example of "어물전 망신은 꼴뚜기가 시킨다" would be :

  1. When a member of a band commits crime.
  2. When traveler does something that would damage his/her country's reputation.
  3. When a famous person's son/daughter posts a controversial post in SNS.

So we can see the nuance of this proverb is very negative towards the subject.

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