For this week’s WOTW, I want to introduce you to some essential vocab that will make your life a lot easier when you travel to Korea.

하나, 둘, 셋
I recommend all visitors to Korea to learn the basic Korean numbers. Whether it’s paying for your food at a market or restaurant, telling the time and date, or giving someone your phone number, knowing your numbers will make life so much easier!

There was a time when I was so thirsty, but there wasn’t any convenience store in sight, except for a small street stall. Since there weren’t any price labels, I asked the worker how much a can of coke was, by saying “얼마예요?” But regrettably, I realised I had completely no idea what he said back to me. I fiddled with my loose change for a bit, then just to avoid my own embarrassment, I gave him the biggest note I could find in my wallet. That was enough motivation for me to go home, study the the numbers and it really made a difference the next time I went to buy something. The feeling you get when you’re learning a language for the first time and you are finally able to communicate and understand with the locals, even just for small practical things, really does give you more confidence when out and about in Korea. I think it’s always good to do the simple stuff well!

일, 이, 삼
Slightly annoyingly, Korean has two sets of numbers: ‘native Korean numbers‘ that are used for counting things, and ‘sino-Korean numbers‘ which is just a fancy name for numbers derived from Chinese, and is basically used for everything else. Since we will be practising how to use money in this lesson, today we will focus on the sino-Korean set of numbers!

얼마예요? How much is it?
When it comes to paying, Korean money involves some pretty big numbers, but learning a core set of just 13 numbers should set you in good stead for dealing with all that won(; the unit of currency of Korea). These numbers are: 1-10, 100, 1,000 and 10,000.

Take a couple minutes to digest and learn these!

1 일 il
2 이 i
3 삼 sam
4 사 sa
5 오 o
6 육 yuk
7 칠 chil
8 팔 pal
9 구 gu
10 십 ship
100 백 baek
1,000 천 cheon
10,000 만 man

Once you have learned these basic numbers, you are pretty much set to make any Korean number up to 99,999,999! Here are some examples of how the numbers are formed:

11 십일
20 이십
23 이십삼
64 육십사
99 구십구

150 백오십
407 사백칠
743 칠백사십삼

1,042 천사십이
3,560 삼천오백육십
8,954 팔천구백오십사
12,000 만이천
50,650 오만육백오십
600,000 육십만
7,000,000 칠백만

Can you see how they are put together? It’s pretty logical, right? It can get a little confusing to read larger numbers in Korean because we are not used to the unit of (10,000), but basically, the number in front of the last 4 digits gives you the number of 만. It will take a little adjusting to, but you’ll soon get the hang of it!


Let’s see what these amounts can get you in . The highlighted numbers are your main notes and coins!

10원 the smallest coin and is really not very useful.
50원 the next coin up, but again, is about as useful as 5p
100원 a few of these coins could get you some Korean sweets
500원 the largest coin; perhaps play some games at an arcade if you have plenty of these
650원-1050원 gets you some cup ramyeon (컵라면) depending on the size and where you buy it. Totally worth it!
1000원 the smallest note; can get you a roll of kimbap (김밥). So good!
1,050원-1,300원 can get you a bottle of soju (소주). Seriously cheap drinking…
1850원 this is normally about the equivalent of a pound.
2500-4000원 average price for some cheap pork belly meat, 삼겹살. A must-try BBQ experience!
5,000원 the next note up; about 4-6천원 could get you a cheap meal, e.g. at 김밥천국 or McDonalds
10,000원 roughly a fiver, this is usually enough for a pricier meal and drinks.
12000원-15000원 rough cost for 삼계탕, a healthy whole chicken soup, which is one of my favourite Korean meals!
50,000원 currently the largest note in Korea, about 20-25 quids worth, which is probably more than enough for the day, eating two meals and having some fun like going to 노래방 and drinks.
500,000원-600,000원 average cost for cheap one month’s rent in a Korean guest house/ homestay (하숙집/고시원). If you’re in Korea for at least a month, staying in one of these can save you a lot of money!

Example Dialogue
A: 어서오세요!
Hello/ Welcome (when entering a building)

A: 뭐 도와드릴까요?
Can I help you?
B: 네, 이 모자는 얼마예요?
Yes, how much is this hat?
A: 30,000원입니다.
It is 30,000 won
B: 아 좀 비싸네요, 이 스타일로 더 싼게 있나요?
Ah, that’s a bit expensive. Do you have anything cheaper in this style?
A: 이거 어떠세요? 12,000원이에요.
How about this one. This is 12000 won.
B: 오, 마음에 들어요! 감사합니다.
Oh, I like it! Thank you.

Bonus Numbers:

0 영/공 yeong/gong
(use when telling someone your phone number)
Try reading this phone number: 010-4978-5326

100,000,000 억 eok (really big number territory now)

There you have it! You should now be able to confidently pay for things in Korea. If you have any Korean questions or something you would like me to cover, let me know in the comments section and I will be happy to answer you! 다음주까지 안녕~!



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