Many of you already know that “안녕하세요” is “Hello!” in Korean.  It is the most useful phrase in Korean, since it works perfectly fine in most situations you will encounter with Koreans.  “안녕하세요” is also Good morning, Good afternoon, and Good evening.  What a blessing!  How simple your life would be in Korea?  Nobody would correct you just because you say Good morning! after 12 noon! ^^

But then, what is “Goodbye” in Korean?  There is no such thing as a free lunch…  Korean goodbyes depend on whether you’re leaving, or staying:

  1. If you are the person who leaves the place, e.g., you are a guest invited to a friend’s house, you say “안녕히 계세요!” to your friend who stays. Literally, “Stay well!”  [계세요 is a polite verb for “stay”]
  1. If you are the person who stays after the goodbye, e.g., you invited friends to your house, you say “안녕히 가세요!” to your friends who are leaving.  Literally, “Go well!” 

All three of the above greetings are simply 100% useful as a newly arrived foreigner in Korea, until you make a close friend.   You can say “안녕!” casually and informally to your CLOSE friends at your age or younger, as you say “Hi!” or “Hey!” in English.  It is basically an abbreviation of “안녕하세요.”  

  • 안녕!  잘 지냈어?  = Hi, how’re you doing?
  • 안녕!  점심 먹었어? = Hey, did you have lunch yet?

Here is a caveat: “안녕!” is also a casual “Bye!” as an abbreviation of “안녕히 계세요!” and “안녕히 가세요!”   It works just as well, whether you leave or stay, as long as it’s between CLOSE friends.  How nice.  Its simplicity is so tempting.  But remember – Koreans take inappropriate informality seriously.  NEVER SAY “안녕!” to someone other than your close friends.  Better be on the safer side (than the simpler side)!

In “그녀의 사생활 (Her Private Life – 2019),” 박민영 as a gallery curator differentiates the dual meanings of “안녕,” solely based on her impression of a portrait photo, disregarding a linguistic mistranslation of that one simple word.  Often times, our facial expressions, particularly expression of the eyes (눈빛), speak louder than spoken words.  Windows to the soul surpass the tongue. 

Vocabulary list:

인상적이다 impressive 

(사진을) 찍다 take a photo  

  • 저, 사진 좀 찍어 주시겠어요?  Could you take a picture of us?  

병환 illness (often chronic)

제목 title

안녕 Hi! or Goodbye!

번역 translation

오역 mistranslation

분명하다 It is clear/certain.  I’m pretty sure. 

가설 (hypothetical) theory

눈빛 gaze, expression of the eye [ Literally, 눈 (eye) + 빛 (light) ]

죽음 death

해탈 nirvana, (life’s) enlightenment

남겨 주다 leave behind (for someone)

인사 greetings, salutation

언제나 always

이렇게 like this

바라보다 look at

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