A Step-by-Step Guide to Korean Email Etiquette


This guide will show you exactly how to write an email in Korean.

It covers both formal and casual levels of speech with a handy template at the end.

Let’s dive right in!

Guide-to-Korean-Email-Etiquette
Korean email

Quick notes

Writing a Korean email can be intimidating.

Koreans write them very differently from English-speakers.

There are many rules of engagement, including different ways to write casual and business emails.

Korean business culture is a bit formal.

Koreans tend to use interesting email addresses.

It’s not uncommon to see names like “skyblue23”, or “duckdream84”.

Don’t read too much into them. They don’t usually mean what you think they do.

Fortunately, Korean email address format follows conventional rules:

__username__ + @ __email host__.com

Emoticons are sometimes used in emails.

Which email host do Koreans use?

Naver, Daum, and Gmail are the most common for personal use in that order.

A few years ago, Gmail wasn’t an option on most government website forms.

Now it’s slowly gaining popularity.

Most companies use their own email host.

Which emoticons do Koreans use in emails?

Koreans use emoticons to make formal emails a bit softer.

^^ is a common smiley face symbol in Korea. But, it’s not used in business emails, because it looks unprofessional.

For business emails, you can use “:)” once. This is only in cases where you have some rapport with the recipient.

For example, a long term client or coworker who you’re on friendly terms with would be fine.

However, it’s not advisable to use emoticons in emails to your boss or managers. Decorum is very important in the Korean business environment.

Useful terms

  • 보내는 사람 – Sender
  • 받는 사람 or 수신자 – Receiver/recipient
  • 참조 – CC
  • 숨은 참조 – BCC
  • 제목 – Subject
  • 파일첨부 – Attachment
  • 미리보기 – Preview
  • 회신 – Reply
  • 전달 – Forward
  • 보내기 – Send

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Step 1. Relax

The recipient will know you aren’t Korean, so you’ll get a lot of leeway.

We’ll cover the entire email writing process, but don’t feel bad if you miss something. They’ll understand.

Step 2. Who are they to you

What’s your relationship to the person?

A business, client, or work relationship requires more formality.

A friend, significant other or family member will allow for a more casual tone. (Koreans don’t really email each other unless it’s for work. They use KakaoTalk messenger for personal use.)

This is important to figure out in the very beginning, because it will decide which level of speech to use in the entire email.

Step 3. Be upfront

Koreans tend to screen emails by subject.

So it’s important to state your company name and purpose in the subject.

Make sure to format it properly, so it looks important and gets read.

[Your Company Name] Purpose of Email의 건

Step 4. Titles matter

Addressing Korean names in an email must be done correctly. Find out the recipient’s title and write 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo or hello) in the first line of email.

Recipient’s Name + Title님 안녕하세요,

If you’re not sure of the title, use 담당자 instead.

담당자 (damdangja) means person in charge, but is used to substitute a specific title in Korean.

Recipient’s Name 담당자님 안녕하세요,

If you want to skip mentioning the recipient’s name, especially in the first email, you can simply say 안녕하세요, in the beginning.

안녕하세요,

Step 5. Start with the end

Unlike emails in English, Korean emails start out by introducing the sender.

This is true even if you know the person.

Your Company Name + Your Name입니다.

Your Company Name + Your Team + Your Name입니다.

Step 6. What’s the point?

Mention your intention for writing the email next.

Purpose of Email을 위해 메일 드립니다. (I’m emailing to ____.)

Purpose of Email 요청드립니다. (I’d like to request _____.)

Purpose of Email 확인 부탁드립니다. (Please check ___.)

Step 7. Attachments

Like in English, it’s important to mention if you’ve attached a file.

첨부파일 확인 부탁드립니다. (Please find the attached file.)

Step 8. Be polite

If you want to be extra courteous, you can add the following in your email.

문의사항 있으시면 언제든지 연락 부탁드립니다. (Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.)

Step 9. End on a positive note

Koreans are very concerned with health and weather, so it’s a good idea to mention them at the end.

For example,

쌀쌀한 날씨에 감기 조심하세요. (Don’t catch a cold in the chilly weather.)

미세먼지 조심하세요. (Watch out for fine dust.)

즐거운 주말 보내세요. (Have a nice weekend.)

오늘도 좋은 하루 보내세요. (Have a nice day.)

즐거운 점심시간 되세요. (Enjoy your lunch.)

Step 10. Be thankful

Make sure to thank the recipient.

A simple 감사합니다. (Thank you. or Sincerely,) will do.

감사합니다.

Step 11. Sign off right

There are two ways to end your email: 드림 and 올림.

드림 means “giving” as in “from”.

It’s a bit more casual, but suitable for most interactions.

올림 means “presenting” as in “from”, but in a polite way.

It’s more formal and is best used for addressing older people in a higher position.

드림: For colleagues, clients, acquaintances

올림: For bosses, president, parents, grandparents, teachers

Your Name 드림

Korean Email Template

Recipient’s Name + Title님 안녕하세요,

Your Company Name + Your Name입니다.

Purpose of Email을 위해 메일 드립니다.

첨부파일 확인 부탁드립니다.

문의사항 있으시면 언제든지 연락 부탁드립니다.

오늘도 좋은 하루 보내세요.

감사합니다.

Your Name 드림

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Did we miss anything?

Korean email etiquette is easy if you understand the formula.

Always stick to it for the best results, unless you’re very comfortable with Korean.

I spent a lot of time during my first job out of university learning email etiquette.

It’s very important if you want to get ahead in Korea.

Feel free to ask questions below about anything we missed.

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