How to Text like a Korean in 2021
This guide will show you how to text in Korean.
It will help you make tons of friends and work better with others.
We’ll explain how to text both casually and formally step-by-step. There’s even some Korean texting slang to make you sound like a local.
Let’s get started!
Korean texting etiquette is an art form.
Voice messages are never used. (Introverts rejoice!) I’ve gotten only one in 10 years.
They don’t prefer voice calls, so texting is king.
- Texting in Korean is a language of its own.
- If you want to get fluent in Korean fast, check out Pimsleur here.
Korean cell phone plans don’t include many minutes (300 minutes is considered a lot), but tons of data (unlimited is preferred).
SMS, or traditional cell phone texts are usually reserved for emergency alerts, bill collectors, loan ads and spam. For everything else it’s a good idea to use KakaoTalk or Band.
Texting etiquette is a must if you want to be successful and have lots of friends in Korea.
Apps for Texting
The main Korean texting apps are:
KakaoTalk is the clear winner here with the majority of users.
After using KakaoTalk for a few years, I was surprised how basic WhatsApp was when I first tried it.
Koreans often belong to a few group chats:
- One for family
- One for friends
- One for school
- One for work
Needless to say, they spend a lot of time texting.
People also install KakaoTalk on their work computers and disguise it as an Excel sheet, so they can chat at work. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Like in other countries, never write anything in a text that you wouldn’t want plastered on the front page of the Korea Times.
KakaoTalk is great, but it doesn’t always protect the privacy of its users. They’re known to give up personal info when someone’s being investigated.
Some of these apps won’t be available in your country. Access every Korean app with VPN here!
How to send casual texts in Korean
This walkthrough is for everyday situations like texting with friends, family, and romantic interests.
The following are often used in casual texts:
- English words written in Korean (굿잡 = good job)
- Abbreviations (함 instead of 해요)
- Intentional typos (안뇽 instead of 안녕)
- Lack of space between words (일하는중 instead of 일하는 중)
These seem confusing, but they’re fun to figure out. When in doubt, read the text out loud and you’ll most likely get it.
Korean typo etiquette is advanced, so don’t go off script with your own until you’re comfortable. Also, wait until you’re familiar with someone before attempting it or you could lose major points.
For example, girls will definitely dislike it when a 소개팅남 (a guy from a blind date) sends texts full of typos out of ignorance, instead of intentionally.
- “예기 좀 하려고 했는데… ” → This is not considered cute. 얘기 is correct. Make sure no nouns are misspelled.
- “어의없어” → This won’t work either. “어이없어” is correct.
Step 1. Conversation starters
The most common ones you’ll see are:
|뭐해?||모해?||What are you doing?/What’s up?|
|어디야?||오댜?/어댜?||Where are you?|
Step 2. Responding
For good morning or hi, repeat the same or similar. Otherwise, responses can be:
|OO하고 있어||OO하는중||I’m doing OO.|
|OO야||OO임||I’m at OO.|
|ㅋㅋ/ㅎㅎ||^^ or Kakao emoticons||Laughter/Emoticon|
|헉/헐||헐||Surprised reaction like OMG|
Step 3. Keeping it going
These are some common questions to keep the conversation going.
|너는 뭐해?||넌?/너눈?||What are you doing?/You?|
|점심 메뉴는 뭐야?||점심 뭐먹?/점심 뭐먹어?||What are you eating for lunch?|
|오늘 뭐해?||오늘 뭐함?/오늘 뭐하누?||Any plans today? What are you doing today?|
Step 4. Ending
It’s not easy to end a conversation smoothly in any language. These are some safe choices.
|점심 맛있게 먹어||맛점||Enjoy your lunch|
|저녁 맛있게 먹어||맛저||Enjoy your dinner|
|OO하러 갔다올게||OO하고올게/댕겨올게||I’ll go OO and be back|
How to send formal texts in Korean
This section is for formal situations like messaging potential employers, co-workers, clients(학부모) and your boss. There’s not much room for small talk in these situations, so you can follow the script closely.
Step 1. Conversation starters
|좋은 아침입니다.||Good morning|
Step 2. Responding
Repeat the same. Feel free to add “네, (yes,)” before the phrase.
|네, 좋은 아침입니다.||Yes, good morning|
Step 3. Keeping it going
|OO에 대해 여쭤봐도 될까요?||May I ask about OO?|
|몇 시에 뵐까요?||What time shall we meet?|
|OO카페에서 뵙겠습니다.||I’ll meet you at OO cafe.|
Step 4. Ending
|좋은 하루 보내세요.||Have a nice day|
|감기 조심하세요.||Stay healthy (during flu season in winter)|
|즐거운 명절 보내세요.||Happy holidays|
How to text someone you want to date
When dating in Korea, men are expected to text the same evening after a first date, instead of waiting a full day like in Western countries. Thankfully, no call is necessary because that would be awkward. Not doing this will send the message that you’re not interested.
People don’t always prefer the direct approach when it comes to texting. Being ghosted or “ghosting” as it’s called in Korea can be common. On KakaoTalk, you can easily block or hide friends. So don’t feel bad if it happens to you!
It’s also socially acceptable (but not preferred) to disappear for a few weeks and then reappear as if nothing happened. If someone does this often, it’s not a good sign.
Blind dates (소개팅) are common in Korea. Now, the person setting you up can send your blind date’s Kakao ID so you can chat/see profile pics before you even meet up. That way you can forgo an unnecessary date if the two of you don’t hit it off.
When you’re in a relationship, it’s an unspoken rule to message your significant other once every few hours. This is one of the main differences I’ve noticed between westerners and Koreans when it comes to texting. The message could be a simple update on what you’re eating, where you are or who you’re with. This can even be a deal-breaker for some women. Sounds pretty tedious, but you can find a happy medium.
If a girl wants to further the conversation, they’ll respond to texts in the same day. If they’re really interested, they can show it with aegyo.
A way to be cute and sometimes childish in Korean. It’s usually used by girls, but guys can get in on the action too. There are a few ways to show this through texting.
- Change ㅁ to ㅇ. Example: 나 꿈꿨어 → 나꿍꼬또
- Use honorifics + ㅇ. Example: 잘자 → 잘자용
- Repeat the same word twice. Example: 아니 → 아니아니
- Change ㅗ to ㅜ. Example: 나도 → 나두
Still not sure what aegyo sounds like? Prepare yourself for the go-to aegyo test taken by K-pop idols on TV. This is aegyo in its highest form.
나꿍꼬또. 기싱꿍꼬또. 무서워또(나 꿈꿨어. 귀신 꿈꿨어. 무서웠어)
Nah-kkung-kko-tto. Gi-sing-kkung-kko-tto. Moo-suh-wo-tto. (Nah-kkum-kkwuh-ssuh. Gwi-sin-kkum-kkwuh-ssuh. Moo-suh-wuh-ssuh)
It means “I had a dream, it was a dream about ghosts. I was scared.”
Emoticons and Symbols
Koreans don’t use 🙂 as a smiley face. They prefer ^^.
😉 winking is done with Kakao emoticons or iPhone emoji.
:0 surprise is also done with Kakao emoticons or iPhone emoji.
^^; is a smiley face with sweat, meaning nervous or uncomfortable (like after being put on the spot).
Laughing can be shown with ㅎㅎ or ㅋㅋ.
Sadness is ㅜ or ㅠ but in light situations like your favorite cake was sold out.
For something really sad, use a crying face with ㅠㅠ or ㅜㅜ.
Guided conversation is the fastest way to get fluent in Korean. Pimsleur takes you from 0 to conversational in three months. You can try Pimsleur here for free!
What level of formality in Korean do I need to use when texting?
It depends on whom you’re speaking with. Friends and romantic partners can text each other using casual rules.
Texting business contacts, coworkers, bosses and those older than you must be done with a high-level of formality.
What does ~~ mean in Korean texting?
You can think of these symbols as a way to soften the message. They’re often synonymous with lighthearted teasing or affection. It can also be associated with aegyo.
What does ㅇㅇ mean in Korean texting?
It means “yup” in a casual tone. You can also use it to lightly blow someone off and end the conversation if it’s used by itself in a response.
What does zz mean in Korean texting?
It means the same thing as it does in English, that the person is bored or sleepy. It most likely can be a typo of ㅋㅋ if they didn’t switch to hangeul before writing.
What does ;; mean in Korean texting?
This can represent sweat meaning the sender is nervous. It conveys moments of awkwardness too.
What does ^^ mean in Korean texting?
The symbols represent smiling eyes and is somewhat interchangeable with 🙂 in English.
How to say lol in Korean when texting?
The most common ways are ㅎㅎㅎ or ㅋㅋㅋ.
Let’s hear from you.
Korean texting is a lot of fun, but takes some time to learn.
Tell us your favorite way to text in Korean in the comments!
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