Korean Translation Tip: Is the Standard Korean Greeting a Question or Not?

The most common Korean greeting (both in spoken and written forms) is this:


Literally, it means “Are you in peace?” But the perceived meaning is closer to “Hello”.

Thus, even though it’s a question, the answer is not, “I’m fine. Thank you. And you?”.

Oddly, the correct response is to repeat back “안녕하세요?”.

This greeting is not even spoken with the intonation of a question!

The reason I’m telling you this is that since it’s not used as a question, the question mark is often (but not always) left off by Korean writers.

Korean Translation Tip: If you have some English correspondence translated to Korean, the greeting in the Korean version will probably start with “안녕하세요?” even though the greeting in the English source was not in the form of a question.

Likewise, if you have some Korean translated to English, a greeting of “안녕하세요?” will often be translated as “How are you?”, but probably ought to be just “Hello”. Either approach is correct in its own way.

** Visit the related online discussion at Korea Business Central for more information on this topic. **

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