If you like watching Korean tv shows, and if you prefer to do so with subtitles, you’ll often find that the Korean word 네 (yes) is written as “no” in the subtitles. What the h… is going on!?
Also, when speaking Korean, you may encounter conversations like this from time to time:
A: 그럼 어제 불고기를 안 먹었어요? (So you didn’t eat bulgogi yesterday?)
B: 네 (Yes)
This is where you may start to become even more confused. Did they eat the bulgogi or not? Maybe you misunderstood what your friend has said before? In this case the Korean “yes” is really a “no”. When answering a negative question with a “yes” Koreans are simply confirming your statement – that they didn’t eat the bulgogi. Once in a while you may be so lucky that they make their answers a bit more clear by saying “Yes, I didn’t”. If not, you can be sure to share a lot of laughs at the confusion. Also, bear in mind that Koreans are equally puzzled by our use of “no” in a similar situation.
Although simple, this may be one of the most confusing concepts for foreigners to grasp when learning Korean. I’ve experienced a great deal of yes/no misunderstandings, but I promise you that you’ll get accustomed to it. Just take my word for it, and make sure you don’t become so used to it that you accidently transfer this yes/no logic to English 🙂
The awesome site ItchyFeet hilariously captures the yes/no confusion in this comic