Korean Greetings: More Than Just a Simple ‘Hello’

korea greet

Korean culture is rich in traditions and customs, and this richness extends to the way people greet each other. Whether you’re planning a trip to South Korea or engaging with Korean speakers, understanding the nuances of greetings can significantly enhance your social interactions. This blog post delves into various Korean expressions used for greeting people, illustrating how these expressions reflect the country’s culture, respect for hierarchy, and even its sense of community.

Formal Greetings

Annyeonghaseyo (안녕하세요)

This is the most commonly used greeting and can be used at any time of day. It’s formal enough for business settings and also works in casual settings if you don’t know the person well. This greeting is an integral part of Korean etiquette and shows respect to the other individual.

Annyeonghashimnikka (안녕하십니까)

This is an even more formal version of ‘Annyeonghaseyo’ and is often used in official or highly respectful settings. It’s not commonly used among peers or in casual situations.

Informal Greetings

Annyeong (안녕)

This greeting is reserved for people who are close to you and who are of the same or younger age. Using ‘Annyeong’ with someone older or in a formal setting could be seen as disrespectful.

Wassup (왔어)

This is Korean slang for “What’s up?” It’s very casual and should only be used among close friends of similar age.

Time-Specific Greetings

Joheun Achim (좋은 아침)

This means “Good Morning.” While less commonly used compared to ‘Annyeonghaseyo,’ it’s still a polite way to greet someone in the morning.

Joheun Bam (좋은 밤)

This translates to “Good Night” and is often used when leaving a gathering or before going to bed.

Greetings for Special Occasions

Saehae Bok Mani Badeuseyo (새해 복 많이 받으세요)

This is the Korean way to say “Happy New Year.” It literally translates to “Receive a lot of good fortune in the New Year.”

Chukhahamnida (축하합니다)

This means “Congratulations” and can be used for various celebrations like graduations, weddings, and promotions.

Social Hierarchy

Korean greetings often reflect social hierarchy. For example, when saying ‘Annyeonghaseyo,’ younger people or those in junior positions will often bow their heads slightly as a sign of respect to elders or superiors. The level of formality in the greeting phrase itself also adjusts according to the social standing of the person you are addressing.

The Bow

No discussion of Korean greetings would be complete without mentioning the bow. The bow is an essential part of Korean greetings and varies in depth depending on the level of formality and the relationship between people. A shallow bow often accompanies ‘Annyeonghaseyo,’ while a deeper, more prolonged bow would accompany the more formal ‘Annyeonghashimnikka.’


Understanding Korean greetings is more than just knowing the words; it’s about appreciating the cultural nuances that come with them. Whether it’s the bow, the specific phrases for different occasions, or the expressions that reflect social hierarchy, Korean greetings offer a window into the society’s values and traditions. So the next time you find yourself in a Korean setting, use these greetings as a way to not only communicate but also to show respect and understanding of the culture.

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