How to Address People in Korean

This posting is from the blog ‘Organic Korean.’
Original Post:

The way to address someone in Korean depends on the degree of intimacy between the speakers. I’ve prepared a list of the most common name markers (also called ‘vocative particles’).

This post will give you some basic guidelines and example sentences. Notice that the familiarity (for example, how close the speaker is with the addressee/referent) determines which name marker you choose.

1. 씨 [ssi]

Korean uses one handy word to cover ‘Mr./Ms.’ 씨 [ssi] is the most common name marker in polite speech and is added to the person’s full name or just the first name.

Of course, there is a slight difference between using full name and just the first name. For native speakers, full-name-with-씨 sounds more formal than given-name-with-씨. In most situations, and with more casual acquaintances, just the given name with 씨 usually suffices.

full name + 씨 : 최미리씨 [choimirissi]

given name + 씨 : 미리씨 [mirissi]

① to someone you know in a friendly situation

When referring to acquaintances in a friendly situation (either addressing them directly or talking about them), it is perfectly acceptable to use their first names, just as in English.

Situation 1) conversation with 진혁 [jinhyeok]

진혁씨는 어떤 일 하세요? Jinhyuk, what do you do for a living? [jinhyeokssineun eotteon il haseyo]

Situation 2) conversation about 진혁 [jinhyeok]

진혁씨는 어떤 일 하세요? What does Jinhyuk do for a living? [jinhyeokssineun eotteon il haseyo]

② to an unknown person for identification

씨 is a common way to signal the name of an unknown person when calling out to that person. For example, when you are in a crowded waiting room at the hospital, 씨 is the form used to tell you that it is your turn to go in and see the doctor.

최보미씨, 들어오세요. Ms. Bomi Choi, please come in.

[choibomissi, deul-eo-oseyo]

2. 아 / 야 [a / ya]

① to a friend of the same age

② to a person who is younger than you

When addressing a friend of the same age or a person who is younger than you, you attach the name marker 아 / 야. If the name ends with a consonant, 아 is attached. If the name ends in a vowel, 야 is used. Always keep in mind that this only occurs with non-honorific and casual speech styles (also called 반말), and tends to occur only with Korean names.

유진아, 점심 먹었어? Hey Yujin, have you had your lunch?

[yujina, jeomsim meogeotsseo]

지혜야, 지금 시간 있어? Hey Jihye, do you have time now?

[jihyeya, jigeum sigan isseo]

One more tip for you!

★ The complement particle 이 [i]

I’ve noticed so many Korean learners making mistakes on this part. When a given name ending with a consonant is followed by any kind of marker, 이 should be added between the name and the marker.

Korean first name ending in a consonant + 이 + markers

This complement marker has the same shape as the subject particle (이/가), but it’s different in its function. Keep in mind that it usually occurs only with Korean names, not with foreign names.

어제 효진이를 만났어요. I met Hyojin yesterday.

[eoje hyojinireul mannatsseoyo]

어제 스티븐이를 만났어요. (X)

→ 어제 스티븐을 만났어요. I met Steven yesterday.

[eoje seutibeuneul mannatseoyo]

영민이가 간다고 했어요. Youngmin said she is going.

[yeongminiga gandago hesseoyo]

레이첼이가 간다고 했어요. (X)

→ 레이첼이 간다고 했어요. (*This 이 is the subject marker.) Rachel said she is going.

[leichel-i gandago hesseoyo]

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post!
Don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me if you have any questions!

The best way to learn Korean is to live in Korea. Don’t live there? Don’t worry. Here is the best alternative.
Eggbun promises to be your Korean tutor and conversation partner. Follow our curriculum and chat with Lanny in Korean!

Reference :

  1. Yeon J, Brown L. Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge; 2011.
  2. Vincent M, Yeon J. Complete Korean (Learn Korean With Teach Yourself): Enhanced Edition. Teach Yourself; 2014.