Korean Translation Tip: Koreans Are All About “We”

In a previous post, I discussed plurals in Korean.

The word “plural” is associated with a group and a group is how Koreans view themselves. 

In fact, one of the top banks in Korea (where I keep my money, in fact) is called “Woori Bank”, which means “Our Bank”…. 

Anyway, here’s where I’m going with this… Koreans love to use the words “we/us/our” to talk and write about themselves.

Even formal literature in Korean is often written this way. For example, scientific and other academic papers written in Korean typically use “our country” instead of writing “Korea”.

This is what happens on TV and just about everywhere else, too. Koreans frequently refer to “Korean” as “our language”.

But when I translate Korean documents into English, I translate “our country” as “Korea”. It just seems like the translation that communicates most appropriately to a non-Korean audience.

Still, other translators could be a bit more literally oriented and so you might want to keep this mind.

Furthermore, it is seldom, if ever, appropriate on an English>Korean project to localize the English word “Korea” into “our country” for a Korean audience. That’s because whoever wrote the source in English is not in a position to refer to Korea as “our country”, thus the Korean word for “Korea” is your best bet for these jobs, even if it’s not how a Korean would have written it.

Korean Translation Tip – Don’t panic if you get a Korean > English translation back that refers to Korea as “our country”. Just smile and marvel at how 50 million Koreans assume they’re the only ones reading or listening to whatever they’re writing or saying in Korean. People like me are making sure their little secrets get out!

For a bit more commentary on this, check out “Korea, Our Country (우리나라)”.

1 Response

  1. Thomas says:

    Sort of related, in Korean English newspapers I don’t see the word “person” used, it is always “Korean”. For example a sentence like “there was a fire in Seoul, and five Koreans were killed.” Whereas a Canadian paper would say “five people were killed”.

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