How to write an email or letter in Korean: the complete guide
Korean has a highly developed honorific system. Thus, when you write emails or letters in Korean, it is very important to consider the relationship with the recipient. This will affect the way we write, and the expressions we use. Of course, you should also consider the context and the purpose of the letter.
So, ask yourself: Is the recipient older or in a higher position than me? Is this work-related or just for building a friendship? Above all, the relationship with the recipient is crucial so that you do not commit any indiscretion in writing Korean emails or letters.
This guide will let you know the Dos and Don’ts in writing emails and letters in Korean. It will also give you lots of examples you can use right away. Let’s begin!
How to start an email or a letter in Korean
Whether your letter is formal or informal, you should address the recipient at the very beginning. With a few short greetings after that, Koreans generally ask how the recipient is doing.
Small talk about the weather is also very common. Remember that leaving small talk out can sometimes be regarded as impolite, except in cases of emergency.
Korean formal email / letter openings
It is highly recommended to begin formal emails or letters with friendly remarks. However, for those that are work-related, make sure to avoid being too wordy or using lengthy pleasantries at the beginning.
When you clarify the recipient, you can follow these examples:
- 박유민 팀장님께 ( name + position + 님께 )
- 안녕하세요, 박유민 님! ( greeting, name + 님!)
- 친애하는 미동그룹 임직원 여러분, 안녕하십니까? ( Dear + a group of people + 여러분, greeting )
- 담당자님께 ( = to whom it may concern )
If you are not familiar with the recipient, you should make yourself known first.
- 안녕하세요. 저는 마케팅 부서의 박두산이라고 합니다.
( = Hi, it’s 박두산 from the marketing department. )
- 저는 미동그룹 마케팅 부서에서 근무하는 박두산 부장입니다.
( = I’m 박두산, head of the marketing department of Midong corporation. )
You can follow the examples below to briefly mention the purpose of your email or letter.
- 다름이 아니라, 지난 번 요청하신 건에 대해 답변을 드리고자 합니다.
( = I’m contacting you to give you an answer regarding your previous inquiries. )
- 지난 1년간 보내주신 아낌없는 후원에 감사를 표하고자 이렇게 연락드립니다.
( = I’m contacting you to show my gratitude for your support last year. )
As you can see above, ‘다름이 아니라,’ and ‘-하고자 연락드립니다’ both serve as ‘I’m contacting you because…’ in English. Remembering them is useful since they are very common.
If you have already met the recipient and want to start the email or letter in a friendly way, you can talk about the weather like below:
- 따뜻한 햇살 덕분에 기분이 좋아지는 날입니다. ( = The warm sunlight makes our day bright. / For a sunny day )
- 어느덧 새싹이 움트는 봄이 오고 있습니다. ( = Spring has come when trees come into bud. / For Spring )
- 폭염에 수고 많으십니다. ( = Thank you for your hard work in this scorching weather. / For Summer )
Korean informal email / letter openings
Koreans generally address who the recipient is first, even in informal emails or letters. However, it is optional to talk about the sender and its purpose. Like formal letters, we can add greetings or talk about the weather.
You can refer to the examples below to address the recipient in informal emails or letters.
- 유민이에게 ( name + 에게)
- 유민아! ( name! )
- 엄마 보세요. ( the recipient + 보세요 )
When you add ‘존경하는,’ ‘사랑하는’ in front of the recipient’s name, it sounds more friendly.
To make yourself known in informal emails or letters, you can briefly write like below:
- 나야, 두산이. ( It’s me, + name )
- 저 두산이에요. ( It’s + name + 이에요/예요 )
Greetings or talking about the weather can follow, and there is no specific rule for that. Some of the common phrases are:
- 잘 지냈니? 난 잘 지내고 있어. ( = How are you doing? I’m doing fine. )
- 요즘 어떻게 지내? ( = How have you been recently? )
- 안녕하세요? 건강은 어떠세요? ( = How are you? How is your health? )
- 시간이 어찌나 빠른지 벌써 12월이야. ( = Time flies and it’s already December. )
How to end an email or letter in Korean
Whether in formal or informal settings, the endings in Korean letters consist of three parts: closing greetings, the date of writing, and the name of the writer. For the closing greetings, we usually write blessings to the recipient, or we can briefly mention the purpose of the letter again.
How to end a formal email or letter in Korean
In a Korean formal email or letter, people generally put closing greetings and mention where to make contact. Some of the commonly used closing greetings are as follows:
- 모쪼록 귀사가 앞으로도 번창하시길 기원합니다. ( = I wish you enjoy increasing prosperity as time goes on. )
- 빠른 회신 부탁드립니다. ( = I am looking forward to your quick response. )
- 추가적으로 문의 사항이 있으시다면 010-1234-5678로 연락주시기 바랍니다. ( = For any further questions, please call us at 010-1234-5678. )
The closing greetings are followed by an appropriate salutation such as:
- 그럼 이만 안녕히 계세요. ( = I’m ending my letter. Bye for now. See you later. )
- 감사합니다. ( = Thank you. )
Remember, in a Korean letter we do not put salutations (i.e. Yours sincerely, Best regards, etc) before the name of the writer. Instead, these go at the end of the email's final paragraph. Typically, a sign-off would be the date of writing followed by the name of the writer.
A few things to note:
- Leaving out the date of the writing is common in emails.
- The name of the company, and the position of the writer would be included, along with the writer’s own name.
- It is recommended to put a handwritten signature at the very end of letters.
- You should put ‘올림’ or ‘드림’ right after the name of the writer on the same line to show respect to the recipient.
You can see some examples below:
- 미동그룹 마케팅부서 부장 박두산 드림 ( Company + department + name + 올림 or 드림 )
- 경기도 평택시에서 박두산 드림 ( Brief address + name + 올림 or 드림 )
- 박두산 올림 ( name + 올림 or 드림 )
How to end a casual email / letter in Korean?
Casual emails or letters in Korean also have closing greetings, the date of writing, and the signature at the end. Some of the closing greetings in casual letters are:
- 건강하게 지내. ( = Stay healthy. / casual )
- 좋은 일들만 가득하길 바라. ( = All the best in your future endeavors. / casual )
- 하시는 일 모두 잘 되시길 바랍니다. ( = All the best in your future endeavors. / polite )
To show that you are closing your email or letter, you can say:
- 그럼 이만. ( = Now I’m ending the whole letter. / casual )
- 그럼 이만 줄일게요. ( = Now I’m ending the whole letter. / polite )
- 안녕히 계세요. ( = Bye. See you later. / polite )
Koreans put the year first, the month, and then the day when mentioning the date of writing. The signature is placed at the very end. To your close friend, you can leave out your last name. To an older person, ‘올림,’ or ‘드림’ should follow the writer’s name to show respect. Below are some of the examples:
- 유민이가 ( first name + subject marker 가 / casual )
- 딸 유민 올림 ( Your daughter + name + 올림 / polite )
- 제자 박유민 드림 ( Your student + name + 드림 / polite )
Other useful Korean email / letter phrases
Common phrases stating the purpose of an email / letter
- …에 대해 말씀드리고자/알려드리고자 합니다. ( = I’d like to talk about / let you know that … / formal )
- …을/를 전달/요청/문의 드립니다. ( = I’d like to send/require/ask about … / formal )
- …하려고/해서 편지를 보낸다. ( = I’m sending you this letter to … / casual )
- 내가 편지를 쓰는 이유는 …고 싶어서야. ( = I’m writing this letter to you because … / casual )
Common phrases to let the recipient know about an email attachment
- 파일을 첨부하니 확인 부탁드립니다. ( = I’d like you to check out the attached file. / formal )
- 자세한 내용은 첨부파일을 참고해 주시기 바랍니다. ( = For more information, please refer to the attachment. / formal )
- 자료도 함께 첨부해서 보낼게. ( = I’m attaching the material below. / casual )
- 첨부파일을 확인해 봐. ( = You can check out the attached files. / casual )
Common phrases to encourage further contacts or reply
- 추후 질문 있으시면 메일 보내주십시오. ( = Please mail me for further questions later. / formal )
- …에 대해 혹시 궁금한 점 있으시면 언제든지 연락주세요. ( = If you want to ask about …, feel free to contact me. / formal )
- 빠른 답장 기다리겠습니다. ( = Looking forward to your quick response. / formal )
- 궁금한 점 있으면 언제든 연락해. ( = Feel free to contact me whenever you have questions. / casual )
- 답장 기다리고 있을게. ( = I’ll be looking forward to your reply. / casual )
Specific types of Korean letters
How to write a postcard in Korean
The structure for a postcard is very similar to that for a letter, but relatively free in style, and more contracted in length. A few things that must be included are:
- Who the recipient is at the very beginning
- Who the sender is after that
- The ending salutation followed by the date of writing and the signature
How to write a thank you card in Korean
A Korean thank you card also looks very similar to a letter. Some of the commonly used phrases are as follows:
- 사랑과 응원에 대해 진심으로 감사합니다. ( = Thank you very much for your love and support. / formal )
- 덕분에 좋은 결과를 얻게 되었어요. 진심으로 감사드립니다. ( = I came off with the good result thanks to you. I appreciate it a lot. / formal )
- 지난 번에 도와줘서 얼마나 고마웠는지 몰라. ( = I cannot thank enough for your help last time. / casual )
- …해서 정말 고마워. ( = Thanks a lot for … / casual )
How to write a birthday card in Korean
You can add one of the following expressions to celebrate someone else’s birthday.
- 사랑하는 어머니의 60번째 생신을 축하드려요! ( = Happy 60th birthday of my beloved mother! / formal )
- 존경하는 선생님의 생신을 축하드립니다. ( = Happy birthday of my respected teacher. / formal )
- 사랑하는 친구야, 생일 축하해! ( = Dear my beloved friend, happy birthday! / casual )
- 귀여운 우리 아들, 생일 축하한다! ( = My dear son, happy birthday! / casual )
Besides the expressions mentioned above, you can also add words of blessing. Some of the examples are:
- 앞으로도 항상 건강하시고 행복하세요! ( = I hope you stay healthy and always be happy! / formal )
- 좋은 일만 가득하길 바라! ( =Best of luck with everything you do! / casual )
What to write in a Korean wedding card
Koreans usually put a short note of 5 to 6 lines in their wedding card. In Korean wedding cards, we include the names of the couple, the request to attend the wedding, the date, and the location, etc. Weather remarks can sometimes be added to make the sentences flowery.
Some of the examples at the beginning of a wedding card are listed below:
- 두 사람이 사랑으로 만나 첫 발을 내딛으려 합니다. ( = The two people are going to take the first step in union. )
- 햇살 고운 봄날, 저희 두 사람이 사랑의 결실을 맺으려 합니다. ( = Our love will come to fruition in a beautiful bright day of Spring. )
- 저희 두 사람이 믿음과 사랑으로 한 가정을 이루게 되었습니다. ( = We are getting married and start a family with faith and love. )
When you want to ask for attendance, you can follow these examples:
- 두 사람의 첫 걸음을 시작하는 자리에 오셔서 축복해 주시면 감사하겠습니다. ( = We would appreciate your attendance and blessing at our wedding. )
- 귀한 시간을 내주시어 저희 결혼을 축복해 주시면 큰 기쁨이겠습니다. ( = We will be delighted if you take your precious time to attend our wedding. )
- 부디 자리해 주셔서 많은 축복과 격려를 부탁드립니다. ( = We would like the request the honor of your attendance at our wedding. )
In addition, the promise for the future can often follow. Such as:
- 서로 아껴주고 배려하며 살겠습니다. ( = We will love each other showing considerations. )
- 축하해 주시는 마음 깊이 간직하며 예쁘게 잘 살겠습니다. ( = We will keep your blessings in mind and love each other. )
Sample Korean email / letter
Example of a Formal business email in Korean
제목: [마케팅부] 7월 월말보고서 전달건 ( Subject : [Marketing Dept] Monthly report for July )
담당자님께 ( To whom it may concern )
안녕하세요. 마케팅 부서의 박두산 부장입니다. ( Hello. It’s 박두산, head of the marketing department. )
다름이 아니라 7월 월말보고서 전달드리고자 합니다. ( I’m contacting you to send you the monthly report for July. )
빨간색으로 표기한 부분 확인 부탁드립니다. ( I’d like you to confirm what’s marked red in the report. )
더 자세한 내용은 첨부파일을 참고해 주시기 바랍니다. ( Please refer to the attached file for more detailed information. )
추후 문의사항 있으시면 언제든 연락주십시오. ( Feel free to contact me if there are any inquiries later. )
감사합니다. ( Thank you. )
박두산 드림 ( Signature )
Example of a Korean Informal letter to a friend
사랑하는 친구, 유리야! ( My dear friend, Yuri! )
나 민이야. 정말 오랜만이다. 잘 지냈지? 부모님도 모두 건강하시지? ( It’s Min. It’s been ages since we met each other. How have you been? Are your parents doing fine as well? )
나 다음 달에 다른 도시로 이사가게 됐어. 그동안 고마웠다는 말을 꼭 전해주고 싶어서 이렇게 편지를 보낸다. ( I decided to move to another city next month. I’m writing this letter to say thank you. )
다른 곳으로 이사가더라도 너와의 즐거운 추억은 절대 잊을 수 없을 거야. ( I’ll never forget the happy memories with you although I move to another city. )
부디 몸 건강히 지내고 앞으로도 자주 연락하자. 그럼 이만. ( Hope you stay healthy and let’s keep in touch. I’m now closing the letter. )
20XX년 X월 X일 ( The date of writing )
너의 친구 민이가 ( Your friend, Min )
You should pay close attention to the honorific expressions when writing Korean emails or letters. No matter how good the messages you are delivering are, it can even provoke hostility if your honorific expressions are inappropriate.
However, when you observe common rules about honorifics, your Korean emails or letters can greatly contribute to your business and you can also win the heart of the recipient.
Editor's note: You can use our free language tool to make your own vocabulary lists, and record your own phrases.