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July 12, 2020

KORELIMITED: Streetwear Designs Inspired by Korean Culture

As most of you know, Korea has for a long time held a very special place in my heart and now that I am once again living in America, I am always looking for ways to keep it close to my heart – literally and figuratively.

Which is why I was so ecstatic to discover KORELIMITED, a streetwear brand based in Southern California that celebrates Korean culture and lifestyle through unique, trend-forward designs. Think nostalgia-inducing sweatshirts boasting retro soju labels, t-shirts featuring a vintage Hodori – the official mascot of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul – and hats, hoodies and bomber jackets embroidered with social messages in hanguel, the Korean script.


KORELIMITED (a name formed from the words Keepin Our Roots Eternal) truly pays homage to the beautiful – and sometimes tragic – heritage of Korea and I’m excited to say I am now a proud owner of a number of their designs.

Check out a few of my favorites.

Let’s Live Mask Hoodie

Masks have been used in Korea for years to prevent spreading sickness. It’s commonplace to see Koreans sporting them while in public, even when there isn’t a pandemic. Wearing a mask is not a political statement in Korea; rather, it’s an act of consideration of one’s neighbor.

KORELIMITED does have a few super comfy masks available for purchase (profits go to frontline workers in need), but taking things a step further, they also sell a mask hoodie ($87), an incredibly unique design that marries the comfort of a hoodie with the protection of a built-in mask. The mask can be detached on one side when not in use or held in place across the face with small Velcro strips when in public.


In addition to being super convenient, it’s also stylish with a simple design, featuring embroidered lettering that reads 같이 살자 (or “Let’s Live Together/ Let's Survive Together”), a reminder that we are not alone in this world and that we will always have each other – even during the most challenging of times.

The material is very high quality, and quite thick. Meaning it’s certainly not suitable for the Southern summer heat, but I have a feeling I am going to be living in this hoodie come winter. Note: These are sold out just as quickly as they’re made available, so snatch one up if you can get it in your size!

Seoul Angeles Tee

During most of my time in Seoul, I lived in the neighborhood of Haebangchon, a hillside community situated at the base of Namsan Mountain. Because of this, I had the privilege of seeing the beautiful Namsan Tower light up every evening, right from my living room window.


The Seoul Angeles t-shirt ($36.95) reminds me of those moments, as it features Namsan Tower, which is arguably the most iconic symbol of Seoul. It also features the taeguk, the red and blue circle in the middle of the Korean flag, that symbolizes the dual forces of nature.

Taeguk Barcode Crewneck

Another KORELIMITED item that pays homage to the Korean flag – and my favorite of those included in my order – is the Taeguk Barcode Crewneck ($55).

Although they may look like “barcodes” to those not in the know, the four sets of lines featured in this design are actually representative of the four trigrams on the Korean flag. Called kwe in Korean, these trigrams also represent the concept of opposites and balance. They symbolize heaven, earth, water and fire. Like I said, this is a more ambiguous design, which I like because I can wear it with anything, but still feel close to Korea while sporting it.


This sweatshirt is made of 50% cotton and 50% polyester, and the inside lining is so soft. It’s also quite lightweight, making it perfect for keeping warm in cooler weather. It also comes in three different colors: black, gold and azalea.

Won Over Dollars Dad Hat

When I checked my bank balance after I got my first paycheck in Korea, I couldn’t be more excited to see ALL. THOSE. ZEROES. The number may have been in won (and not dollars), but I was still a millionaire. Ha!

This fun Won Over Dollars Dad Hat ($35), which has a simple embroidered design of a few won and dollar symbols, is yet another more obscure design and you have to be in the know to really get it. But I love it, as it’s stylish and functional. It’s got an adjustable strap, meaning one size fits most.


I’ll definitely be supporting this brand going forward. There are already a few new designs I’ve got my eye on. (Can we talk about this King Sejong hoodie!?)

Check them out yourself by visiting their website or Instagram page. Be sure to sign up for their mailing list to get 15% off your first order.
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May 20, 2020

8 Best Korean Skincare Subscription Boxes


It’s no secret that the Korean beauty world is one step ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to the latest and greatest in skincare and makeup. In case you didn’t know, Korean women are the queens of skincare and invest lots of time (and won) into their glowing, youthful skin. If you’ve been wanting to up your #SkincareGame,or even just start a regular skincare routine, you need to hop on the K-beauty train.

Fortunately for those of us not living in Korea, it’s gotten much easier to find the latest and greatest Korean beauty products. But now, subscription boxes take it to the next level. They come stocked with everything from sheet masks to BB cream and moisturizers to serums, among other things, so you can experiment and find what products work best for you. And no need to browse countless online reviews – they do the research for you!

Get the keys to K-drama-worthy skin by getting your hands on one (or all) of these Korean skincare subscription boxes! (Don't miss the promo codes to get discounts!)

But first…


This is the company that brought K-beauty to the West! It’s not a subscription box but I had to mention it first, as they offer a beautifully-curated selection of the very best Korean skincare products out there. (Every product on the site has at least a four-star rating, if that tells you anything.)  If you’re searching for a particular kind of item, start with SOKO GLAM. Click here to get $10 off your purchase of $50 or more.

Bomibox is my favorite Korean beauty subscription box for top skincare finds.

Price: $38.99/month

My #1 choice! Bomibox preaches the K-beauty golden rule we all should live by: Less makeup, more skincare. Get eight full-sized and deluxe travel-sized authentic Korean skincare products (think cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreen) valued at over $80 (!!!) every month and say annyeong-haseyo to gorgeous, glowing skin.

Use the promo code MIMSIELADNER to get $2 off your first box.

The K-Beauty Box comes with a selection of products from Korea's top beauty brands.

Price: $35/month

The K Beauty Box includes five to six carefully selected skincare items from top Korean beauty brands such as Laneige, Dr. Jart and Hera, plus a handful of free samples and a complete product list with a how-to guide that makes applying your products easier than ever. It’s a great way to discover new K-beauty favorites, plus there’s free worldwide shipping!

Use the promo code HAPPY2020 for a 10% discount on your subscription.

Pink Seoul's "Essentials" box, complete with necessary safety items


Price: $29.95/month + up

Pink Seoul understands that skincare (and skincare subscription boxes) shouldn’t be “one size fits all,” so they customize their boxes based on your skin type and area of focus to help guide you in your K-beauty journey. Pink Seoul’s monthly subscription options include: one customized box with four full-sized products, one “PinkSeoul PLUS” box personalized for mature skin, and one mask box. In other words, there’s something to meet the needs of all K-beauty lovers.

Use code MSA10 to save 10% off your first box!


Price: $9.99 to $39.99/month

Elevate your skincare routine and discover endless Korean skincare and beauty product possibilities with Kiyomi’s two subscription options. The first is a bundle of 4 Korean sheet masks, and the second is a box of five to seven full-sized K-beauty essentials including skincare, makeup and hair care. Go on. Get your glow on. 

Use the promo code HELLO10 for 10% off any of their subscription plans.

So much fun in this Sooni Pouch!

Price: Starts at $19.99/month

By carefully curating each Beauty Subscription Box to meet the needs of just about everyone, Sooni Pouch has been able to garner quite a following. They claim to have a very stringent vetting process to select brands to include in their boxes, and only choose products with the best ingredients and formulation. Check out their Sooni Pouch option – a bundle of full-sized and deluxe travel-sized products from some of Korea’s top skincare brands.

Use the promo code 2FREEMASKS at checking to receive two free masks with your first shipment.



Price: Starting at $20/month

Who doesn’t love a good sheet mask? It’s a must-have staple in every K-beauty arsenal. 

Understanding the importance of masking, Facestory gifts subscribers four to seven of them every month for just $20. They’ve also got a “Lux Plus” subscription that contains five to six sheet masks and five to six skincare products for $49.95/season as well as an expansive shop of curated skincare and beauty products.


Price: $35/month

What do you get when you combine the best of K-beauty and J-beauty? Nomakeno Life – a monthly beauty box containing eight to nine unique items ranging from Korean skincare to Japanese cosmetics. As one might guess, the boxes aren’t just chock full of awesome finds, but they, like all of the product packaging, are adorable, too! (Think candy-shaped lip tint and Tamago-themed hand cream.)


Price: $24/month

I love a good theme (if you didn’t already catch on to my obsession with themed cafes), so I naturally adore Beauteque Monthly’s themed beauty bags. Six full-sized products are delivered month, and range from the latest K-beauty skincare and makeup to new haircare. There’s also a “Mask Maven” bundle for only $13/month that comes with nine masks including sheet masks, wash-off masks, and lip and eye patches.
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May 18, 2020

What It's Like to be Quarantined at a Government Facility in Korea

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea has issued a number of mandates to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Among them is a forced quarantine for all inbound travellers (including returning Korean nationals). These people are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon their arrival in Korea. While Korean nationals and foreign nationals who reside in Korea are allowed to self-quarantine at their place of residence, foreign nationals who are short-term visitors in Korea (including those traveling on a tourist visa) must serve the quarantine at a designated government facility at their own cost (approximately 100,000 won -- about $100 US -- per day).

American traveler Jay Weinberger (who recently entered the country on a non-resident tourist visa) shares his experience of the forced quarantine process below. (This document will be updated on an ongoing basis.)


May 8
My plane from New York touches ground at about 4pm local time here in Seoul. I depart, knowing full well what I’m getting myself into: a two-week quarantine for more or less everyone without a proper work or residence visa at a facility to be determined by the government of Korea. I don’t know where the facility will be located or the type of facility it’ll be. 
How does one prepare for this? For me, it was to have no expectations whatsoever.
It’s now about 6pm, and I’m still going through the quarantine process at the airport. Employees are donned in HAZMAT suits and instructing wary travelers on what is to be expected of them. I feel as if I’m in a bad movie. I go from one line to another: having my temperature taken, handing in previously filled out forms and answering questions about my perceived ridiculous decision to travel internationally during these difficult times. I answer, smile and with each step, move closer towards solitary confinement.  
Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the tracking (health monitoring) apps we were required to download.
Finally, at around 7pm, I arrive at an office within Incheon International Airport where I’m once again apprised of my fate. I agree to pay for my 14 day quarantine (or, imprisonment, as I see it) and follow all policies governing it, answer the same questions I’d been asked over the previous two hours, and am branded with a tag that would allow officials beyond immigration and baggage claim to identify me as being a short-term traveler designated for government-imposed quarantine.
If the goal was to desensitize me from what I was about to go through, I must say they did a fine job of it. At this point, all I wanted was a shower and bed.
At around 8pm, I collect my bags and proceed to one final line. I’m greeted by police officers that would eventually escort my group to our quarantine facility. I make a quick stop at an airport CU to buy bananas and Gatorade, and minutes later I’m on a bus.
I arrive at a hotel – the Marina Bay Seoul – at around 9pm, five hours after deplaning. The hotel employees who greet us are also wearing HAZMAT suits. Again, I feel as if I’m in a horror movie. Internally, I keep asking myself why I decided to come back when I did. Overall, I’m ok. I know I’ll endure. I think to myself that things could be worse; a lot worse.
Finally, around 10:15pm, I’m in my room. This is where I’ll be for the next 15 days. I hold onto the hope of an early release (and refund for days not spent here), but as previously stated – no expectations. I unpack, chug a bottle of water, shower, have a bowl of ramen and set some goals for the next two weeks. First, try and get some sleep…



May 9
Well, as far as places to be stuck – this isn’t so bad.
I haven’t slept much, but that’s more jet lag than anything else. Around 8am, an announcement is blasted over the speakers that breakfast is almost ready and that we should remain in our rooms until another announcement is made.
I get a knock on my door from someone in a HAZMAT suit. He administers a coronavirus test (a swab up my nose, and another to the back of my throat). This was nothing new to me, as I paid to get tested before traveling to the States from Korea in late March and had gone through the same testing procedure. I was planning to stay with family, and wanted to be sure I wasn’t infected. I wasn’t. Anyway, I now have some additional hope of an early release. After all, negative test results would warrant that – wouldn’t they? Anyway, no expectations…
An announcement sounds over a loudspeaker in which I am told to quickly open my hotel door to receive my breakfast tray. (We are not permitted to leave our rooms at all during the entirety of our stay.)
Breakfast comprised of a ham and cheese sandwich, three small hash browns, two boiled eggs, and a small salad. There was also a small serving of cereal and a bottle of water. Unfortunately for me, I don't eat ham, but all things considered, not bad. 
I tried to get some sleep afterwards, but they kept blasting off announcements instructing us not to visit friends or family being housed in other rooms. I’m not sure that they could have explained things better in our intake documents, but I guess some of my floormates thought they could get away with sneaking out.
Lunch was fine. The fish and pasta tasted ok, but were relatively cold. The fries were soggy and cold, but somewhat flavorful. The fruit and salad were fine. I saved the juice for later, and drank the bottle of water. 
I was finally able to get some good rest – until the dinner announcement, which came half an hour early...
Dinner was Korean (finally; I do enjoy Korean food), but also somewhat cold and underwhelming. They served bulgogi, lettuce, kimchi, lotus root, tofu, and some potato – along with rice and another bottle of water. 
Again I think to myself that things could be worse…
Quarantine dinner

May 10
Jet lag continues to be an issue. Combined with some random (and some not so random) announcements, it’s been hard to get some decent sleep. I manage. Breakfast was served at the scheduled time today (7:30).

It comprised of an egg salad sandwich, sausage links (more like a cut up hot dog), a bit of chicken porridge, pickles, fruit, and a bit of cereal. Lunch was better today: pork cutlet in a sauce I couldn’t really make out (maybe horseradish?), fried chicken (3 small pieces), rice, veggies, and a tiny bit of kiwi. There was also some kind of sweet potato concoction, but I stayed clear of that after a small bite.

I guess I can still afford to be somewhat picky about what I eat.


I’ve had no face-to-face contact with anyone since my Coronavirus test yesterday morning. Meals are left outside of the room, and we’re prompted to retrieve them once staff has left the floor. It also seems that nobody comes to check on your condition.
We’re asked to update our health status on an app twice a day (the app we were asked to download while going through the quarantine process at the airport). They’ve provided thermometers so we can record our body temperature for said update. I wonder how many of us actually use them to provide accurate information. After all, they really have no way of verifying what we send them.
I guess I should mention that I came to Korea on a tourist visa, which has a 90-day limit. They consider travelers such as myself to be short term, and so I am required to be here. Those with proper visas (work, study, etc.) and a place to stay are afforded the option to self-quarantine at home. That said, they, too, have an app on which they send health status updates to the government. 
Anyway, I’ll have dinner at 6 and try to get in some exercise beforehand. 
That’s all for now. Time to catch up on some sleep…
3pm update: someone came to take my body temperature, and informed me that my Covid test result is negative.
Back to bed…
May 15
So I haven’t documented things for a few days. That’s fine; just look at day 2 or 3. 
Repeat. 
Sleep has been ok, as the room is comfortable. But the monotony is killing me. The highlight of my day yesterday [away from the computer, that is] was watching a boat get moved outside my window. I’ve yet to turn on the TV. Perhaps I’ll finally do that tonight…
The food has been atrocious as of late. Much of it is flavorless, and the stuff that is sauced up is way overdone. Meals are cold – without fail. 
I miss the gym. One could only do so many pushups/sit-ups until it gets old.
I came to Korea with the understanding that leaving the government-imposed quarantine (as opposed to self-quarantine at my apartment) early was a possibility. (A friend of a friend had gone through the process a few weeks ago, and was permitted to leave after about six days.) The intake documents said that it would not be a possibility. I figured that was just a technicality, and there was still a shot. One week in, and I no longer feel that way. I’m certain I’ll be here for the duration (14 nights).
Sigh…
For anyone on the fence about coming to Korea on a tourist visa, I urge you to reconsider the idea, at least until things get back to normal.

Have you always wanted to learn Korean? Check out this free cheat sheet that will have you reading Korean in just 90 minutes!
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May 15, 2020

Brew Makgeolli at Home with Hyesun House


I’ve always adored makgeolli, but enjoy it even more now that I am back in America, as it is not only delicious but is also associated with so many wonderful memories of my time in Korea.

I was so excited when I recently came across Hyesun House, an Austin-based startup that sells DIY makgeolli kits. Just in time for quarantine, I received my kit and quickly whipped up a matcha-infused brew that I have just been loving.

Read on to learn more about makgeolli, its culture and how you can make this beloved beverage from the comfort of your own kitchen! (And get a promo code at the bottom of the article.)

Hyesun House Make Your Own Makgeolli Kit

What’s makgeolli, you ask?

Sometimes referred to in English as “rice wine,” makgeolli is a raw, minimally-filtered rice-based spirit that’s bright, delightfully fizzy and somewhat sour in flavor. It’s also considered the oldest alcoholic beverage in Korea.

Once a “poor man's drink” consumed by farmers, the beverage has in recent years evolved into a ubiquitous (and even trendy) beverage adored by Koreans nationwide.

My favorite memories of makgeolli involve rainy afternoons spent in rustic back-alley bars or in pojangmachas, street food tents. It is usually served alongside pajeon, savory pancakes, or bindaeduk, pajeon's crispier cousin. The combination of the sweet-and-sour flavors of the makgeolli and the savory profiles of the pancakes are a match made in culinary heaven.

I also think of makgeolli when I recall my regular hiking outings. Alcohol and hiking, you ask? In Korea, yes; makgeolli is just as important on the trails as the hiking sticks and neon-colored parkas toted by the older folks that take the hobby quite seriously.

When I used to go on hikes in Korea, I was almost always offered a cup or two of makgeolli by complete strangers. For one reason or another (the fresh air and scenic landscapes, maybe), the mountains of Korea seem to cultivate hospitality and friendliness.

Perhaps it was during these experiences that I first grew fond of the drink. Or maybe it was one of the many afternoons sitting along the Han River or the Cheonggyechon sipping it down over a chat with friends.

Makgeolli and bindaetteok -- a rainy day tradition
Either way, makgeolli was – is – one of my favorite things about Korean cuisine.

Now that I’m back in the States, it’s quite difficult to find, and when I am able to locate a bottle, it’s quite pricey.

But much to my surprise and excitement, I recently learned about Hyesun House. Their Make-Your-Own Makgeolli Kit ($55) makes it easy and affordable to brew up your own makgeolli without ever having to leave your home. (Which is especially convenient during these times, isn’t it?)

How can I make makgeolli at home?

Makgeolli is made by fermenting a combination of rice, yeast, a fermentation starter and water. Other ingredients can be added to create different flavors and I've tried variations using corn, lotus and even gumballs – those spiky little things that fall from trees.

The kit that Hyesun House provides comes with everything you need to make makgeolli, including all the ingredients as well as the brewing tools. Their step-by-step guide is very easy to follow, and ensures that your brew is delicious and ready in just 10 days. (The process is a simple one; simply sanitize your tools with the included cleanser, mix the ingredients, stir and filter when ready.)

Combining the ingredients to make matcha makgeolli!
I must say, I was so thrilled to taste my homemade makgeolli after waiting patiently for my brew to ferment. Makgeolli made at home tastes exponentially better than anything you can buy at the store!

And, as an aesthetics snob, I was so pleased to see that everything was packaged so beautifully. In particular, the brewing jar really caught my eye (and stole my heart) with its Korean motifs reminiscent of the walls that border Seoul’s palaces. It made the brewing experience even more fun and nostalgic.

How awesome is this brewing jar decorated with Korean motifs!?

Hyesun House also offers an ingredient refill pack for only $12 so you can brew additional batches whenever you’d like.

Of course, I am all about supporting a business that is socially-driven, and Hyesun House is that, too. A portion of the profits made from these kits go to organizations dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health issues in the global Korean community.

If you’re looking for a new hobby to try, or simply want to connect with Korean culture in a unique way, I highly recommend purchasing one of the DIY makgeolli kits from Hyesun House. And there’s no better time than now, as Seoul Searching readers get 15% off their next order. Just use the code STAYHOME15 at checkout.

If you do give makgeolli homebrewing a try, let me know in the comments how you enjoyed it! Can’t wait to hear about your experiences!

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May 14, 2020

Where I’ve Been for the Past 2 Years


For those of you who have been following Seoul Searching since its inception back in 2009, you may have noticed that I’ve gone a bit quiet over the past year or two.

That’s because, after living and working in South Korea for a magical nine years, I decided to pack up my belongings and move back to the United States. It was an extremely difficult decision to make. Seoul had over the years become a second home to me. It could even be said that the city is where I became an adult. (After all, I moved there at the tender age of 22.)

During my time in Seoul, I learned to see the world in a different light, through eyes that had never truly been open. I found myself constantly inspired and learning new things. I discovered who I am and what I want out of life. I can say with certainly that had it not been for my time in Korea – and for all the lessons I learned and the people I met there – I wouldn’t be the same woman I am today.


That said, it was time to move on. I could have easily stayed, as I was enjoying my life in Seoul when I left as much as ever before. But my aging parents were the determining factor of my return. I had started to feel quite guilty being so far from them for so long, and knew that I owed it to them to return.

So, I’ve been back in America – between New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Atlanta – since spring 2018.

Since then, I’ve made it a point to keep Korea a regular part of my life – whether through food, K-dramas or Korean literature. Even after two years of being back, I miss the country so much that it actually hurts. But injecting little doses of Korean culture into my life here and there keep me tethered and feeling connected to my favorite place on Earth.

What I’m up to now

Although I am now doing some digital marketing work (just as I had my last few years in Korea) and contributing to Culture Trip, my main focus right now is operating a tea business named Gachi (the Korean word “together.”)

Many of you know that I fell in love with tea and tea culture while living in Korea (traditional tea services and the plantations of Boseong really piqued my interest), and during my last few years there, I began to make tea more than just a hobby. Whenever I had the opportunity, I made it a point to travel to various tea-producing regions (and countries with prevalent tea cultures) to learn more about the leaf. I even had the chance to meet a number of growers at small, family-owned tea gardens that operate with social and environmental sustainability in mind.

Now, I’m bringing these same growers’ artfully-crafted teas to the United States through Gachi. It’s been a labor of love conceptualizing the business, and bringing it to life these past few years, but it makes me happy to be doing something that I feel so passionately about, not to mention something that was born from my time in Asia.

What’s next for Seoul Searching?

Clearly, I have not been contributing to Seoul Searching much over the past couple years. That said, I’m also not ready to give it up entirely. It’s an integral part of me and my story, and I plan to keep it live (if not active) indefinitely.

I plan to visit Korea again (I was supposed to be there this month before my plans were interrupted by COVID-19) so will document those travels when they happen. I’ll also be penning posts about my Korean-esque endeavors and experiences here in the United States.

I’ve got quite a few ideas for posts that I’m planning on sharing soon, so keep an eye out.

Thanks to all of your for your support over the years, and I hope you’ll stick around for more. Hope you’re all well!

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May 9, 2020

Korean Onomatopoeia: The Fun Korean Words

The Korean language contains many words that are based on onomatopoeia, which is the sound associated with an object or action. The Korean word for onomatopoeia is heeseongeo (의성어), but don't worry about remembering it... it's rarely used. In fact, if you use the word with Koreans, then they might assume that you are talking about some kind of fish! So let's take a closer look at a few of them.

Note: This article contains Hangul (Korean letters). If you can't read Korean yet, download a free guide here to start reading in about 90 minutes!! 

Learning the onomatopoeic Korean words might sound like an easy way to improve your Korean ability, but it's not as easy as it might seem. This is because the sounds that Koreans associate with something can be very different from the sounds that English speakers associate with the same object or action.

Take animals, for instance. What sound does a dog make? In English, people might say "woof, woof" but in Korean, "멍멍 (meong-meong)." Clearly these are very different. Cats, in English, go "meow, meow"; in Korean, "야옹 (ya-ong)." Korean pigs sound, "꿀꿀꿀 (ggul-ggul-ggul)" whereas in English, "oink-oink." Ducks in Korea go "곽곽 (quack-quack)", and in English... well, actually that one happens to be the same.

In some cases, the Korean name of certain animals is based on the sound that they make, which makes it easier for learners of Korean to remember the names of such animals. Frogs in Korean are called 개구리 (gaeguri) and the sound that they make is "개굴개굴 (gaegul-gaegul)" while owls are called 부엉이 (bu-ong-i) and make a "부엉부엉 (bu-ong-bu-ong)" sound when they hoot.

Other Animal Sounds

구구 (koo-koo) – the sound of a pigeon
음메 (ummeh) – the sound of a cow or sheep
찍찍 (chik-chik) – the sound of a mouse squeaking
히잉 (hi-ing) – the sound of a horse
깎깎 (ggakk-ggakk) – the caw of a raven
꼬끼오 (kkokki-oh) – the sound of a rooster in the morning (and my personal fav!)

These animal sounds are useful for demonstrating how onomatopoeias work in Korea. For example, they show that the sound is often repeated (meong-meong or gaegul-gaegul, for instance) and that the names of objects can be based on the sounds that those objects make (like owls and frogs).

Jay Park did a great parodoy of "What Does the Fox Say" on a past episode of Korea's SNL. Check it out below and see if you can't catch a few of the animal sounds (including that of the legendary gumiho).



But learning about animal sounds is only really useful if you are a hunter (unlikely) or if you want to try and talk to an animal in a zoo (assuming that they are a native Korean animal... llamas and armadillos would most likely speak in Spanish). Instead, let’s learn some useful onomatopoeia that we can use on a daily basis.

Crashing and Explosive Sounds

 (bbang) – the bang of a gun (and, coincidentally enough, the word for bread)
 (ggwang) – a crashing sound (also the sound made when you lose a game)
  (kung) – the sound of a thud



Sounds from Speech or Bodily Actions

짝짝짝 (jjakjjakjjak) – clapping sound (often used in chants at sports matches)
 (eum) – ummmm…..
 (shwit) – shhhh, "Be quiet please," or "Shut up!" if used more forcefully
하하하 (hahaha) – laughing
아야 (a-ya) – Ouch! 
엉엉 (eong-eong) – crying
잉잉 (ing-ing) - whimpering
에취 (eh-chwi) – Achoo!
 (jjok) – kissing sound (you can use this if you want to kiss someone on the cheek)
드르렁드르렁 (duh-ruh-reong-duh-ruh-reong) – snoring
치카치카 (chika-chika) – the sound of someone brushing their teeth
두근두근 (du-geun-du-geun) – the sound of the heart beating. 

If you are talking about your crush, or a situation that gets your heart beating, then you can say 두근두근 to describe your feelings. You may have heard 두근두근 used in K-pop songs.

Sounds Made by Objects

딩동 (ding-dong) – doorbell
똑똑 (ddok-ddok) – knock, knock
빵빵 (bbang-bbang) – car honking
부릉부릉 (bu-reung-bu-reung) – car engine revving 
칙칙폭폭 (chikchik-pokpok) – train 
삐뽀삐뽀 (bbibbo-bbibbo) – police or firetruck siren





Sounds Made in Nature

콸콸 (kwal-kwal) – bubbling stream water
솔솔 (sol-sol) – leaves on a gentle breeze
활활 (hwal-hwal) – a burning fire
쨍쨍 (jjaeng-jjaeng) – a blazing sun
추록추록 (chu-rok-chu-rok) – falling raindrops
우르릉 (oo-ruh-rung) – the rumbling of an earthquake or landslide
휭휭 (hwing-hwing) – the wind
철썩철썩 (cholssok-cholssok) – splashing

The most interesting types of Korean onomatopoeias are descriptive sounds. These sounds represent feelings that might not even make an actual sound. For example, the feeling of warmth can be given the sound 따끈따끈 (ttaggeun-ttaggeun). They often sound similar to the corresponding Korean verb for that feeling, for example "따끈따끈" sounds a little but similar to 따뜻하다 (ttatteuthada, to be warm). Using these descriptive onomatopoeias will make you sound more Korean and help you show your emotions and feelings more clearly in Korean.

Descriptive Sounds

따끈따끈 (ttaggeun-ttaggeun) – a feeling of warmth
방글방글 (banggeul-banggeul) – to smile beamingly
반짝반짝 (banjjak-banjjak) – to be glittering or sparkling
미끌매끌 (mikkeul-maekkeul) – to be slippery, taken from 미끄럽다 (mikkeuropda, to be slippery)
올긋볼긋 (olgeut-bolgeut) – to be many colors / picturesque
보들보들 (bodeul-bodeul) – soft and cuddly
뽀글뽀글 (bogeul-bogeul) – the bubbling of boiling water



Tips and Tricks

Learning onomatopoeic words can be difficult, especially if you try and remember them using a regular method such as flashcards. This is because so many of the onomatopoeic words sound similar compared to other Korean words. They are spelled out as they would sound, so contain far more double consonants.

The best method to learn these words is by trying to listen to them naturally. A fun way to learn the words in this article might be to draw a cartoon and write out the onomatopoeia on the that represents the sounds in the illustration, such as a knock on the door, a gunshot, or a villain slipping on a banana skin. 

Reading manhwa (만화, Korean comics) is also a good way to learn Korean onomatopoeia, as actions and sounds are often written out next to the illustrations. Of course, there are thousands of onomatopoeic words in Korean to match the thousands of sounds in real-life. Learning all of them is too big a task to take on at once, so learn the ones that you think that you will use regularly and find most useful.

What is your favorite Korean onomatopoeic word? Leave it in the comments box below.

Don't forget to download your free cheat sheet to start learning how to read Korean in just 90 minutes!


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January 27, 2020

A Girl's Guide to Gangnam, Day Two: Apgujeong and Cheongdam-dong

This is part two of a two-part, two-day itinerary focusing on the best shopping, eats and cafes in Seoul's Gangnam district.  To read part one, featuring Sinsa-dong, please click here.

After having a simple breakfast at your Airbnbhop a bus or hail a taxi to Apgujeong, a short 5-10 minute ride from Garosugil.

Although Apgujeong Rodeo Street is no longer the "it" hangout it used to be (Sinsa-dong has claimed that spot), there are still plenty of reasons to make it your first stop in the neighborhood.  For one, it boasts a number of specialty shops that offer unique, one-of-a-kind items at rather affordable prices.  The vibe of the area is a youthful one and storefronts and cafes are decorated with colorful, funky designs and signage, a nice contrast from Gangnam's other neighborhoods.



The architectural design of the Galleria Department Store makes it worth a visit, particularly at night when its facade is illuminated with glowing lights, but shopaholics should make a point to explore its interior, as well. The store's East building is the largest single luxury store in Korea, boasting world-class brands such as Goyard, Valentino and Saint Laurent.

When hunger strikes, head to Gourmet 494 in the basement of the West building, a food court that challenges the very concept of food courts all together. Chose from a variety of vendors that offer everything from high-end Japanese to Mexican-Korean fusion. Just be sure to save room for dessert.



Nestled on an obscure street in the Apgujeong neighborhood is Dessertree, a tiny but popular cafe that offers its mostly female patrons an unforgettable dessert experience.  After having studied the culinary arts in Paris for a number of years, the proprietor and pâtissier of Dessertree decided to bring authentic chocolates, creams and pastries to Seoul in the way they should be eaten: in three courses.



On my most recent visit, I chose the set menu (24,000 won) and was wowed with each morsel that was placed before me.  The set includes coffee, the Amuse Bouche (sorbet made from sour cream and topped with a balsamic sauce), the Petit-Fours (a trio of a walnut macaroon, pecan meringue, and rose wine jelly topped with pomegranate), and a choice of a main dessert.

I considered ordering the fanciest looking option for the sake of the blog's aesthetics but went with my heart and chose the Moelleux de Chocolat cake and vanilla ice cream (14,000 won if purchased separately), which instantly sent me into a state of bliss with its perfect combination of flavors and textures.  Although the desserts are the draw here, the atmosphere is just as impressive.  Grab a spot at the bar to watch the chefs in action.


After loading up on Seoul's best sweets, make your way east to marvel at the high-end stores on Cheongdam-dong Fashion Street, the Champs Elysées of Korea.  The world's most luxurious brands, including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier and Burberry, tower over the street, beckoning passersby with classic and contemporary styles (at Gangnam prices). There are also a number of high-end hair salons and nail shops that dot the promenade, popular with the city's elite.

Hallyu fans will be happy to know that Cheongdam-dong is also the home of many entertainment companies including SM, JYP, and Cube, so it's not uncommon to see K-pop idols wandering the neighborhood's cafes, restaurants and boutiques.  Additionally, the entertainment companies boast cafes and shops where you can pick up your favorite artists' albums and memorabilia.

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For a bit of culture, the Horim Art Center is a favorite attraction of art lovers, as it boasts a number of galleries that include more than 10,000 Korean ceramics, paintings and metal art pieces.  Next door is CGV Cheongdam Cine City, which, in my opinion, is Seoul's best movie theater that promises visitors an extraordinary cinema experience with its unique features, specialized theaters (couple booths, private rooms and a 4D theater, to name a few), and fantastic popcorn bar.



During my Gangnam staycation in the neighborhood, I opted to watch my selected movie in the Beats by Dr. Dre theater on the 7th floor. Here, each seat is equipped with a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, perfect for canceling out moody babies, cell phones and other noises and for enhancing the movie's audio quality. The seats are also quite big and recline to ensure maximum comfort.

Tickets run around 10,000 won, but from Monday-Friday before 4:00PM, the theater offers a "Ladies' Time" discount of 50% off ticket costs, which is great news if you just went a little crazy with your credit card on Fashion Street.

After your movie, opt to explore more of Cheongdam-dong or park it in a cafe to plan out the rest of your stay in Seoul.  And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Korea's top designers, models, and Hallyu superstars.



Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.


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