When people first start learning the Korean script Hangeul, many refer to the process as a game of tetris. You have certain components – vowels or consonants – that you then mix and match to make all kinds of sounds. This is a true testament to the scientific origin of the script. Hats off to you, King Sejong the Great!

However, in the infinite sophistication of the Korean language it is not only in the composition of letters that you may create such patterns. Listeners of Talk To Me in Korean’s word builder series will know that words that have a Hanja stem can be combined in various ways to make all kinds of different meanings. This process is quite similar to compound nouns in English such as (police + man = policeman, boy + friend = boyfriend etc.) Excellent resource for a crash course on Hanja root words may be found here.

While I found these Korean compound words quite frustrating at first, I have come to enjoy looking for them in texts and of course when watching dramas. My favorite is out of one of the latest episodes of Yong Pal: 비(secret) + 속 (promise) = 밀약 (secret promise).

Others I have learned recently:

망 (death) + 계 (border) = 사경 (Used with the verb 헤메다 to say that someone is lingering between life and death)

의 (joint) +  여 (travel) =  동행 (Used to say that you are traveling together with someone)

개 (opening) + 의 (lecture) =  개강 (First lecture of the semester)

기 (game/event) 판 (sales) + 경매 (Auction)

재 (present) + 상 (situation) =  현황 (Current situation/current state of affairs)

There are countless (셀 수 없이 많은) other combinations out there, and while they can be tricky at first, they are actually your friend since knowing just one syllable of the word very often can help you deduce the meaning with help from the context in which the word appears. Context in Korean is 맥락, which I learned this week too. (Check Naver dictionary for pronunciation.)

Since today’s Sunday it is now time for a bit of Korean studies followed by a serious amount of drama watching!

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