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How to Say ‘Merry Christmas’ in Korean

How to Say Merry Christmas in Korean

Do you know any ways to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in Korean? KoreanClass101 brings you easy-to-learn translations and the correct pronunciation of Korean Christmas phrases!

Christmas is the annual commemorative festival of Christ’s birth in the Western Christian Church. It takes place on December 25th and is usually celebrated with much food and fanfare! However, not all cultures celebrate Christmas. In some countries, Christmas is not even a public holiday! However, many countries have adapted Christmas and its religious meaning to tally with their own beliefs, or simply in acknowledgment of the festival’s importance to other cultures. If you want to impress native Korean speakers with culturally-appropriate Christmas phrases and vocabulary, KoreanClass101 will teach you the most important ways to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in Korean!

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Table of Contents

  1. How to Celebrate Christmas in Korea
  2. Holiday Greetings and Wishes
  3. Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary
  4. Twelve Days of Christmas
  5. Top 10 Christmas Characters
  6. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You

1. How to Celebrate Christmas in Korea

Christmas Words in Korean

Do you know what day the 25th of December is? Many nations celebrate that day as Christmas. And Korea is no exception. In this blog, you’ll learn about how Koreans celebrate Christmas Day.

Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question: when you think of Christmas, I bet you can’t help but think of Santa Claus, right? But in Korea, Santa Claus is usually called by another name. Do you know what that name is?

If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep reading.

In South Korea, you can’t take the “donation” out of Christmas, so around Christmas time, you’ll see many Salvation Army charity donation pots or 구세군 냄비(gusegun-naembi). You’ll run into these donation pots all over the city from the beginning of December. It’s the season of giving, and many people donate money to people who have to bear the harsh winter around this time of year. If you visit Korea during this season, you’ll see people putting 1,000 won and 10,000 won bills into the pot.

Also during the Christmas season, you can often hear Christmas carols. Every year in Korea, famous comedians release a carol. Using their own buzzwords to make lyrics and the music of a famous carol, they release their own special Christmas carols. You’ll almost certainly hear these carols in South Korea.

Since about thirty percent of Koreans are Christian, many people go to church on Christmas. After lunch time, they spend time with their families or partners. That’s why you can see many people gathering downtown or in shopping malls.

Additionally, there are people, sometimes called “One Thousand Four Angel Santas” or 1004(천사)명의 산타 (cheonsamyeong-ui santa) who spend Christmas giving gifts to orphans and bringing food to the elderly who live alone. Christmas is the day, regardless of religion, when people can show kindness to one another.

Here’s our fun fact for the day! Did you know that Christmas has another name in Korea? It’s 성탄절(Seongtan-jeol.) 성(Seong), is the Chinese character meaning “holy” and 탄(Tan) means “birth.” So together 성탄(seongtan) means “the day the holy person was born.” This can be used as another name for Christmas.

Now it’s time to answer our quiz question: what is Santa Claus called in Korea? In Korea, Santa Claus goes by another name; he’s called “Grandfather Santa.” or 산타 할아버지 (santa-hallabeoji) When you call him grandfather, you feel much closer, right? These days, sometimes you can also see or hear about Grandmother Santa or 산타 할머니(santa halmeoni).

2. Holiday Greetings and Wishes for the Holiday Season

1- Merry Christmas!

메리 크리스마스!
Meri Keuriseumaseu!

Do you know how to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in Korean? Learn here how to pronounce it perfectly! ‘Merry’ means to be joyful, to celebrate and generally be in good spirits. So, with this phrase you are wishing someone a joyful, celebratory remembrance of Christ’s birth!

2- Happy Kwanzaa!

해피 콴자!
haepi kwanja!

Surprise your African-American, or West African native friends with this phrase over the Christmas holidays! Kwanzaa is a seven-day, non-religious celebration, starting on Dec 26th each year. It has its roots in African American modern history, and many people celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas!

3- Have a happy New Year!

행복한 새해 되세요!
haengbokan saehae doeseyo!

In countries where Christmas is not officially celebrated, but a Gregorian calendar is observed, this would be a friendly festive-season wish over New Year.

4- Happy Hanukkah!

해피 하누카!
haepi hannukah!

Hanukkah is the beautiful Hebrew festival over November or December each year. It is also called the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is celebrated to commemorate the Jewish freedom of religion.

5- Have a great winter vacation!

겨울 휴가 잘 보내세요!
gyeoul hyuga jal bonaeseyo!

This is a good phrase to keep handy if someone doesn’t observe any religious festival over the Christmas holidays! However, this will only be applicable in the Northern hemisphere, where it is winter over Christmas.

6- See you next year!

내년에 뵙겠습니다!
naenyeone boepkketsseumnida!

Going away on holiday over Christmas season, or saying goodbye to someone about to leave on vacation? This would be a good way to say goodbye to your friends and family.

7- Warm wishes!

행운을 빌며!
haenguneul bilmyeo!

An informal, friendly phrase to write in Korean Christmas cards, especially for secular friends who prefer to observe Christmas celebrations without the religious symbolism. It conveys the warmth of friendship and friendly wishes associated with this time of year.

8- Happy holidays!

행복한 휴일 보내세요!
haengbokan hyuil bonaeseyo!

If you forget how to say ‘Merry Christmas!’ in Korean, this is a safe, generic phrase to use instead.

9- Enjoy the holidays!

휴일 잘 즐기세요!
hyuil jal jeulgiseyo!

After saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in Korean, this would be a good phrase with which to wish Christmas holiday-goers well! It is also good to use for secular friends who don’t celebrate Christmas but take a holiday at this time of the year.

10- Best wishes for the New Year!

새해 복 많이 받으세요!
saehae bok mani badeuseyo!

This is another way of wishing someone well in the New Year if they observe a Gregorian calendar. New Year’s day would then fall on January 1st.

3. Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary

Christmas is associated with many traditions and religious symbols in multiple countries across the world. It originated centuries ago in the West with the birth of Christianity, and the celebrations are often embedded with rich cultural significance. So, by now you know how to say Merry Christmas in Korean! Next, learn pertinent vocabulary and phrases pertaining to Christmas, as well as how to pronounce them correctly. At KoreanClass101, we make sure you sound like a native speaker!

1- Christmas


This is the Korean word for ‘Christmas’. Most happy Christmas wishes in Korean will include this word!

2- Snow


In most Northern-hemisphere countries, Christmas is synonymous with snow, and for Christmas, the snowman is often dressed as Santa Claus.

3- Snowflake


Snowflakes collectively make up snow. A single snowflake is small, white, light like a feather and icy cold! When put under a microscope, the snowflake reveals itself to have the most beautiful, symmetrical patterns. These patterns have become popular Christmas decorations, especially in Western countries.

4- Snowman


As you guessed - a snowman is only possible to build if it is snowing! What a fun way to spend Christmas day outside.

5- Turkey


Roast turkey is the traditional main dish on thousands of lunch tables on Christmas day, mainly in Western countries. What is your favorite Christmas dish?

6- Wreath


Another traditional Western decoration for Christmas, the wreath is an arrangement of flowers, leaves, or stems fastened in a ring. Many families like to hang a Christmas wreath outside on their houses’ front doors.

7- Reindeer


Reindeer are the animals commonly fabled to pull Santa Claus’ sled across the sky! Western Christmas folklore tells of Father Christmas or Santa Claus doing the rounds with his sled, carrying Christmas presents for children, and dropping them into houses through the chimney. But who is Santa Claus?

8- Santa Claus

산타 클로스
santa keulloseu

Santa Claus is a legendary and jolly figure originating in the Western Christian culture. He is known by many names, but is traditionally depicted as a rotund man wearing a red costume with a pointy hat, and sporting a long, snow-white beard!

9- Elf

꼬마 요정
kkoma yojeong

An elf is a supernatural creature of folklore with pointy ears, a dainty, humanoid body and a capricious nature. Elves are said to help Santa Claus distribute presents to children over Christmas!

10- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

루돌프 사슴코
rudolpeu saseumko

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is a Christmas song based on an American children’s story book with the same name. Rudolph is one of Santa’s reindeer. The song became more famous than the book, and can still be heard playing in many shopping malls over Christmas time across the globe!

11- North Pole


The cold North Pole is where Santa Claus is reputed to live with his reindeer!

12- Sled


A sled is a non-motorised land vehicle used to travel over snow in countries where it snows a lot, and is usually pulled by animals such as horses, dogs or reindeer. This one obviously refers to Santa’s sled! Another word for sled is sleigh or sledge.

13- Present


Gift or present giving is synonymous with Christmas Eve and the greatest source of joy for children over this festive time! This tradition signifies that Christ’s birth was a gift to mankind, but not all people who hand out presents over Christmas observe the religious meaning.

14- Bell

크리스마스 종
keuriseumaseu jong

On Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve, many religious celebrants enjoy going to church for a special sermon and Christmas rituals. The start of the sermon is often announced with bells or a bell, if the church has one. For this reason, the sound of ringing bells is often associated with Christmas Day.

15- Chimney


The chimney is the entrance Santa Claus uses to deliver children’s presents on Christmas Day, according to folklore! Wonder how the chubby man and his elves stay clean…?!

16- Fireplace


In most countries where it snows, Christmas is synonymous with a fire or burning embers in houses’ fireplaces. Families huddle around its warmth while opening Christmas presents. Also, this is where Santa Claus is reputed to pop out after his journey down the chimney!

17- Christmas Day


This is the official day of commemorative celebration of Christ’s birth, and falls each year on December 25.

18- Decoration


Decorations are the colourful trinkets and posters that make their appearance in shops and homes during the Christmas holiday season in many countries! They give the places a celebratory atmosphere in anticipation of the big Christmas celebration. Typical Christmas decorations include colorful photographs and posters, strings of lights, figurines of Santa Claus and the nativity scene, poinsettia flowers, snowflakes and many more.

19- Stocking

크리스마스 양말
keuriseumaseu yangmal

According to legend, Santa Claus places children’s presents in a red stocking hanging over the fireplace. This has also become a popular decoration, signifying Christmas.

20- Holly

호랑 가시 나무
horang gasi namu

Holly is a shrub native to the UK, and parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. It is characterised by glossy, spiny-toothed leaves, small, whitish flowers, and red berries. Ironically, its significance for Christmas relates to Christ’s crucifixion and suffering rather than his birth. However, the leaves’ distinctive shape and image have become popular Christmas decorations.

21- Gingerbread house


According to legend, the gingerbread house synonymous with Christmas is related to Christ’s birth place, Bethlehem. Bethlehem literally means ‘House of Bread’. Over centuries, it has become a popular treat over Christmas time in many non-religious households as well.

22- Candy cane

사탕 지팡이
satang jipangi

According to folklore, Christmas candy canes made their appearance first in Germany in the 16th century. A choir master gave children the candy canes to suck on in church in order to keep them quiet during the Christmas sermon! Apparently, the candy is shaped like a cane in remembrance of the shepherds who were the first to visit the baby Jesus. Today, like gingerbread houses, they are still a popular sweet over the festive season!

23- Mistletoe


Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on certain trees. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the mistletoe has magical powers, and could protect a household from evil if hung above a door during December. The belief didn’t last but the habit did, and the mistletoe is another popular Christmas decoration!

4. Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas

Wow, you’re doing extremely well! You know how to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Korean, and you learned pertinent vocabulary too! The Twelve Days of Christmas is not very well known in modern times, so, you’re on your way to becoming an expert in Christmas traditions and rituals. Well done!

The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a traditional festive period of 12 days dedicated to celebrate the nativity of Christ. Christmas Day is, for many who observe Twelvetide, the first day of this period.

‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is also a popular Christmas song about a series of gifts given on each day of Twelvetide. According to experts, these gifts were created as a coded reference to important symbols in the Christian church. Here is a list of those gifts mentioned in the song! Do you recognise them?

5. Top 10 Christmas Characters in American Culture

Top 10 Christmas Characters

This is fantastic, you know how to explain almost everything about Christmas in Korean! However, do you know the most popular Christmas characters in American culture? Your knowledge will not be complete without this list.

6. KoreanClass101 Is One Of The Best Online Language Schools Available!

Visit KoreanClass101!

We don’t just say this - we can prove it! Geared to your personal needs and goals, we have several learning paths from which to choose. From Korean for Absolute Beginners to Advanced Korean, lessons are designed to meet you where you are, and increase your language abilities in fun, easy and interactive lessons! Mastering a new language has never been this easy or enjoyable.

We have over a decade of experience and research behind us, and it shows! With thousands of audio and video lessons, detailed PDF lessons and notes, as well as friendly, knowledgeable hosts, KoreanClass101 is simply unbeatable when it comes to learning correct Korean. Plenty of tools and resources are available when you study with us. New lessons are added every week so material remains fresh and relevant. You also have the option to upgrade and enjoy even more personalised guidance and services. This is a sure way to fast-track your learning!

So, this Christmas, why don’t you give yourself a present and enroll in KoreanClass101? Or give an enrollment as a present to a loved one. It will be a gift with benefits for a whole lifetime, not just over Christmas!

Top 10 Lines You Need for Introducing Yourself in Korean


Click here to listen how to pronounce those phrases!

  • 제 이름은 민준입니다.
    Je ireumeun Minjunimnida.
    My name is Minjun

  • 한국 사람입니다.
    Hanguk saramimnida.
    I’m from South Korea.

  • 서울에 살고 있습니다.
    Seoureseo salgo itsseumnida.
    I live in Seoul.

  • 한국어를 1년 째 공부하고 있습니다.
    Hangugeoreul illyeon jjae gongbuhago itsseumnida.
    I’ve been learning Korean for a year.

  • KoreanClass101.com에서 한국어를 배우고 있습니다.
    Koriankeullaseuwonowondatkeomeseo hangugeoreul baeugo itsseumnida.
    I’m learning Korean at KoreanClass101.com.

  • 안녕하세요. 만나서 반갑습니다.
    Annyeonghaseyo. Mannaseo bangapsseumnida.
    Hello, it’s nice to meet you.

  • 27살 입니다.
    Seumurilgopsal imnida.
    I’m 27 years old.

  • 교사입니다.
    I’m a teacher.

  • 독서는 제 취미 중 하나입니다.
    Dokseoneun je chwimi jung hanaimnida.
    One of my hobbies is reading.

  • 음악 감상을 즐깁니다.
    Eumak gamsangeul jeulgimnida.
    I enjoy listening to music.

    Make friends? Want to impress native speakers?
    Learn Korean with our other vocabulary lists!

  • Farewell for now

    Bowing out.

    Sorry dear readers to make you wait an entire week to find out that I’m shucking you. I feel that it’s my time to bow out with whatever dignity is left over from all my self-depreciating posts about my adventures in Korea. I have had a wonderful time writing here and hope that it has inspired others to write about their own experiences and opinions. My decision to part ways for time being is not in any way tied to any animosity or ill-will whatsoever. I’ve simply written all that I need to write for the time being.

    Matthew KC101 korea blog

    I’ve learned a lot about myself and of Korea during my time here. Your comments and viewpoints have helped me understand more about what makes me tick: Korea. For those still wanting to follow what I’m up to, I’ve got two blogs that might be of interest to you: one focusing on my Korean language studying and the other on my Korean history pursuits.

    For those curious, I actually had a list of topics that I wanted to write but never got around to tackling them. For the sake of curiosity, I leave you with my unfinished list. Someone take the torch and blog away.

    • horoscopes / year of the ~ /constitution personality determination
    • (PIFF) Pusan International Film Festival / movie history
    • eccentric male TV hosts and why it’s an acceptable deviation of standard gender roles
    • Korean mother-in-laws
    • geographic regions (part series)
    • history of korean innovation
    • 재벌 (monopoly-like corporations)
    • grocery stores (360° shopping carts, locking escalators, soju in juice boxes, insanely nice service)
    • the fine art of haggling
    • cultural and linguistic double standards for Korean adoptees and half-Koreans
    • 교포, 일점오세, 이세, Korean-Americans
    • public transportation (bus, taxi, KTX, subway)
    • gender separation at young age
    • surgical masks when sick / H1N1 hysteria
    • 셀카 (selca)
    • religion and all those red crosses at night
    • losing face/ maintaining your supervisor’s face amidst obvious error
    • speaking Korean  vs. not speaking Korean and how it can make you lose the upper hand
    • English education and the culture of being a glorified resource
    • competition between families / Korean mothers
    • Koreans and their history with Japan / 독도 / culture export, import
    • 민족 (korean blood) / nationalism / cultural identity

    It amazes me that I never touched upon the curiously self-indulgent self-camera culture as well as the murky and complicated 교포 waters. Oh well. At least I covered the overabundance of pickles. That’s always important. Nice job Matthew.

    I hope that this simple blog has been fun. So for the last time it seems, I ask you again:


    Western food in Korea - scary and expensive with a side of pickles p.2

    Western food in Korea.

    Part Two of Two.

    As we looked at last week, pickles are plentiful and Italian food is an embarrassment. Did I already apologize on behalf of Korea? 이탈리아, 죄송합니다.

    But this week we’re looking at the good stuff. We’re looking at what Korea does right.* Depending on how adventurous you are.

    One thing that comes to mind when I think of Western food done right..dare I say it? better than Americans do it is fried chicken. In the states, I’m a fan of spicy chicken tenders. Strips of boneless chicken meat fried and coated with red pepper flakes. Take one of them bad boys and dip it into a cup of warm creamy gravy and you have yourself not only a dangerously meal but you are now suspect to heart failure.

    But we’re not talking about that type of chicken. We’re talking back to the basics. We’re talking right-after-church-Southern-style-fried-chicken. Bone. Skin. Crispy. Deep. Fried. Goodness. Koreans do it right and they know it.

    Fried chicken comes in the traditional breaded and deep fried fashion in Korea but it also has it’s own Korean spin to it. Like many other Korean foods, it can come with the a side (or soaked in) the ubiquitous sauce you either love or hate known as 양념.

    Not only that but the chicken doesn’t come in sizes such as large, medium and so on. One must order chicken by the animal. A typical order might be half of a chicken - literally. Or a whole chicken. A face on your food? Oh yeah. I mean, it makes sense to do so but it still feels a little weird telling the sweet smiling lady behind the counter “I’d like one whole chicken for dinner. Yes I’m eating alone why do you ask?”

    None of that compares to the recent monstrosity that is this little number. A little food stand sells this near my place and I tried it. I then promptly collapsed from fatness overload. Combine a soda with a little bit of fried chicken tender bits on top and throw some 양념 or ketchup and you’ve got Korea’s answer to KFC’s famous bowls. All the grease and none of the questionably nutritious vegetables or vegetable by-products like mashed potatoes. Just fried goodness.

    KC101 korea food blog chicken

    We’ve taken a look at the good, the bad, and the pickley. I hope you’ve enjoyed this cuisine cruise. For more on food in Korea, both Western and non-scary, check out ZenKimchi.


    Western food in Korea - scary and expensive with a side of pickles p.1

    Western food in Korea.

    Part One of Two.

    Why sweet baby Jesus are there pickles served with everything here?

    KC101 blog korea korean pickles pickle food western side dish

    It’s so unnecessary. For some reason, Korea feels the need to supply Western food with a heaping side of pickles with every meal. I still can’t tell if it is for the benefit if foreigners who have this supposed insatiable appetite for salted cucumbers or if it’s for Koreans who want an alternative to 김치 during their meal. Either way, it’s peculiar.

    In addition to the green spectacle served with pizza, spaghetti and other Italian mutations, there exists gut-wrenching excuses for Western food in this land. Granted, fast food and convenience store food is awful no matter which country you live in, but this abomination… is unforgivable.

    KC101 blog korea korean western food spaghetti

    See, I come from a country where ‘real’ Italian food is hard enough to come by, but we Americans get by. Although we have Papa John’s and Fazzoli’s, we acknowledge that it isn’t ‘real’ Italian but it’s still tasty food none the less. It’s like a delicious copy. But the sinful excuse for Italian food in Korea is shameful. A copy of a copy in every sense of the word, Italian food here has become a shadow of its former self and moreso, a western food monster. Sugar sprinkled garlic bread, marinara sauce with the sweetness of vanilla ice cream and a peculiarly thin cream sauce will raise bot only eyebrows but also the dead.

    I won’t even get started on Korea’s relationship with cheese. It’s no bueno.

    I confess though that I actually like most cream sauce dishes here. It doesn’t leave the heaviness of alfredo sauce but that’s probably because it doesn’t have alfredo cheese in it. So, if it’s lacking in real cheese, why am I paying an arm and a leg for it in the first place?

    For example, a heaping serving of delicious 참치김치찌개 (tuna kimchi stew) that comes piping hot with at least four side dishes and a healthy portion of cooked rice will run you 5000원 (less than five bucks USD). Not bad. A freshly cooked healthy meal with plenty of vegetables. Who can argue with that?

    How about a artery clogging fake cheese drenched noodle bowl with some pickles on the side? Good thing I paid four times what I should have for that big steaming pile of lies. Italian food - you are expensive and you have bad taste. You’re like the Adam Sandler of food.


    Engrish,, an ohter comon bad the moments times of a recently


    What a funny thing you have done to the English language, South Korea. You make me laugh. Daily. Hourly. Minute…ly.

    But don’t get me wrong. I’m not making fun of Korea in the sense that I think my foreign language skills are better. Not sure if you’ve noticed recently, but my Korean isn’t that great. I’m still translating kid books. So yeah, it’s fun to laugh at but plenty of my friends get to laugh at my expense daily.

    Having said that, Engrish is funny. Some of my favorites: “Don’t you tired?“, “That test made me hard“, and “You will be a stress“. Classic. You can’t make up comedy like that. Just a cursory google search will yield some awesome results. There is no shortage of goofy Engrish here.

    What other native English speakers have posed before, and I agree with, is that Korea overuses English. I’m not saying that people use English too much in the sense of communication but for advertising and such, English is overused and largely misused when the target demographic aren’t even native English speakers. Therefore, an advertisement in the Korean language would be seemingly more effective. I suppose it’s the status symbol of English in this country that pushes such awful English. What status symbol that is, I don’t know but it’s some sort of status.

    KC101 blog korea korean sign engrish funny english

    Still, if they started replacing questionable food titles and hilarious recycling signs with only Korean language explanations, it would make things hard to get around for non-Korean speakers. Make sure that I’m not for the full removal of English; I’m just for the promulgation of coherent English. Otherwise, leave it alone.

    All in all, it’s all just one big unintentional joke. Some of the best Engrish is found on trivial goods such as casual tee shirts and department stores. It’s clearly geared towards a younger audience with disposable income who likely has more of a familiarity with English than the older generation. However, the line between clever marketing and professional incompetence gets blurred all too often leaving foreigners to judge Korea’s image on things that Korea would rather not choose.

    To put things in perspective (for our own entertainment, of course) I present Matthew: in full Engrish. Imagine me at a subway stop near you. Brace yourself. It’s going to get ugly.

    KC101 blog korea korean funny engrish sign matthew model

    Thus ends my Engrish modeling career.

    The Korean language is daunting as it is but it’s preferable than poorly edited Engrish. Making mistakes in a conversation is one thing - I would never fault anyone for trying to speak a foreign language, let alone English - but marketing English as some sort of hook is almost insulting. It trivializes the language and makes it the butt of jokes and weakly delivered Korean rap song introductions. Example you say? 쥬얼리 (Jewelry)’s song “Vari2ty” is 30% less sexy just from the introduction. What the hell Baby J? Didn’t you live in California for a while? Reason #29 why I hate California.


    You lookin’ at me? Staring in Korea


    Ahh geez… It’s one of those days again. Look, no offense kind madam, but if you eyeball me one more time I’m going to start stabbing people. Thank you for not staring. It only took you five subway stops to lose interest in my remarkably hairy arm. Thanks. A word of advice? Perhaps next time you see someone with blue eyes you won’t look make that ‘throw up’ face. Deal? No? Fair enough. ** **** yourself.

    What? You’ve never thought this before? It’s brutal, sure but try getting stared at 24/7. And to think, mine is a face that is a socially acceptable deviance of what a foreigner ‘can’ look like (so to say). But who am I kidding? I’m the poster boy for native English education. I can’t imagine what others are experiencing here. I know it’s not just me.

    Where I’m from, it’s rude. I’m not saying that it doesn’t occur in the States but it’s not appropriate social behavior. Regardless of the reason for staring be it an interracial relationship, hyper-obesity, revealing clothing, special needs, a little person, etc - it’s just not a nice thing to do. Americans are taught at a young age to put their curiosity aside in order to allow the other person to be treated equal. While not universally obeyed, if any staring occurs, attempts are subtle and try to go unnoticed.

    While likely not an isolated event in Korea, it is my understanding that those doing the staring are clueless to it’s offending powers. In Korea, some misunderstand it and take it as racist behavior. Looking at it from the racist angle, it’s quite uncomfortable and victimizes the person who receives the dagger-like stares. While I’m sure racism exists in some form on every continent, I would suggest to try not to get offended. No matter how tempting it may be to scream “왜 그렇게 보고있어?!?” I urge you to try looking at it from their perspective. It’s not out of blood-boiling hatred or radical nationalism. It’s out of pure curiosity. *most of the time.

    KC101 blog staring subtle korea looking stare

    *Okay, not all the time. Sure sometimes, it’s because a foreigner is talking too loud on the bus or subway. Hey even if you were speaking Korean you’d get stared at for the volume of your voice. Sometimes it’s because you’re showing too much skin. Not saying you should wear a turtle neck 24/7 but if your upper body’s exposed, eyeballs are drawn to the exposed area like a moth to a flame. Sometimes it’s because your clothes are different. Yep. In a world of shiny pants and pink couple shirts for all, your Abercrombie & Fitch clothes might look a little off.

    Fair enough, but some of it also stems from ignorance and misinformation of other nationalities.

    A common complaint (and one shared by myself) is the situation where razor-like stares are sent when a clearly non-Korean man (like myself) is seen with a Korean female (be it just a friend or significant other). It’s not anything new and not anything terribly shocking, either. However, at least a few times a week, it apparently deserves hardcore glaring from anyone curious or old enough on the subway. From a purely superficial skin-deep standpoint, I am in a common-looking international relationship. A white guy with a Korean woman is nothing new to write home about. One would think that people would have quit freaking out about that a hundred and fifty years ago.

    Despite the uncomfortableness it may cause the receivers of such random fixed gazes, I submit that most Koreans are staring out of pure curiosity. Come on, one cannot make the claim that Korea is so homogeneous and expect an interracial relationship to be anything but a source for curiosity; especially for the older generation. I have the utmost confidence that Korea will soon find other things more interesting than an insignificant foreigner such as myself smiling at my significant other on the bus.

    Solution? Things are-a changing. Slowly, but surely some foreigners get it, too Many have figured out that things aren’t the same as back home. However, it is fair to say that many Koreans with international experience have figured out that staring is rude to most westerners. In the meantime, if you find yourself the victim of eyeball glares and analytical squints, just relax and turn up the volume on your iPod. See no evil hear no evil.

    Got your eye on some more? Well, more than just Koreans are doing the staring. Apparently, it’s an Asian thing. What if you’re just minding your own business with a friend of the opposite sex? Sadly, this happens even to platonic friends of opposite gender, too. In closing, in a wicked sense of comedy comes this little tidbit of information: even other Asians get stared at, too. Go figure.

    Photo credits: 선현우 and 안효진

    It’s a Korean kind of Christmas

    Christmas in Korea.

    Plainly said, Christmas is a ‘friend’ holiday instead of a ‘family’ holiday like it is in America. The opposite can be said about New Years in Korea - it’s a ‘family’ holiday instead of a ‘friend’ holiday like it is in America. No need to complicate matters. Everything else is completely backwards here so why not Christmas, right?

    So in this already insanely commercialized country where even chocolate covered pretzel sticks have their own holiday one would assume that Christmas is just as commercial as it is in America. However, one might be surprised that in a country where Christianity is the majority religion, Christmas is not much more important than any other holiday. One could make the argument that 빼빼로데이 is bigger. One would also get pulverized by either candy canes or 빼빼로 depending who’s arguing.
    KC101 blog korea korean christmas 산타 할아버지

    So what about Saint Nick coming down your chimney? Oh yeah…no chimneys here. Well, what about the lumps of coal in your stocking if you’re bad? No stockings over the non-existent fire place…well then surely they kiss under the mistletoe? What do you mean it doesn’t grow here? Well it’s not Christmas without lights a tree…huh? what’s a fire hazard? Coniferous evergreens in short supply you say? For the love… if nothing else, they’ve heard of A Charlie Brown Christmas, right? No? Good grief.

    But have no fear. It is a public holiday so most business will be closed. You’ll even see a lively decoration here and there. It also seems that each year is getting more Christmas-y looking. Artificial trees may not be in mass abundance but you can certainly find them. However, gifts under the tree are less in number. One thoughtful gift is much more common than several smaller gifts. Yeah but when I say thoughtful gift we may not be talking about the same thing. An envelope stuffed with cash? Thoughtful gift in Korea. Not rude. Soak that in, stranger.

    It makes sense, though. How ethnocentric must I be to expect Korea to celebrate a uniquely Western holiday in the same fashion? Take the good with the bad, I say. At least Korea is safe from harm’s way. Christmas time in America is also the time for ear-piercingly bad Christmas music. Someone a whole lot more funny than me has already dissected just how bad it can be (NSFW but funny as all get out).

    I joke but of course Father Christmas is in Korea. Take a look. It’s a bit different and a bit muted, but it’s slowly turning into the over-hyped money-driven holiday that we all know and hate love back in the States. Happy Holidays, y’all.


    An idiot’s guide to Korean fashion - p.2

    Korean fashion.

    Part Two of Two. Part One can be found here.

    I present what’s happening in the world of female fashion according to a man with no fashion sense. Remember that this covers mostly the young women and not the older women who are long-deserving of a post of their own. In the meantime, here is a selected representation of the pleasantly attractive but curiously strange world of Korean women fashion.

    KC101 blog korean female women woman fashion girl

    - Skinny <everything> -

    As touched upon in the infamous “fat” post, Korea is hurtin for a good ol’ American steak. We gots lot of skinny girls in desperate need of some meat. Haven’t they ever had an enchilada or two? If skinny is the new black then this place is straight-up darkness. Sneeze hard enough and one of the college girls on the subway might fall over from the force. Please go back for seconds, Korean women. You look nice but at what cost?
    - Short Skirts -

    This weather-be-damned article of clothing will be worn no matter the temperature. Despite the skinny leg eye candy that short skirts merit, it does make me want to buy them all a blanket. Something about the sea of short skirts in Korea makes me question the whole ‘conservative society’ image of Korea. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    - Leggings -

    Call them stockings, panty hose or leggings but either way they cover a woman’s legs and they are everywhere. Something about legs that becomes the focus of Korean fashion. Perhaps it’s due the vast ocean of chopstick-looking legs that is found in Seoul. These chopstick wielding young women have money so the clothes manufacturers match the demographic. Enter: leggings for the masses.

    - Black -

    Leave it to Korean women to find twelve shades of black to wear on any occasion. So much black it’s evil. Again with the demographics, Asian skin tones against black are understandably more complementary than a typical (if such a thing exists) Western woman’s skin tones. Therefore, black is the new…black? No that’s no good. Come on Matthew…something creative. How can I make fun without being insulting….how about a song reference. Hopefully the younger generation will catch it, too. ♫ I see Korean girls and I want them to wear black ♫

    - Fabric -

    Ever see that space-age golf fabric that dries quickly in the wind and prevents sweat stains? That’s pretty common for summer clothes here. It’s all scrunchy looking and feels funny. Matter of fact, a lot of the clothes in the summer are very thin. All it takes to understand this is one, balls-hot Korean summer and you will suffocate in your hefty 100% cotton undershirt. I’ll wear a scrunchy shirt any day of a Korean summer.
    - Little Dogs -

    More like an accessory than a real animal, these yipping dogs are 100% worthless. I’m not a dog hater by any means but a dog is measured by it’s ability to function like a civilized animal. My measurement is simple: any dog that can’t stand still and bark without falling backwards is worthless. Nothing screams “I’m a real catch!” better than a single woman walking a dog the size of a peanut. If a thief broke into your apartment you would rather have a real dog protect you instead of an over-grown rat have a seizure and choke on its own tiny rage. Stop the madness and get a real dog.

    - High Heels -

    Doesn’t matter if you’re just going up the street to buy some milk or you’re going to class, you’re probably wearing heels. What is the deal with heels? Why on earth would you go hiking in those, young madam? Really? You’re wearing heels to go up a hill? The goofy thing is that when I ask if someone’s feet hurt, they confidently reply “No, these are actually not that bad”. Perhaps they never heard of sneakers.

    - Layers -

    Being skinny has perks, you know. You can pile on the layers of scrawny slips of fabric without looking like a balloon. Sometimes I wonder if some girl really knew how well her ensemble looks and if she planned it that way or just threw it all together. My intuition tells me that when a young woman shops, she recalls what is in her closet and tries to buy things to match them for different ensembles. Nothing wrong with that. Like the zipper-tie in the last post, I have nothing against this. Thumbs up for looking sharp.

    - - - - - -

    When it’s all said and done, Korea is just comparison after comparison for me. Not quite as progressive and out-there as Japan and not exactly as chic as France but certainly more everyday fashionable than America. Ever heard of the phrase “All dressed up and nowhere to go”? That’s what comes to mind. I can’t help but wonder where all these dolled up women are going to. And then I realize the answer: Nowhere.


    An idiot’s guide to Korean fashion - p.1

    Korean fashion.

    Part One of Two.

    You know, you really shouldn’t be listening to me on this issue. I was already pretty faux metro in the States… but for what it’s worth here’s a simple observation and commentary of what can be commonly seen in Korea. By no means is this as detailed as it should be but for a non-fashion industry guy’s observation, I feel it’s worth mentioning. Nothing found on the runway, but certainly on the streets by young people. I present to you what’s happening in the world of male fashion according to a man with no appreciable fashion sense.

    KC101 blog korean man men male fashion girly metro metrosexual

    - Pink -

    Look. I’m not here to make the whole “Korean guys wear pink” argument. Pink is found in all countries and is worn by men and women alike. Of course also in Korea the color pink is used to differentiate between baby boys and baby girls. It is clearly a girl color; however it isn’t exclusive to girls in Korea like it is in America. The remarkable thing is that Korean guys wear all shades of pink. Light pink, dark pink, medium pink, purpley pink, pink with white, frilly pink, etc. It’s insane how many shades of pink a Korean man can wear. You know the whole “tough guys wear pink” slogan? Korea is jam-packed with tough guys.

    - Shiny -

    No, not everyone’s least favorite Korean boy band SHINee, we’re talking about glittery suits, light-reflecting ties and sugar-coated dress shirts. Basically like a cupcake. Everything a man wants to look like, right? A dressed up call girl. Shiny is the new black apparently. 반짝반짝 indeed, kind sir. There’s nothing like a six hundred dollar suit that sparkles.

    - Pointy Shoes -

    Remember when cockroach killers were fashionable? Korea never forgot. Pointy shoes aren’t worn by everyone, but the guys that do wear them really have a point - those are some seriously sharp shoes. Not sharp in the nice looking way; sharp in the way that they could harm a man in an argument over who makes the more metro-looking pointy shoe.

    - Scarves -

    Is it cold outside? No. But we’re wearing scarves, aren’t we? Fashion scarves are a great accessory that would get a man pummeled in Texas. Although I’m guilty of owning more scarves than God, I would hesitate to wear them back in the states. Don’t want to give the wrong idea. But regardless, Korean scarves are more than just the neck-warming utilitarian objects of fabric that they should be. Instead, they are freakishly mutated shoulder covering whose design is right out of a Japanese comic book. Why do I need my shoulder covered by a yellow and black plaid piece of paper-thin cotton? I don’t. But I love how it brings out my eyes.

    - Man Bag -

    I, too, am guilty of man-purse ownership. Yes, the always fashionable guy-satchel is with me at all times. I try to hide the fact that it’s a man-purse by telling my friends that it’s a laptop bag that I use for work. Granted, it is a laptop bag but I never put my laptop in it. I use it daily to carry my digital camera, cell phone, reading material, pencils and the ever-important travel toothbrush. What? I like to brush my teeth…

    - Couple Shirts -

    Fair enough. It takes two to tango. Yes, a couple shirt is wore by both a man and a woman of said couple but it’s the guy that looks like a complete moron, not the woman. Think about it. The couple shirt is never a handsomely fitted polo shirt or a well-tailored Armani suit. Instead, it’s a pastel yellow shirt with Snoopy’s face plastered on it. When you see two young people walking hand in hand with matching shirts, you can’t help but wonder if that guy is also the same guy who drinks 소주 like a whale and who is trained to accurately shoot any North Korean soldiers that might invade South Korea. Is that him? The defender of the country? Wearing a shiny pink couple shirt?

    - Zipper Ties -

    How cool are these? I love these awesome alternative to the real thing. Zipper ties are cheap and oh-so-fun to wear. Instead of the traditional single piece of cloth, these ties come with a prefit knot and a crotch-like zipper that goes up and down according to your neck size. You’ll look like a big boy in no time. Thank you Korea for allowing an idiot like myself who can’t tie a tie properly to comfortably wear one for work. They are cheap and are sold by just about anyone in the subway. Buy often and buy many I always say.

    - - - - - - - - -
    Well that’s all about I have to make fun of say about young male fashion in Korea. Clearly there are other great things to gawk and shake your head at in disgust such as bare chest-revealing shirts, acid-wash skinny jeans and tough-guy Engrish shirts that say things like “Power love for money beast we are” and the like.

    Despite the 배용준 reference, Korean men aren’t all flowery petals of femininity. Personality-wise, Korean men are truly known as a man’s man in the John Wayne sense both with advantages and disadvantages. But that’s another post for another time.

    Stay tuned for next week’s look at female fashion. A sneak peak you say? Let’s just say the forecast is dark with a 90% chance of heels.