What the name on the food label says…

When doing grocery shopping in Korea, did you ever wonder why the “names” for food on the price tag are sometimes rather long? 🤔 You may also notice that some names deviate from what’s on these lists: Korean names for vegetables, fruits, nuts, seaweed, mushrooms, cereals and beans. If you find that confusing, you can learn how to understand those supposed name tags here! Often, the label contains more information than the actual name of the food item!

I’m mostly referring to the food labels for fresh produce or dried goods – the sign that also mentions the price. Since these edibles are basic ingredients which have not been industrially produced and are more or less unprocessed, there is no ingredient list or allergy warning on their (non-existing) packaging. Yet, as you know, foods can be distinguished not only by their name in general, but by particular cultivar, place of origin, quality, characteristics and more! 🍎🏷🍏🏷 That’s exactly why the labels of even plain fruits and vegetables are somewhat big in Korea!

For all those confused Korean learners and curious foodies, this post explains what is usually written on the name tag besides the regular name of the food. There are examples for common labels in various contexts involving food: Locations that sell edibles, such as supermarkets (mateu 마트), traditional open-air markets (sijang 시장), convenience stores (pyeonui jeom 편의점), road vendors and online shopping malls. 🛒 Even restaurants may provide more detailed food names in their menus or advertising posters.

Here are categories for what can be hidden in the title of Korean food labels [and a quick overview of this post’s content]:

  1. 🍎🍅 Basic name
  2. 🍎🍏 Varieties or specific cultivars
  3. 🍎🗺 Place of origin
  4. 🍎🍯 Characteristics
  5. 🍎🥧 Usage
  6. 🍎❄️ State
  7. 🍎👨‍🌾 Production method
  8. 🍎⚖️ Amount and measurement
  9. 🍎❓ Conclusion
Storefront with melons and apples. The price tags read "Greenhouse-grown watermelons" and "Fuji apples from Cheongsong"."
Greenhouse-grown watermelons and Fuji apples from Cheongsong.

🍎🍅 Basic name 기본 이름

Naturally, the basic name of a food item is stated on the price tag!

You can expect to see tomatoes labelled as tomatoes 🍅, apples labelled as apples 🍎 and so on.

To give an example, the Korean name for tomatoes is 토마토 which is pronounced “tomato. 🍅 This word is generally used for all kinds of tomatoes, although there are many different varieties.

Knowing the regular names is essential. You can find all kinds of food items and basic ingredients in Korean language listed here:

🍎🍏 Variety: Different cultivars 품종이름

In addition to simply seeing generic names like “tomato” or “apple” written on the price tag, there may be more specific names for different kinds of tomatoes or apples. Accordingly, sometimes you are able to choose a particular cultivar of a produce. There can be a variety of tomatoes available, just like there are multiple cultivars of apples such as “Fuji” and “Golden Delicious”! 🍎🍏 [It’s like their full name!]

When the name of a specific variety is stated, often an extra word is added to the front of the basic name to indicate the particular cultivar. In other cases, the cultivar’s name is a completely different word altogether.

Here are some examples of varieties of fruits and vegetables:

  • 🍅 tomatoes: 토마토 (basic name), 찰토마토, 방울토마토, 대저토마토, 흑토마토
  • 🍏 apples: 사과 (basic name), 부사 (Fuji apple), 아오리사과 (Aori apple), 미니사과 (mini apple)
  • 🍇 grapes: 포도 (basic name), 청포도 (green grapes), 크림슨포도 (Crimson grapes), 거봉, 샤인머스컷
  • 🍈 melons: 수박 (watermelon), 참외 (regular yellow-white Korean melon), 파파야 참외 (green variety of Korean melon), 메론 (muskmelon)
  • 🥬 spinach: 시금치 (basic name), 섬초 (spinach from Bigeum Island 비금도), 남해초 (Namhae spinach), 포항초 (Pohang spinach)

🍎🗺 Place of origin, local variants and regional specialty 원산지

One characteristic of South Korea’s food culture is that much weight is given to the food’s place of origin. It is always stated whether something was imported or produced inside Korea. 🍎🏷🇰🇷 🍎🏷✈️ Many Koreans prefer purchasing food that was produced domestically, although it tends to be more expensive. Occasionally, the exact country of origin is specified, which informs consumers about the source of their food more precisely. [In particular, the difference of origin is most obvious regarding citrus fruits and grapes, because Korea grows only certain cultivars on location while others are imported. 🍊🍇]

Besides, some regions in Korea are famous for producing certain foods, and they may actually grow local variants of fruits, vegetables and even livestock! It is often the case that such products have developed into the primary object of economic and touristic activities in the particular region. It’s like a location’s trademark. So in addition to naming the country of origin, also domestic, regional specialties are highlighted on food labels. Korean restaurants take pride in using high-quality ingredients or food from renowned locations, and therefore mention them accordingly in menus and advertisements.

To return to our previous example, this means not only that there are imported and locally grown fruits, but that you can distinguish between no-name apples and fruits from Korea’s famed apple orchards. 🍎🏷 By the way, Daegu used to be a major producer of apples, and the beauty of the city’s women was ascribed to their consumption of the [good / tasty / healthy / Vitamin-C-laden / magical?] apples which were locally abundant. 💋🍎 These days, however, other Korean regions have outgrown Daegu’s apple production.

Imported or from Korea:

  • 🇰🇷 국내(산) 國內産 gungnae (san) – produced in Korea
    • 국산[…] guksan […] – [food name] from Korea (e.g. 국산콩 – beans from Korea)
    • 토종 / 한 – In order to stress that something is a variety native to Korea, the prefix 토종 tojong is used. 🐓🐝🍯 (토종닭, 토종꿀) An alternative is using the character 韓 (Korea) or its Korean pronunciation 한 han. 🐄🐖 (한우, 한돈)
    • 우리 – It’s also possible to call something 우리 uri and thus say the place of origin is Korea. 우리 is one pronoun for “our” and it is widely used in Korean culture to indicate a kind of collective ownership plus affection.* In restaurants and bakeries, you can see corresponding signs when Korean ingredients are being used. 🌾🍞🍚 (우리쌀, 우리밀)
  • ✈️ 수입(산) 輸入産 su-ip (san) – imported
    • 🇨🇳 중국산 – produced in China
    • 🇺🇸 미국산 – produced in the USA
    • 🇦🇺 호주산 – produced in Australia
    • 🇩🇪 독일산 – produced in Germany
    • […]산 – from [country name]

Some famous local produce:

  • 🌲 가평 잣 – Pine nuts (jat 잣) from the forests of Gapyeong
  • 🍊 고흥 유자 – Yuja (유자; aka Jap. yuzu)
  • 🌰 공주 밤 – Chestnuts (bam 밤) harvested in the area around Gongju
  • 🥕 근삼 인삼 – Ginseng (insam 인삼) from Geunsam
  • 🍑 광양 매실 – The fruits of Prunus mume (maesil 매실) from 광양
  • 🍐 나주 배 – Korean pears (bae 배) from Naju
  • 🍓 논산 딸기 – Strawberries (ttalgi 딸기) from the farms around Nonsan
  • 🍎 대구 사과 – Daegu city was well-known for its apple orchards (sagwa 사과)
  • 🍎 문경 사과 – Apples (sagwa 사과) from Mungyeong
  • 🍵 보성 녹차 – Green tea (nokcha 녹차) from Boseong
  • 보은 대추 – Jujube dates (daechu 대추) from Bo-eun
  • 🍈 성주 참외 – Korean melons (chamoe 참외) from Seongju
  • 🌿 완도 김 – Gim seaweed (김) from the countless islands in Wando county
  • 🧄 의성 (육족) 마늘 – Garlic from Uiseong which typically has six cloves
  • 🍎 청송 사과 – Apples (sagwa 사과) from Cheongsong

🍎🍯 Characteristics and special features 특징

Naturally, there are differences in size, color, quality and other characteristics among food items. Vendors like to describe the taste or traits of their products briefly on the price tag – to help you find the most suitable food item [and attract potential customers]!

Imagine you have an assortment of sweet apples, sour apples, large apples, small apples, very-ripe apples, luxurious apples and so on. 🍎✨ Which one would you choose?

Below are keywords frequently used to characterize food items. They are normally written in front of the food’s name, like a prefix.

  • 꿀 – In Korean, 꿀 kkul originally means honey, but it is also used to emphasize the pleasant sweet flavor of something. 🍯 Mostly fruits such as apples and melons are equipped with this label, but sometimes even tomatoes and sweet potatoes are tagged 꿀! (꿀사과, 꿀참외, 꿀토마토, 꿀고구마)
  • 고당도 – Similar to 꿀 (honey), the expression 고당도 godangdo is attached to food that tastes very sweet. It literally means “high level of sweetness”. 🍬 (고당도 오렌지)
  • 약 – In a literal sense, 약 yak means medicine. 💊 Different to regular produce, things labeled with 약 are believed to possess medicinal qualities or to be more nutritious – in other words, they are supposed to be particularly healthy. There are a few plants, primarily herbs or roots of doraji (도라지), which have grown in special locations and are marked as 약. (약초, 약도라지, 약밥)
  • 완숙 – The word 완숙 wansuk (from 完熟) translates to “fully mature” or “well ripened”. ⏲ You can see this description on fruits such as tomatoes but also on hard-boiled eggs. When an egg is soft-boiled, it is called 반숙 bansuk (半熟; literally “half cooked”). 🍅🥚 (완숙 토마토, 완숙계란, 반숙란)
  • 왕 – The word 왕 wang originally means “king”. 👑 In the context of food, however, it is used in the abstract sense meaning something like “superior” or “extra large“. (왕만두, 왕오렌지)
  • 찰 – You can see 찰 chal (in some cases 찹 chap) as the first syllable on a couple of food items, mostly cereals like glutinous rice and corn as well as Korean rice cakes. 🍡 While it is partially the name of the cultivar, it indicates that the food has the distinct trait of being more sticky or glutinous than their regular version. 🌾🍚🌽 (찰옥수수, 찰보리, 찹쌀, 찰밥, 찰떡, 찰토마토)
  • 특 – The origin of 특 teuk is the Sino-Korean character 特 which can be translated as “special, extraordinary“. ✨ Occasionally, 특 appears in combination with 급 geup (class, grade) as in 특급 denoting “special grade”. Certain agricultural produce is rated by quality and thus sorted by grades such as A급 (A grade), B급 (B grade), 상급 (high grade), 중급 (medium grade), 하급 (low grade) and 특급 (special grade). 🍠🍊🍎 In other cases, an item may be called 특품 teukpum which means “exceptional product” and promises very good quality.
  • 명품 – When something is 명품 myeongpum, it is literally famous or the produce of a renowned company. ⭐️ The same word is applied to non-food items such as bags and clothing from brands or designer labels! ⭐️👠👜🕶👔 [Btw, connecting food and fashion is not a new concept in contemporary South Korea!]
  • color – Colors can be part of a cultivar’s name but also just a keyword for quick distinction. 🌈 A simple and short way** of indicating colors is attaching the Sino-Korean characters for the respective color:
    • 흑 黑 heuk – black ⚫️
    • 백 白 baek – white ⚪️
    • 홍 紅 hong – red 🔴
    • 적 赤 jeok – red / magenta / purple 🔴🟣
    • 황 黃 hwang – yellow 🟡
    • 청 靑 cheong – green / blue 🟢🔵

The size is usually mentioned behind the name of a particular item. Sometimes in parenthesis, sometimes in Chinese characters. This is normally*** written on food labels to quickly state the size of food items:

  • 소 小 so – small
  • 중 中 jung – medium
  • 대 大 dae – large

🍎🥧 Suggested usage, intended purpose 목적

Another thing you can see on Korean food labels is a suggestion on how to eat it. Because of the quality of a particular food item, the ideal way of consuming it may not be raw, but after cooking, pickling or deep-frying it. 🥘🍳🏺 Think of it as a name like “pasta sauce tomatoes” 🍝🍅 or “apple pie apples”! 🥧🍏 Regardless, such a title is merely a serving suggestion and not the only way of enjoying the respective food item!

Here are examples of ingredients with a “specific purpose” and their translation:

  • 🥬 김장 배추 – napa cabbage for making kimchi (김치)
  • 🌿 쌈 다시마 – flat pieces of kelp for wrapping (ssam 쌈)
  • 🥒 오이지 오이 – cucumbers for making cucumber pickles (o-iji 오이지)
  • 🧄 짱아지 / 짱아치 마늘 – garlic for pickling, typically whole garlic plants with soft skin and fresh greens
  • 🧅 짱아지 / 짱아치 양파 – onions for pickling, smaller than regular onions that are used for cooking
  • 🍄 튀김 버섯 – mushrooms for deep-frying, because they are conveniently bite-sized
  • 🍲 찌개 두부 – tofu that is good in stews (jjigae 찌개) and soups, because it is soft
  • 🍳 부침 두부 – tofu ideal for frying as it is slightly denser and doesn’t break easily
  • 🥟 만두 두부 – tofu for making the filling of dumplings (mandu 만두), a bit drier and denser than regular tofu

🍎❄️ State of freshness or handling 상태

In addition to that, the state of a particular food item varies. In between harvesting and bringing the fresh produce to you, something may “happen” to it. In other words, this section deals with words that describe whether food has been handled or processed in any way.

How do you like your apples? 🍎 Fresh? Frozen? ❄️ Dried? Pre-washed? 💦 If you know what it’s called, you will be able to search for it more effectively! You don’t need to waste time looking in the fresh produce aisle. Ask precisely for frozen fruits and you’ll be guided directly towards the freezers! [Personally, I never ate frozen apples, but now I got an idea for the summer! 🙃]

Below are prefixes indicating a certain state or condition of food items:

  • 생 – The syllable 생 saeng is generally ascribed to food that is fresh, and sometimes also raw. 🌹 (생딸기, 생대추, 생과일주스)
  • 건 – Derived from the Sino-Korean character 乾, 건 geon describes a food’s state as dry or dried. 🥀 Similar words that appear in names of dried foods are 건조 geonjo, 말린 mallin or 말랭이 mallaengi. (건대추, 건곤드레, 감말랭이)
  • 냉동 – A modern way of storing food is freezing it. Frozen foods (냉동식품) are marked with the prefix 냉동 naengdong. ❄️ When fruits are not in season or they have been imported from far away, chances are they are available in frozen form. 🍓🥭 (냉동딸기, 냉동망고, 냉동블루베리)
  • 흙 – The word 흙 heuk means “earth, soil”. 🤎 Correspondingly, it is added to food items that have not been washed and there is still soil attached to them. Particularly, root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, ginger or lotus roots are often sold covered with a little bit of leftover soil. 🥕🥔🍠 (흙감자, 흙당근, 흙생강, 흙연근).
  • 세척 – 세척 secheok is the opposite of 흙 and it means “washed“. 💦 You can see this prefix mostly applied to fruits sold in convenience stores, when they are pre-washed and thus ready to eat. Also carrots or lettuce may be offered washed and cleaned in supermarkets! 🍎🥕🥬 (세척 사과, 세척 당근)
  • 햇 / 햅- Things that possess the prefix 햇 haet or 햅 haep have been harvested in the most recent season. In other words, it means generally that the produce is from this year, and not from the past season. ☀️ Throughout the year, various fruits and vegetables will be marked accordingly! Look out for new rice (햅쌀) and fresh chestnuts (햇밤) in fall! 🌾🌰 (햇감자, 햇당근, 햇양파, 햇마늘)
  • 저장 / 묵은 – Now you might wonder, what’s the opposite of 햇? Produce from the previous season can be labelled as 저장 jeojang (stored) or 묵은 mugeun (old, aged). 🕰 (저장마늘, 묵은나물)
  • 산 – With regards to plant-based food, 산 san means either that the plants have grown on a mountain (san 산 山) or have been harvested in the wild.**** Examples for this are wild ginseng (산삼) or lance asiabell (산더덕). (산머루) ⛰ In context of animals, however, the homophonic***** syllable means “alive” and is used for living organisms, e.g. squids and octopus (산낙지, 산오징어, 산문어) which are eaten alive by some Koreans. ⚠️🦑
  • 물 – When 물 mul (water) is added to the name of seaweed, it means that it is fresh and moist. 💧 It contrasts the more conventional state of dried seaweed. (물미역, 물김)
  • 피 – Nuts and peanuts are available whole as well as shelled. Occasionally, the syllable 피 pi is attached to the names of vegetables, nuts or peanuts to underline that they still possess their skin (被). 🥜 (피호두, 피땅콩, 피도라지, 피토란)
  • 깐 – This syllable is derived from the verb 까다 “to peel, to hull, to husk”. When a food item is described as 깐 kkan, it is either peeled, skinned, shelled or similarly separated from the outer layer. In particular, garlic, sweet potato greens, ginkgo seeds, chestnuts and similar foods can be purchased in this conveniently prepared way. 🧄🌰 (깐마늘, 깐밤, 깐고구마순, 깐은행)
  • 통 – Sometimes it is stressed that something is whole by adding the syllable 통 tong to the front of a name. ⚪️ This includes foods which still have their skin, but also foods that may be peeled but uncut. For illustration, bakery items can be filled with entire chestnuts or sweet red beans (instead of diced pieces or a smooth bean paste). 🌰 (통밤, 통팥, 통감자, 통연근, 통마늘)
  • 군 – As opposed to 생 (fresh), the word 군 gun is used for foods that have been roasted. Foods frequently sold roasted are for example nuts, sweet potatoes and chestnuts. 🥜🍠🌰 (군밤, 군고구마)

🍎👨‍🌾 Production, farming and cultivation methods 재배법

Some names provide information about how the food was created – for instance, whether it was farmed in a certain way or has been made by hand. 🚜🌊⛰

To further illustrate this with our quest for apples, you may encounter organic apples or wild apples, beside regular apples! Isn’t it nice to know more about the apples’ background, just upon seeing its name tag? 🍎🚫☠️ [Unlike Snow White and the poisoned apples… 👸🏻]

Regarding production methods, the following descriptions are common:

  • 유기농 – The Korean equivalent to organic agriculture is 유기농 yuginong. 👨‍🌾💚👩‍🌾 Certified organic foods are additionally marked by a green-colored label saying either 유기농산물 for agricultural products or 유기축산물 for livestock products. Also, there are a few separate stores that offer only organic products.
  • 친환경 – The label 친환경 chinhwan-gyeong means “eco-friendly“. 🚫🏭☁️ This refers to things that have been produced in an environment-friendly way, and are regarded as green products. 🟢
  • 무농약 – As an alternative to organic farming, food can be labelled as 무농약 munong-yak which means “no pesticides“. 🚫🛢☠️ Fruits, vegetables as well as mushrooms are sometimes pesticide-free.
  • 무항생제 – Foods with animal origin, mostly meat and eggs, may bear the prefix 무항생제 muhang-saengje. Within certain guidelines, this means that no antibiotics have been used on the farmed animals. 🚫💉🦠
  • 동물복지 – Another certification used in context with livestock is 동물복지 dongmul-bokji which translates to “animal welfare“. 🐄🐖🦆 There are local guidelines which require better standards for animals in livestock industry.
  • 자연산 – The label 자연산 jayeonsan stresses that something has literally “grown in nature“. In other words, it originated in the wild and was later harvested from nature. This often includes e.g. wild herbs, certain mushrooms but also seafood and fish. 🌱🍄🐟 (자연산 고사리, 자연산 송이버섯, 자연산 굴)
  • 돌 – In the case of seaweed, the prefix 돌 dol means that it has grown in a natural environment: The seaweed has grown on rocks (dol 돌), rather than on artificial constructions. 🌊🌿 Likewise, when 돌 is attached to plants like apples or pears, it refers to their wild and native varieties. 🌿🍎🍐 (돌김, 돌미나리, 돌사과, 돌배)
  • 양식 – As the opposite of above, the label 양식 yangsik relates to farmed agriculture and means that animals, plants etc. were cultivated and raised on farms. 👩‍🌾🚜 It is applied mostly on organisms that belong to either fish, seafood or seaweed. 🐟🦪🌿 (양식김, 양식굴, 양식우럭)
  • 노지 – When produce is cultivated on outdoor farms, it may be labelled as 노지 noji which means “barren ground” (露地). 🏞 Vegetables grown in such a comparably natural way, tend to look more rustic and have a few blemishes. (노지호박, 노지시금치)
  • 인큐 – 인큐 inkyu is short for “incubator” in Korean. 💡 It is a particular farming method used mostly on Korean courgettes (인큐애호박) which grow inside a special plastic bag. Such inkyu vegetables develop a uniform size and shape in contrast to those without the plastic coating, which are unevenly shaped.
  • 하우스 – Pronounced correctly, 하우스 ha-useu sounds exactly like the English word “house”. 🏠 But the Korean 하우스 is actually an abbreviation for 비닐하우스 which means “greenhouse” or “hothouse”. As a consequence, produce labelled 하우스 means that it has been farmed inside a greenhouse. Common examples are strawberries, tangerines and melons which ripen earlier than their outdoor counterparts. 🍓🍊🍉 (하우스딸기, 하우스귤, 하우스수박)
  • 산지직송 – You can see names featuring 산지직송 産地直送 sanji jiksong at some outdoor food stalls, road vendors (particularly trucks) or online platforms which sell food “directly from the producer“. 🚛
  • 손 / 수제 – Both 손 son as well as 수제 手製 suje point to the fact that something has been produced by hand (손 hand / 수 手 hand). 👐 You can see this for instance in hand-made tofu, bakery products, noodles and dumplings (손두부, 수제초코파이, 손만두). 🥮🍜🥟
  • 즉석 – The word 즉석 jeukseok can be seen on both food labels as well as advertisements for restaurants or food vendors. It refers to the fact that the food is made on the spot. ⌚️ This could mean, for instance, that the kimbap is rolled immediately upon your order, or that the tteokbokki (떡볶이) is made fresh or the tofu is produced on location. 🍣🍡🍮 (즉석김밥, 즉석떡볶이, 즉석두부)

🍎⚖️ Amount and measurements 분량 세는 단위

Last but not least, a measurement is normally stated on the price tag. A particular amount of food is sold at a certain price, and there are various units for measuring things. 🧮⚖️ Although modern South Korea has adopted the metric system (e.g. kilogram, liter), there are some traditional units which are still in use – mostly on traditional markets or at street stalls! Apart from those more or less exact units for weight and mass, items can also be sold individually, by piece, in boxes, by the bundle etc. 🛍🧺📦 On top of these measure words, Korean language distinguishes whether the object you’re counting is round, flat, large, small, or you-name-it! 🇰🇷🤯 This is a special trait of Korean language: There is a diversity of so-called counting words (수분류사 數分類詞) which are combined with different kinds of things!

Let’s say you want apples, then you have to decide what amount of apples you buy! Often, you can purchase a single apple (사과 1개) or a number of apples for a fixed price. 🍎 You’d be surprised to see how the weight of a bag full of apples (사과 1봉) varies largely depending on the size of the individual apples! 🍎🛍 Maybe you’re planning to order a whole box of apples as a gift? (사과 1박스) 🍎🎁 But be aware that if you want to get one watermelon instead, a different count word is used! (수박 1통) 🍉

On price tags and in spoken language, the name of the item is stated first, followed by the number and then the unit/count word. It can look something like this:

사과 9개 ➡️ 9 apples 🍎🍎🍎🍎🍎🍎🍎🍎🍎
두부 1모 ➡️ 1 (block of) tofu 🍮
시금치 2단 ➡️ 2 bundles of spinach 🥬🥬

Modern and traditional units of measurement:

  • kg (킬로 killo) – kilogram
  • g (그램 geuraem) – gram
  • l (리터 riteo) – liter / litre
  • ml (밀리리터 milliriteo) – milliliter / millilitre
  • 근 (斤) geun – traditional Korean unit, approx. 600 g / 1.323 lbs
  • doe – traditional Korean unit, approx. 1,8 l
  • mal – traditional Korean unit, approx. 18 l

Counting words frequently used in context with food:

  • gae – piece 🍎
  • 조각 jogak – piece of something larger, e.g. slice of cake or bread 🍰
  • mo – block, e.g. tofu
  • dae – stick or elongate object, e.g. burdock root (우엉대)
  • jul – row of something or string-like object, e.g. roll of Gimbap (김밥)
  • jang – something flat, e.g. sheets of sea laver (김) or dried fish
  • al – something small and round, e.g. eggs or individual grains 🥚
  • 송이 songi – bunch or cluster of something, e.g. grapes, bananas 🍇🍌
  • 포기 pogi – head of salad or napa cabbage (배추) 🥬
  • tong – round container / something big and round e.g. barrel of oil, watermelon, pineapple, head of Western cabbage (양배추) 🍉🛢
  • 마리 mari – animal 🐄🐖🐓
  • mi – certain animals, primarily fish, seafood and insects 🦞🐟🦪 (derived from 尾 “tail”)
  • 묶음 mukkeum / 단 dan – bundle 💐
  • paek – package, small carton
  • 박스 bakseu / 상자 sangja – box 📦
  • pan – tray, normally filled with 30 eggs 🥚
  • jeop – unit of hundred pieces
  • 반접 banjeop – unit of fifty pieces (half of a 접 jeop)
  • mang – net
  • bong / 봉지 bongji– bag 🛍
  • 바구니 baguni – basket 🧺
  • 자루 jaru – (small) sack
  • 포대 podae – large sack filled e.g. with rice, grains or powder
  • byeong – bottle 🍾
  • keop / 잔 jan – cup 🥛
  • kaen – can 🥫
  • 접시 jeopsi – bowl 🥣
  • 그릇 geureut – plate 🍽

🍎❓ What else do you need to know?

In conclusion, food items can be categorized and distinguished from each other in many ways. The price tag and title on the label are oftentimes quite descriptive: Besides the general name, the information can include the precise cultivar, its place of origin, farming method, purpose, size, state, quality and other criteria. 🍎🗯☀️🍯🇰🇷 [There is no such thing as a PLAIN apple!]

Hopefully, this post serves as a reference for comprehending Korea’s naming customs, and helps identifying food. What you need to navigate through the maze of labels and restaurant menus, is some knowledge of Korean language (beginner level) as well as a basic understanding of Korean eating culture. 🇰🇷Lv.2️⃣

Now, do you have any questions? Did you see a food label that you can’t understand? Is there a prefix that needs clarification? Then feel free to send me a message 📩 or comment below! 👇 Let’s decipher it and analyse its meaning! 🤓 #ConsciousConsumption

By the way, for people with dietary restrictions (e.g. allergies, vegans and vegetarians), here is a guide on how to quickly understand food labels by checking the allergen warning. ⚠️🏷 To find out whether critical ingredients are included, only minimal Korean skills are required! 🇰🇷Lv.1️⃣

If you are interested in what is written on the actual packaging (e.g. ingredient list, expiration date, storage advice, nutritional information), there will be a future post about Korean food labels in detail. 🔍🏷 That post will probably be more suitable for advanced Korean learners. 🇰🇷Lv.3️⃣ So stay tuned and keep studying! 🤓

[Follow this blog for free and get updates asap!]

In case you can’t read Korean letters yet but want to learn, click here for a simple introduction with lessons about pronunciation! 🇰🇷Lv.0️⃣ The Korean alphabet is not that difficult! 😉

Additional notes by the author

*) For instance, a colloquial way of saying “Korean language” is 우리말 urimal, “Korea” is 우리나라 urinara, and “my parents” is 우리 부모님 uri bumonim.

**) There are many words for colors in Korean language. Listing all of them here would distract from the purpose of this post.

***) In other contexts, different words may be appear, e.g. English-based words 스몰 seumol (small), 미디엄 midi-eom (medium) and 라즈 rajeu (large), or pure Korean adjectives like 작은 jageun (small), 보통 botong (normal) and keun (large).

****) The word 야생 yasaeng is also used to describe plants, animals and other organisms that grow or live in the wilderness.

*****) “Homophonic” means that the pronunciation is the same. However, the word stem and meaning of vary by contexts.


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