Texting in Korean ^_^

Written by on May 30, 2011 in Lifestyle

So you’re in Korea or you’re a hardcore K-pop fan and find yourself spending a lot of time on the Korean fan forums or you’re planning to expand your business in Korea or just happen to be interested in Korea and the Korean language for other cultural aspects – whatever your reasons, sooner or later you’ll be exposed to the Korean style of texting or netspeak.

Like any other language that has adapted to the evolution of technology, Korean also found itself abundant with new expressions to fit the mobile phone and internet age. With the appearance of smart phones, the language is again going through different changes, but the basics haven’t changed much – at least not yet. Concise and to the point still remains the main goal.

Texting has become a standard part of life

1. The technical

The keypads on Korean phones differ from company to company. In March of this year, the Korea Communication Commission decided to standardize the Korean keypads of mobile phones to the Cheonjiin (천지인) system  and will implement this regulation starting from June. Smartphones are an exception and will have multiple systems available, and owners will be able to choose the method with which they are most comfortable.

The Cheonjiin (천지인) system

The Cheonjiin system is the simplest way of composing Korean letters. A vertical line, a horizontal line, and a dot are all that is needed to create all the vowels in the Korean alphabet. For example:

| + · = ㅏ

· + ㅡ = ㅗ

| + · + · = ㅑ

| + · + | = ㅐ

This system makes texting extremely fast, as you don’t have to search for different letters on the keypad. For double consonants such as “ㄲ”, you press “ㄱ” three times.

Naratgeul (EZ Hangeul) system

Another system, Naratgeul (나랏글, EZ 한글) has the base shaped vowel and consonants with the option of adding an additional line (bottom left, 획추가). In this system, double consonants are made by pressing the bottom center button (쌍자음). Examples:

ㄱ + additional line = ㅋ

ㅏ + additional line = ㅑ

ㅅ + additional line + additional line = ㅊ

Unlike the Cheonjiin, this system can be a bit cumbersome to get the double and complex consonants, but some people prefer this method.

Minimalised view of the standard Korean keyboard

Then there is the “regular” keyboard system: most non-Korean brands usually use this design, as most of the smart phones. Nothing to decipher here, every character possible is already there.

The Korean keyboard is easy to remember: all the vowels are on the right and all the consonants are on the left. The hard sounding consonants are on the bottom, with consonants that can be doubled on the top.


2. Some expressions

Everyone has their own style of speaking, and that would inevitably show up in their text. A lot of slang shows up in text, due to its need for brevity. (I wish I could make a comprehensive list of Korean slang – I was quite surprised at the lack of information – but that would be a whole different project and too long to list here.) Here are some of the texts and expressions you’d see quite often:

ㅇㅋ = 오케 = 오케이 = okay

ㄱ ㅅ = 감사 = thank you

ㅂ ㅂ = 바이바이 = bye bye

ㄷㄷㄷ = 덜덜덜 = trembling

Laughing shows up a lot. The number of letters varies depending on the hilarity of the situation for all these:

ㅋㅋㅋ = kkk = kekeke (chuckling)

ㅎㅎ = hh = haha (also chuckling or laughing)

ㅍㅎㅎ = 푸하하 = bwahaha = lol

ㅋㄷㅋㄷ = 키득키득 = giggling

And some others:

알써 = 알았어 = understood, got it, I know

홧팅! = 화이팅! = 화이링! = Fighting! (Korean way of cheering/rooting)

조아 = 좋아 = good, I’d like to, I like it

짱! = Boss! Great! Super!

헐~ = huh~ = surprise, disbelief

= oh, well (nothing to add here, moving on)

안습 = 안구에 습기 = “moisture in my eye” = feeling sad for someone, oh noes!

~여 = alternative to finishing the sentence with ~요, meant to sound cute

뭥미? = mistype of 뭐임? = WTF?

= bwerk (amazing how similar this sounds in English and Korean)

솔까말 = 솔직히 까놓고 말하면 = to be quite frank

지못미 = 지켜주지 못해서 미안해 = sorry for not being able to protect you

냉무 = 내용 無 = no content (used when commenting on discussion boards without new content)


3. Emoticons

I always thought it interesting how Western emoticons lie sideways, while Asian emoticons are upright. Although there are hundreds of premade emoticons available these days, the standards are always used the most.

Most commonly used emoticons

Top row : Happy faces, the last being a “flushed with happiness” face

2nd row : Crying faces from crying, weeping, sobbing, and hands and knees on ground with despair

3rd row : Skeptical/awkward/I’m trying not to roll my eyes/whatever/blink, depends on context

4th row : Embarrassed/awkward, surprised/dazed, uh, yay!

5th row : Surprised/amazed, flabbergasted/whaaaa?, hmmmm, wink

What’s interesting is that there really isn’t a “I’m mad as heck” emoticon that’s widely used. Perhaps it’s because most of the emoticons are on the cute side, and anger doesn’t suit cute so no one really thought to come up with any. I personally think it’s because anger is usually dealt out in words and $@#%&+!!!! is pretty universal, and also because we Koreans are quite the verbose bunch. Texting isn’t going to do at all. Most would just make a call to talk instead of texting and as for the internet, it’s probably why you hear a lot about angry Korean netizens wreaking havoc on online discussion boards.

Of course, if you truly want to text or tweet in Korean, it goes without saying that the best thing to do is to actually start learning the language. Hope you’ll be freely texting in Korean soon. 홧팅~! ^_^

About the Author

Suzy Chung

Multilingual editor, writer, and translator. Coffee addict, bookworm, art junkie, foodie, oenophile, and a billion other things. I tend to talk a lot. @suzyinseoul