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:

If you are not familiar with the recipient, you should make yourself known first.

You can follow the examples below to briefly mention the purpose of your email or letter.

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:

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.

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:

Greetings or talking about the weather can follow, and there is no specific rule for that. Some of the common phrases are:

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:

The closing greetings are followed by an appropriate salutation such as:

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:

You can see some examples below:

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:

To show that you are closing your email or letter, you can say:

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:

Other useful Korean email / letter phrases

Common phrases stating the purpose of an email / letter

Common phrases to let the recipient know about an email attachment

Common phrases to encourage further contacts or reply

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:

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:

How to write a birthday card in Korean

You can add one of the following expressions to celebrate someone else’s birthday.

Besides the expressions mentioned above, you can also add words of blessing. Some of the examples are:

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:

When you want to ask for attendance, you can follow these examples:

In addition, the promise for the future can often follow. Such as:

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.