6 Important Korean Proverbs to Know for Daily Life

Must-Know Korean Proverbs and Sayings

Korean Proverbs

Today we talk about the very best Korean Proverbs- a very important topic to talk about!

Every language is a mirror of its people’s soul.

It reflects their philosophy, their values, and of course their way of life.

It’s common knowledge that you can’t learn a language without learning more about the culture it comes from.

One of the best ways to do that is to introduce yourself to Korean proverbs! 

By learning Korean proverbs, or 속담 (seok-dam) not only will you sound like a local, but you’ll also familiarize yourself with the wisdom that’s been passed down from generation to generation over the centuries.

Let’s see what the Koreans have learned from their ancestors and maybe we’ll find inspiration and ways to improve ourselves too! 

We’ll start with one of the most frequently used proverbs in Korea.

Korean Proverbs | Planting A Soy Bean & A Red Bean

Korean Proverbs | Don’t Start With Kimchi Soup

Korean Proverbs | A Rice Cake That Looks Good Will Taste Good Too

Korean Proverbs | So Arrogant They’d Even Write In Front Of Confucius

Korean Proverbs | Even Monkeys Fall From Trees

Korean Proverbs | A Frog Can’t Remember The Times When He Was A Tadpole

Korean Proverbs | FAQ’s

10 weird Korean proverbs and idioms you can use in daily life

Korean Proverbs || 콩 심은데 콩나고, 팥 심은데 팥난다

👉 콩 심은데 콩나고, 팥 심은데 팥난다

Romanisation | kong shim-eun de kong-nago, pat shim-eun de pat-nan-da

콩 (kong) means soybean, while 팥 (pat) is a traditional red bean.

So if we translate this proverb literally, it means ‘where a soybean is planted, soybean grows and where the red bean is planted, red bean grows’. 

Both soybeans and red beans are traditional ingredients frequently used in Korean cuisine.

For whatever reason, Koreans decided to use these beans in a metaphorical phrase, in a way of saying that every occurrence in this world has a specific reason, and that we should look for the causes in its roots and foundations. 

Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you’re in school, wishing to receive a scholarship, but you don’t put in enough effort in studying for the exams. The result will be determined by your actions.

Meaning that you should look for the reason behind your failure in what you ‘planted’.

As they say – ‘you reap what you sow’!

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Korean Proverbs || 김치국부터 마시지 말라

👉 김치국부터 마시지 말라

Romanisation | kim-chi-guk-bu-teo ma-shi-ji mal-la

Another frequently used Korean proverb that also includes a popular part of Korean cuisine.

This phrase translates to ‘don’t start with Kimchi soup’, or ‘don’t drink the Kimchi soup first’.

If you know anything about Korea, then you must have heard about Kimchi – a delicious, but spicy cabbage.

Kimchi is used as a side dish for every meal in Korea but it’s also a very famous ingredient in other dishes – one of them being Kimchi soup.

One thing you must know about Korean people is how much they value their health.

The most important way to look after your health is to manage your eating habits.

To improve digestion and help reduce bloating, Koreans enjoy a bowl of spicy Kimchi soup after having eaten food. 

Therefore this proverb is telling us not to get ahead of ourselves or the events.

Have you ever been so excited to plan a detailed vacation before even knowing if your boss is giving you time off?

Well then you shouldn’t start your meal with Kimchi soup, just wait for the rice to come first!

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The Best Korean Food 🇰🇷 The Top 10 Korean Dishes for New Eaters to Try Out

There’s LOTS of various dishes in the Korean gastronomy. It might be hard to know what to try out first, so we selected the best Korean food for you to try.

보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다

👉 보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다

Romanisation | bo-gi joh-eun tteok-I meog-gi-do joh-da

Let’s not stray away too far from the topic of Korean food. It’s so good right?!

This proverb means ‘A rice cake that looks good will taste good too’.

Or to put it more simply what looks good tastes good too.

A lot of people would disagree with this proverb because beauty comes from the inside, right?

As nice as that sounds, outer appearance holds very big importance in Korean culture. For many centuries Koreans have tried to make everything around them aesthetically pleasing.

They found it necessary to decorate the outward appearance of everything around them, that’s why the traditional architecture, clothing and even tiny decorations charm us with their beauty.

The logic behind this is that if someone tries hard to make the end product visually pleasing, it means they put a lot of effort into it, so the quality will be good too.  

That’s why, if you’re putting on a presentation for your job or your studies, this proverb would advise you to put a lot of effort into making it look good on the outside.

That way your co-workers or your professors will gain a positive attitude towards it. 

Learn Korean Online - korean proverbs

Korean Proverbs || 공자 앞에서 문자 쓴다

👉 공자 앞에서 문자 쓴다

Romanisation | gong-ja ap-e-seo mun-ja sseun-da

Have you ever met someone so arrogant that they would have the audacity to teach a fish how to swim?

Koreans would say that they’re so arrogant that they would even ‘write in front of Confucius’. A master of Chinese characters himself.

Maybe a lot of cultures have similar proverbs, but what makes this very important for the Korean environment is how much professionalism and experience is valued in this society.

Did you know that there’s a specific way of speaking to your seniors? Even if they are just a year ahead of you in school!  

So if you ever plan to go to Korea, always remember not to teach the tour guide where all the pretty tourist attractions are.

Koreans don’t care for those who try to tell professionals how to do their jobs.

Korean Proverbs || 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다

👉 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다

Romanisation | won-sung-i-do na-mu-e-seo tteor-eo-jin-da

But don’t worry! Professionals aren’t gods either.

Or as Koreans would say ‘even monkeys fall from trees’.

So you shouldn’t beat yourself up over a mistake, no matter how big or small, because nobody’s perfect.

Making mistakes doesn’t mean that we’re bad at our jobs. The same with learning languages too. We need to make mistakes to become stronger.

Monkeys are experts at climbing trees, they spend their whole lives doing it, but sometimes they fall too!

If your friend is feeling down because they failed to do something, you can reassure them with this proverb.

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Korean Proverbs || 개구리 올챙이 적 생각도 못 한다

👉 개구리 올챙이 적 생각도 못 한다

Romanisation | gae-gu-ri ol-chaeng-i jeok saeng-gag mot han-da

Speaking of professionals, it seems Koreans have always had a lot to say about themselves.

Have you ever met a person who suddenly becomes very arrogant after gaining some success?

Sometimes this success can get into our heads and we forget the struggles we had to endure to get where we are now. 

Just like how ‘a frog can’t remember the times when he was a tadpole.’ 

After receiving Level 6 in the TOPIK exam (probably the goal of every Korean learner) you might act strictly towards beginners who are still struggling with Level 1.

In that case, this proverb would tell you to remember that you weren’t always so experienced.

As a frog, you need to remember the times when you were just a tadpole and treat others who have just started their journey kindly.


The world of Korean proverbs is wide and rich, but these six phrases will help you gain an insight into Korean wisdom and the way of life in Korea.

The journey of learning Korean is very long but as they say:

시작이 반이다 (shi-jag-i ban-i-da), or ‘well begun is half done’! 


Enjoy learning new proverbs in different languages? How about checking out these:

KOREAN PROVERBS – FAQ’s

How to say “Proverb” in Korean?

Proverb in Korean is 속담 (seok-dam).

How to say “you reap what you sow” in Korean?

There is a similar proverb to ‘you reap what you sow’ in Korean:

콩 심은데 콩나고, 팥 심은데 팥난다

If we translate this proverb literally, it means ‘where a soybean is planted, a soybean grows and where the red bean is planted, a red bean grows’. 

Koreans decided to use these beans in this metaphorical phrase, in a way of saying that every occurrence in this world has a specific reason.

Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you’re in school, wishing to receive a scholarship, but you don’t put in enough effort in studying for the exams.

The result will be determined by your actions.

Meaning that you should look for the reason behind your failure in what you ‘planted’.

What does “don’t eat your Kimchi soup first” mean?

김치국부터 마시지 말라 translates to ‘don’t start with Kimchi soup’, or ‘don’t drink the Kimchi soup first’.

One thing you must know about Korean people is how much they value their health.

The most important way to look after your health is to manage your eating habits.

To improve digestion and help reduce bloating Koreans enjoy a bowl of spicy Kimchi soup after already having food. 

Therefore, this proverb is telling us not to get ahead of ourselves or the events.

How to say “well begun is half done” in Korean?

시작이 반이다 (shi-jag-i ban-i-da)

Want More From LTL?

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4 comments

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  1. Masha
    Reply

    I knew the first two! Feeling proud 🤩

    1. Max Hobbs

      👏👏👏

  2. Love this, love the connections to food, always!

    1. Max Hobbs

      With a cuisine that good, it'd be rude not too!

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