Want to learn how and why English is often mistranslated into Konglish? Need a good laugh? Then these 60 funny Korean signs will give you a quick giggle and offer some interesting insights into the weird and wonderful world of Korean translations.
One of the joys of living in Korea is spotting the strange, unusual, and often confusing images and words that are meant to entice people in, but might actually put you off.
From sexy eels, to befuddling ‘Konglish’ phrases, these funny Korean pictures, signs, and images will show you a different side to Korea.
Take a look at the best of the Konglish and bad Korean translations that I’ve collected since 2015 and let me know which one you liked the most.
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What Is Konglish And Why Are There Funny Korean Signs?
Before looking at these 60 funny Korean signs, I want to very quickly explain what Konglish is.
Konglish is a portmanteau of Korean and English. It describes English words with funny spelling mistakes, translations, or sometimes completely new words in English.
The picture above is a good example of Konglish. Narcotics are something we’d associate with drug use and wouldn’t be something you’d add to your hotdogs (I’d hope!).
In Korea, the expression is meant to suggest that it’s addictive, something you can’t resist. Therefore, narcotic hotdogs are irresistible, addictive hotdogs.
Skinship is another example. It’s a combination of skin (touching) and friendship that describes friendly, close physical contact between two people.
Konglish is also used to describe nonsense sentences that have been really badly translated. You’ll definitely find a lot of these funny Korean signs with this form of Konglish.
In fact, some of these pictures you probably won’t understand at all.
Warning: Some of these pictures might not be safe for work / children.
There are lots of different types of funny Korean signs, so I’ll break these down into different categories, such as warning signs, Korean shop signs, Korean translation mistakes, Konglish fashion, and suchlike.
Korean Safety Signs You Should Avoid
Korea is a very safe country, but there are times when emergencies happen and you need to know what to do. Unfortunately, these funny Korean signs show that you can’t always trust the advice you see.
Of course, some of the advice is very helpful, especially the one about how to use a toilet. I was struggling a lot before I saw that…
1: How To Use A Toilet In Korea
You can find these signs in many parts of East Asia where squat toilets were traditionally used instead of seated toilets. I wonder how many people were actually using them as you see in the picture above?
2: Clothes Cause COVID?
I’m not sure how being naked will stop the spread of COVID-19, but whatever you say, Korean sign. Got to follow the rules for public safety!
3: Panic At The Disco
This is a sign demonstrating safety measures during an earthquake. Something you definitely don’t want to do would be to calm down. It’s better to rush around and panic, right?
4: The Toilet Is Painful!
Toilets are a tricky issue in Korea, something that might confuse some and cause problems for all. And sometimes the toilet will hurt you if you don’t put the tissues and wet towels in the bin. You’ve been warned!
5: Hurry Up And Flush
There’s no time to waste in balli-balli (hurry, hurry) Korean society. You’ve got to rush that toilet paper as it is. Don’t waste your toilet time folding it up nicely.
6: Pregnancy Is Not Allowed!
No wonder the birth rate in Korea is so low with signs like this claiming that women aren’t allowed to be pregnant! Actually, this was a warning sign to forbid pregnant women from travelling on a certain train, but the English translation from Korean doesn’t quite work.
7: Only Leave Your Troubles In The Toilet
I’ll talk about the No! Smoking! sign soon, but more worrying than the extra punctuation is why (and how) you’d leave your troubles in the toilet. You’re meant to drown your sorrows… but I’m not sure a toilet is the right place for that!
8: Trouser Elephant?
Saw this in a men’s toilet at a hotel on Jeju Island. I’m not sure what they were asking or reminding me to do with this sign. Make sure I don’t leave the toilet naked? Don’t worry, there were no elephants (or snakes) on display that day.
9: Do Not Use Outsiders
Expats in Korea (like myself) don’t like to be used, and I’m glad to see someone has made a nice sign to tell others not to. If you want to use outsiders, you’ll have to go somewhere else.
10: No Smorking!
I’m sure you can guess what this Konglish sign is trying to tell you not to do, but the added ‘r’ makes it sound like there might be something else that you can ‘smork’. Maybe it’s the name of a Scandinavian rock group?
11: No! Do That!?
A common confusing Korean translation mistake that you’ll see a lot comes from using English punctuation. This Korean sign should be very clear, but the ! after no makes it sound like this is a smoking area…
12: No! Let’s Have A Drink!
The wild punctuation is back again in this anti-drinking Korean sign. Again, stop what you’re doing and start drinking! That’s an order.
13: Watch Out For The Headman!
One thing I love about Konglish signs is that they often have some very strange word choices. This is usually because they’ve used Google to translate their signs or they learnt English from classic English novels. Either way, be sure not to trifle on the bridge with the children or the headman will be after you!
14: Cable Car Safety Advice – Don’t Scream!
These two safety signs are from the N Seoul Tower Cable Cara nd are packed with unusual Korean translations and Konglish. I love the use of terms such as ‘befuddlers’, you don’t hear that word enough. Also, please refrain from screaming, singing, or ‘clamping’ in the cable car. How many times did this happen that they had to make a sign?
15: Watch Out For Cliff!
I don’t know if this Konglish sign is meant to be a warning or a challenge. Should you approach the cliff, slide over the edge, and then let go? Whatever you do, make sure you walk slowly (or fall slowly?).
Funny Konglish Fashion Fails
One of the most common places to find random English words is in a clothes shop. Whether you’re in a department store, or browsing one of the many fun traditional markets in Korea, you’ll probably find one or two examples of Konglish.
There are a lot of other hilarious slogans and messages on Korean clothing that I wish I’d been able to take pictures of.
Sadly, it would have seemed very strange to walk up to random Koreans to ask for a picture of their Konglish clothing…
Still, I managed to get a few, and here they are.
Warning: Some of these are not safe for work / children. Korean fashion has no limits and there can be some rude words used.
16: Are You Feeling Thoughful?
Even though I use though a lot, can I really be said to be thoughful? Full of though? There are countless Konglish slogans like this on jumpers and t-shirts in Korea – some random word pairings, others made up words that were probably meant to be others.
17: Don’t Hide Your Feelings!
I wonder what goes on in the mind of Korean fashion designers. Was this intentional, or did they simply take some random words from English without considering their meaning (which often happens). Not the rudest Korean fashion fail I’ve seen, but one you might not want to wear to a family dinner.
18: The Worst Kind Of Story
Having a bad spot day and don’t want to talk about it? Then wear this lovely jumper and it’ll explain it all. The word ‘story’ is used so much in Korean shop signs as a way to create some kind of persona to whatever it is they’re selling. I assume. In my apartment there’s a ‘tax and coffee story’… which doesn’t sound like a fun story!
19: Only For Maniacs!
Another word that’s misinterpreted a lot in Konglish is ‘maniac’ (as well as ‘holic’). I think Koreans translate it as someone who is enthusiastic about something, but in English we’d see it as someone who’s a bit too mad for something! No idea what the rest of this Konglish fashion fail means though…
20: Hats Off For These Korean Fashion Fails
It’s so easy to sell baseball caps in Korea. Make a hat, write something weird in English on it and people will snap it up. It doesn’t matter that Korean kids are going around with swearwords on top of their head at all…
21: Not A Child-Friendly Activity
This is the name of a clothing brand in Korea, not a suggestion for what to do with naughty children. I hope.
22: Only For Porkies?
I’ve no idea who chose the name for this large chain of children’s clothing and whether they thought about the meaning behind the word porky. Porky, as you’d imagine, usually suggests someone is a bit of a pig, or greedy. Is this their target market?
23: What a Knobskin!
I spotted this sign years ago in Hongdae in Seoul and I think it was a streetwear shop. Which doesn’t explain the name at all! Knobskin translates to ‘an annoying or frustrating person, somebody who is useless.’ on Urban Dictionary. However, the literal meaning is the skin of… something an eel might help you grow. Want to buy clothes there?
24: Man Chesta United?
This shop owner seems to be embracing foreign culture and decided to name their shop after the famous English city. Perhaps it was in tribute to Park Ji-Sung‘s time at Manchester United? Unfortunately, it looks like the owner didn’t actually own an official shirt with the correct spelling of Manchester on it.
25: A Story Of Youth
Another example of a Korean fashion store using ‘story’. This time, it’s for emos and goths? Yes! It’s a young emotional story that makes you feel the Konglish. Also, no idea why there’s a random apostrophe at the end.
26: Millenium Spirit From Hazzy’s
I don’t know if any other Brit’s have seen Hazzy’s clothes around before, but their signs don’t have the dignity and formality they think they do. This funny Konglish sign is what you’ll see when you enter their store.
27: Do You Need An Old People Stick?
Found this hiking in Seoraksan National Park. The mountains can be tough so be sure to take an old people stick with you! A walking stick, but only for old people, I assume?
28: Cream For The Ladies Only
Seen in Gunsan, this (I assume) is a ladies fashion store that doesn’t sell men’s clothing. It’s a story. A story of cream that’s for the ladies only. Unfortunately, my dirty mind finds this amusing for the wrong reasons.
Konglish Food Signs & Menus
The next selection of Konglish signs can be found on food packets, restaurant signs, and on descriptions which may put you off eating what it’s describing.
Literal translations of Korean dishes are often funny, and you’ll see them on menus all the time. Sometimes the mistake when choosing between certain letters (such as r/l) can leave you very confused, too.
These funny Korean pictures are from across Korea and will show you there’s some very strange translating going on.
29: Cold-Hearted Wife?
The first part of this Korean sign seems quite harmless for an ice cream shop. However, when you add in a bride, things get weird. I saw this in Gyeongju recently and no one seemed to think it strange. In fact, there’s a picture zone to have your photo taken next to their sign and the frozen wife-to-be.
30: Embracing Konglish Fails
One common error when translating English to Korean is using the wrong vowels. The Korean word for hotdog sounds more like hatdog. And it looks like this shop in Cheongju has embraced this to make a great Konglish sign by putting hats on the hotdog sausages. I really appreciate this type of Konglish humour. If only they were dogs though…
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31: What A Load Of Crap!
A classic example of Korean translation fails here where a single wrong letter completely changes the meaning of the word. The letters P and B are often confused in Korean as they’re very similar. Unfortunately, a crap salad sounds a lot less appetising than a crab salad!
32: Aggressive Cabbage
It looks like this supermarket used a translation app for this red cabbage and ended up with another funny Korean translation fail. I tried entering it into Google translate and it came up with ‘red sheep cabbage’. Be careful relying on translation apps…
33: Unappealing Combination
I can see what they’re trying to do here. It’s a waffle that’s awesome. Great! But mixing those words together is just… awful!
34: Deep Pain Pizza?
I’ve lived in Korea long enough to accept squid ink in doughy goods, but pain is something I’m not down with. Is this a Konglish translation from pain, the French word for bread?
35: No Time To Waste!
Can you imagine casual swearing on shop signs in English speaking countries? Maybe it’s something that should be embraced. It certainly attracts attention.
36: What’s A Soft Potato?
Located in Daejeon, this place seems to be a bar but is selling ‘soft potato’, too. Is this a way to introduce mashed potato into the Korean bar scene? Are they a new kind of potato? Who knows?
37: Are You A Spicy Taste Maniac?
Another example of maniac being used instead of an enthusiast. Although, these wasabi flavoured green peas were very spicy, so you would probably have to be a maniac to eat them!
38: How Are You, Sandwich?
This was actually a special sandwich offered in Starbucks, who appreciate the Korean love of English and Konglish. There seems to be no reason why this sandwich would be named like this except for the image of ‘foreignness’ that it brings. Weird.
39: Don’t Touch My Sack!
I’ve never seen anyone so possessive about their sack. Perhaps the snack food is there to tempt you away from their sack? Or perhaps they meant to write ‘saek’ (색) but didn’t translate it properly? Whatever happened, it’s probably best not to ask to borrow their sack.
40: I Really Lobe You!
Just one simple letter really changes the meaning of a sentence. This is a common mistake in Korean signs due to the fact that there is no ‘v’ in the Korean alphabet. Unfortunately, this means that you might end up putting beer in your ear lobes… which is a very wasteful way to enjoy beer! I found this funny Korean sign at a bar in Daejeon.
41: Eely Good For Something
This sign made me do a double take when I first saw it. I thought the eel was lifting weights with his hands… until I looked more closely. If you’re not aware, eating eel is meant to be good for boosting your ‘sexual energy‘ (like oysters). You can probably work out just how effective it is from the picture.
42: Doing It On The Table
I think this shop is trying to imply that they are making something lovely just for you, but instead we end up with a great Konglish fail where a very different meaning is presented. Or maybe it’s a very naughty cafe?
43: Good Job!
It’s nice to see an encouraging Korean sign in English for once. It was indeed a rough day and I did a good job. Thanks!
44: What Kind Of Chicken Is This?
I was surprised by this place when I first visited Korea in 2012. Ho Chicken (and Ho bar) are a popular chain of chicken shops that, for some dirty-minded westerners, seems to be rather suggestive. Maybe they want it to seem merry, like Christmas?
45: I Will Find You…
This Korean sign, from a food truck near Cheonggyecheon Stream, gets on the list because it made me giggle for a different reason. Liam Neeson fans will probably recognise the mis-TAKEN quote here. It makes me wonder, though. Who will be doing the finding and eating? That bull looks pretty angry!
46: Extra Ink, Hold The Cream Cheese
This is from California (my local bakery, not the state) and is one of many examples of very ‘creative’ English that they use to describe their baked goods. I’m really happy they’re trying to make it easier for foreigners to buy delicious foods, but this Konglish sign left me confused.
The ink in this bread is squid ink, which you can find in bread, pizza dough, and other places where you need to make something black. Squid ink is okay, but with cream cheese bread? Are they serious? I wonder what the other version without cream cheese bread is like?
Funny Korean Translations & Other Signs
Finally, this last collection of Konglish signs, pictures, and other images shows how confusing and humorous life in Korea can be as an English speaker.
From random Korean street signs, to Konglish textbooks, shop names, and badly designed adverts, there are so many great examples of Konglish fails to enjoy.
47: Only A Bitch For Summer
Even large corporations like Lotte can make massive Konglish fails when trying to spell English words. This advert for a summer ‘beach’ festival had a lot of foreigners laughing and hopefully taught Lotte about the problems of Korean translation mistakes!
48: What Are You Suggesting?
This innocent looking arcade machine with children’s toys has an interesting collection of English words that used together become quite suggestive…
49: Fun Time With Maths?
These next two Konglish fails come from Daiso, a discount store that offers so many hilarious Korean translation fails. This is a very unusual passage to include when trying to encourage your children to learn maths. And who thinks studying maths is a fun time? Haha.
50: The Struggles Of An English Teacher
I spent 5 years teaching English in Korea with EPIK and I’ve seen some inspiring and wonderful uses of the English language. Learning a language is an uphill struggle and seeing ‘English’ exercise books like this just makes me want to face palm. Hellow?
51: Opne Your Hearts & Make Korea Great Again
I actually bought the ‘Make Korea Great Again’ notepad for a laugh, but it’s the other common Korean misspelling that confuses me. ‘Open’ is a word you’ll find on every shop or cafe in Korea, and yet it’s sometimes written as ‘opne’ by mistake.
The designers managed to get so many other words right, but how come Korea struggles with open? Come on! Make Korea great again by fighting against these Konglish mistakes.
52: Just Give Up…
This massage shop in Myeongdong is probably not too worried about using English, but they could have asked one of the many foreigners in the area to check if this sign was right.
53: What’s That Smell?
What’s the worst image you want to give people when going to a hair stylist? People with hair on fire? Probably. I wouldn’t know as I shave my head. But choosing a name like this is a massive fail for this chain of hair stylists. They’re not on fire with this Konglish.
54: Football Club Korea It!
Firstly, I’m happy that Koreans are calling football by its proper name (not soccer, not sorry), but why choose this acronym to describe your team? I wonder how many fans have that tattooed on their arm? Maybe they should refer to themselves as the Korean Football Club.
Talking of dodgy TLA (three-letter acronym) choices, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) changed its name a few years ago. No idea why.
55: Your Days Are Numbered, English!
I find it deliciously ironic that this sign for an after school academy teaching English should provide an example of a Konglish fail. This is close to where I live in Daejeon and I’m always worried that someone is looking down as I pass, waiting to terminate me!
56: The Happy Zelkova
Zelkova trees are lovely and you can see them when you’re out hiking in Korea, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard them hum. I’ve certainly never seen one smiling at me, either. But that doesn’t matter. This is another example of random English words and expressions that get added to Korean signs for no apparent reason.
57: We Are Still Making Mistakes!
Ubuntu is a nice philosophy, one that’s usually translated as “I am, because you are”, and I can’t fault them too much for the capital letter, but I wish they’d checked with an English copywriter before writing it.
58: Push Or Pull?
These door signs at a shop at Deogyusan National Park in Muju are very confusing. I don’t know if I’m coming or going!
59: Let’s Get Bussy!
I don’t know if Koreans know what ‘BJ’ can also mean, but it’s probably not something that should be associated with business. Or Bussiness…
60: Faulty Goods?
You should probably nun-chuck this in the bin (sorry) as it’s damaged. Or so the Konglish sign on the package tells you. This has so much Konglish I was tempted to buy it and read it every day. I would use it carefully and not aggressively towards people. Unfortunately, I don’t have a shady and management to store it in. Too bad.
How To Avoid Making Language Mistakes
If you’re worried about making your own language mistakes when coming to Korea, then why not brush up on your Korean before you arrive by learning some useful Korean phrases before you travel.
These two articles will help you learn some basic phrases for travelling around Korea and when ordering food. First is my list of 60 Basic Korean Phrases – useful in all situations. Next I have a guide dedicated to eating out and features 60 Korean Food Phrases.
And if you’re worried about making Korean cultural faux pas, then be sure to learn these Korean etiquette secrets with my Korean Etiquette Guide.
Of course, the best way to avoid language mistakes is with a guided Korean course, such as the one I’m learning Korean with – 90 Day Korean Course.
Korean Travel Essentials
To save you time and money when you travel to Korea, here are my personal recommended Korea travel essentials.
Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA)
Most countries need a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Apply online before you travel only with the Official K-ETA Site.
The best way to get around cheaply and conveniently is with a T-Money Card. No tickets and discounts on every ride.
Incheon Airport Transfer
Don’t want to carry heavy suitcases? Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer & relax to or from the airport.
Korea Rail Pass
If plan to use Korea’s high speed train network, then save money and get unlimited rides with a Korea Rail Pass.
Hotels In Seoul
Flights To Korea
Want to learn Korean before you travel to Korea? I recommend 90 Day Korean as they have well-structured lessons and loads of useful resources.
How To Avoid Konglish Mistakes
If you’re a Korean designer, or in some way involved in using English, and you want to avoid these common Konglish mistakes, why not get help from a professional?
Dean, a native English speaker who has been living in Korea for more than 20 years, offers extremely reasonably priced copywriting services that will help you avoid English mistakes.
Visit the link below to get in touch with him and bring a world of better English to Korea – DC Copy Pro.
Share Your Thoughts
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