L2: Cultural tip

As a follow up of the previous cultural tip on showing respect, the way of addressing a person is very important and I would say slightly different than that we do in english. In this article, we will have a look how to put appropriate title when addressing someone.

Koreans prefer to address a person base on their title or using their names plus a polite title or just the name, depending on the relationship, than to say “you”. This is similar to Japanese where you’re encouraged to use the person’s name then to say “you (anata)”. 

Ok, I’m sure 99.99% of you who are reading this article and so passionate to learn korean have are korean drama fanatics. Join the group. If you would have listen carefully to the conversations you always hear the title 씨 behind the person’s name.

eg.  민지 씨 ; 한도경 씨  (air city anyone?); 김지성 씨; 강하준 씨

   Note: 씨 has double “ss” thus should be given emphasis on the ‘s’ sound.

This title is for people who you are not that close to, but they are your friends or someone who you talk quite casually to. 

씨 is attached to the name only (도경 씨) or the full name (한도경 씨).

Never it is attached to the surname (한 씨 –WRONG!)


However, if the person is higher ranking than you, or has an official title (especially in workplace), you must use that title.

For instance, the title for teacher/professor or general honorific title is 선생님

Thus in addressing your teacher, you have to use this title either by

  •  just the title alone (선생님) OR
  • attaching it to their fullname (김 민지 선생님) OR
  • attaching it to just the surname (김 선생님)

NEVER add the title to their name only (민지 선생님- WRONG!)

Another example (if you watch Air City) is 실장 (section chief) title held by 한도경

You hear her staff call her 실장 or 한 실장 or 한도경 실장 but NEVER 도경 실장.


Now, i think some of you have heard of people using ~님 a lot. By adding the title ~님, you can actually lift the honorific form of addressing the person.

Like in korean:

       mother = 어머니

       However adding the title ~님 it makes it more honorific  = 어머님

       Same goes with   father = 아버지     becomes       아버님


Also, korean have this family family relationship with people even though they are not your blood-related family.  So, if you go to a shop and you see a woman on the counter of the grocery shop who’s not that much older than you (range about 10 years or so?) you’ll call her older sister instead of Miss etc. [usually for woman they do]

Thus you’ll hear people calling 언니 (older sister for female) and 형 (older brother of male) and 오빠 (older brother of female) to people who are not their real family.

equivalent of  aunt=아주머니     uncle = 아저씨     Miss (young lady) = 아가씨



One Response

  1. […]       1)   Lesson 2  Cultural Tip […]

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