I'm looking to study Korean, and am interested in language in general, and was curious if Korean had any such short expressions that represents a larger feeling/story.

  • There are many such lists of "untranslatable Korean words" available online! E.g. this from The Culture Trip, from Keia, from Optilingo... the list goes on.
    – Michaelyus
    Aug 30, 2022 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


Of course there are. If anything, there are too many such phrases.

I'll mention one which a British dictionary publisher adopted as a new foreign phrase a couple of years ago. I heard NY Times also had an article about it: 내로남불.

  • 내로남불 is an acronym for 가 하면 맨스, 이 하면 륜 (If you do it, it's a great romance. If someones else does it, it's an illicit affair). The phrase succinctly describes how everyone's judgement is skewed in favor of themselves. You see it everyday in politics everywhere, for example (e.g. the opposition party criticizes the government's overspending like crazy but then spends even more without batting an eye when they take power).

  • Another (somewhat related) saying is about how the same person's thought changes with their situation: 화장실 갈 때와 나올 때 마음 다르다 (There is a vast difference before and after you go to the bathroom). You're fixated on one thing when you go to the bathroom with an urgent need, but you never think for a split second about it coming out.

Korean is very rich in this kind of sayings and proverbs, like 핑계 없는 무덤 없다 (There is no grave without an excuse), or 열 길 물속은 알아도 한 길 사람 속은 모른다 (You may see through tenfold deep water but not through onefold deep human mind). You'll have fun if you study it.

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