Hangeul Day is here, and I thought that there is no better time than the present to teach you Koreaboos some basic Korean alphabets in the most fun way possible. Hangeul essentially has 10 basic vowels and 14 basic consonants. The secondary vowels and consonants combine the basic ones to create a different sound. In the Korean language, when consonants and vowels come together, you get one syllable. Their general arrangement is a three-part structure: initial sound, medial sound, and final consonant. However, you can arrange them with two or four letters.
Now, I know, this is a lot to take in, but stay with me. It is about to get fun soon, I promise. Why? Well, I am going to help you memorize the Korean alphabets with the help of our beloved K-dramas! There is no better way to keep your mind happy and learn a new language. The goofy rom-com and edgy thrillers from the Hallyu industry will make language learning a fun experience. What’s more, you are getting a long list of K-dramas to binge on. Isn’t it a win-win situation?
For your information: This video by YouTuber Drama Master is what inspired me to create this list, and I suggest you watch it too (it’s much more fun that my list).
10 Basic Vowels of Korean Alphabets
One word in Hangeul is a bunch of Korean alphabets joined together. Therefore, you will numerous combinations of the letters across the language, from the initial position to the final. To keep things simple here, we are only going to mention Kdrama names that have the vowels in the first position. Ready? Let’s go.
아: 악의 꽃 / Flower of Evil
The first alphabet is 아, which makes the ‘aa’ or ‘uh’ sound, depending on its position. In this letter, like many, you will see below, ㅇ is silent, and the sound generated is from ㅏ.
Kdrama: 악의 꽃/ Flower of Evil
Pronunciation: Ag-ae Kkot
Premise: The perfect life of a detective comes crashing down when she realizes her husband is not who he claims to be.
야: 야경꾼일지 / Diary of a Night Watchman
The next letter is a derivative of the first, 야 with a ‘ya’ sound. You can see this Korean alphabet is different positions, from first to last.
Kdrama: 야경꾼일지/ Diary of a Night Watchman
Pronunciation: Ya-gyoeng-kkun Ilji
Premise: Leading a double life as a watchman and prince, a man who can see spirits gets embroiled in a power struggle.
어: 어쩌다 발견한 하루 / Extraordinary You [lit. trans.: Ha-ru found by chance]
The third letter in the Hangeul system is 어 with an ‘oe’ sound. When attempting to pronounce it, think of the English word Awe.
Kdrama: 어쩌다 발견한 하루 / Extraordinary You
Pronunciation: oejjoeda balgyeon-han halu
Premise: Dan-oh realizes she is just a side character in a comic with a predestined end and decides to change her fate.
여: 여우각시별 / Where Stars Land [lit. trans.: Fox Bride Star]
The fourth letter 여 is a derivative of the previous alphabet. It creates a ‘yeo’ sound; think “yaw” from the word yawn.
Kdrama: 여우각시별 / Where Stars Land
Pronunciation: Yeo-u-gag-shi-byeol (you can find the alphabet used in two different ways in different places, first and second position.)
Premise: Employees of the Incheon International Airport find themselves falling for another as they grapple with their respective lives.
오: 오 나의 귀신님 / Oh My Ghost
오 is the fifth letter in the Korean alphabets and creates an ‘o’ sound as in English words told, bold, and cold.
Kdrama: 오 나의 귀신님 / Oh My Ghost
Pronunciation: Oh na-ye Kwi-shin-nim
Premise: The ghost of a young woman possesses a timid chef and seeks to resolve her unfinished business on earth.
요: 요조숙녀 / My Fair Lady
요 makes a ‘yo’ sound like in words like your and yoyo and is the sixth vowel in Hangeul.
Kdrama: 요조숙녀 / My Fair Lady
Pronunciation: Yo-jo sug-nyeo
Premise: A materialistic woman and a pure-hearted man meet and fall in love.
우: 우아한 가 / Graceful Family
The seventh Korean vowel 우 creates an ‘oo’ sound like in Oomph or stool. When 우 is not in the first position, the ‘oo’ sound is not stressed upon much, similar to the letter U in ouch.
Kdrama: 우아한 가 / Graceful Family
Premise: Life changes for two teenagers when the former wife of a chaebol president is murdered. 15 years later, the duo attempt to unravel the mystery.
유: 유령 / Phantom
The next vowel in the list is 유 with the sound ‘yu,’ similar to the English words you and yew.
Kdrama: 유령 / Phantom
Premise: A detective assigned to the cyber-crime unit is chasing a dangerous criminal in a cat and mouse game.
으: 으라차차 와이키키 / Welcome to Waikiki
으 is the ninth vowel in Hangeul and makes the sound ‘eu’ like the ‘uh’ sound in the English word Eruption (uh-ruhp-shn)
Kdrama: 으라차차 와이키키 / Welcome to Waikiki
Pronunciation: eu-ra-cha-cha Waikiki
Premise: Three young men start a guest house to fund their dream film project but their plans go haywire.
이: 이태원 클라쓰 / Itaewon Class
이 is the last and tenth vowel among the Korean alphabets. It makes the sound ‘ee’ as in seeds, heed, and bead. Like most vowels in the list, this letter can further be used to derive syllables.
Kdrama: 이태원 클라쓰 / Itaewon Class
Pronunciation: i-tae-won keul-la-ssu
Premise: An ex-con and his group of friends fight discrimination and the odds to make their dream of a street bar a reality.
14 Basic Consonants of Korean Alphabets
There are 14 consonants among the 24 Korean Alphabets. Among the consonant, we will be skipping [ㅇ ] / “ieung” because it never appears in the first place (it remains silent) and is mostly used as the final consonant in a syllable in Hanguel, where it creates an ‘ng’ sound. Similar to vowels, you will find any number of words in the Korean language using a combination of consonants. Therefore, we will only deal with Krama names that start with a particular alphabet.
ㄱ: 김비서가 왜 그럴까 / What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
The first consonant in the list is ㄱ known as giyeok. This name, according to me, covers the range of sound the alphabet can make in its various position within a syllable. In the first position, it makes a ‘k’ or ‘g’ sounds as in Keep and Good, respectively. A variation of giyeok is ㄲ which is pronounced with ‘kk.’
Kdrama: 김비서가 왜 그럴까 / What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
Pronunciation: Kimbiseoga wae geureolkka
Premise: Problems arise when a secretary quits her job and her boss tries everything to retain her.
ㅋ: 커피프린스 1호점 / Coffee Prince
The next consonant is ㅋ, known as kieuk. It has different sounds at different positions, as well, including a ‘t’ when used as the final consonant. The principal sound produced when ㅋ is in the first position is ‘kh’ like in words coffee and cash.
Kdrama: 커피프린스 1호점 / Coffee Prince
Pronunciation: keopipeurinseu 1hojeom
Premise: A girl with an androgynous appearance poses as a boy to land a job at a cafe with male staff.
ㄴ: 내 아이디는 강남미인 / My ID is Gangnam Beauty
The third consonant among the 24 Korean alphabets is ㄴwith the name nieun. It generated the n sound as in words need, name, and none.
Kdrama: 내 아이디는 강남미인 / My ID is Gangnam Beauty
Pronunciation: Nae aidineun Gangnam-mi-in
Premise: Tired of being ridiculed for her looks, a self-conscious college student undergoes plastic surgery, which backfires when bullies find new ways to torment her.
ㄷ: 더 킹: 영원의 군주/ The King: Eternal Monarch
ㄷ is the fourth consonant with the name digeut and makes the sound ‘dh’ or ‘d’ depending on the position. In English, words that have similar sounds are the, this, and then.
Kdrama: 더 킹: 영원의 군주/ The King: Eternal Monarch
Pronunciation: Deo King: Yeongwonui Gunju
Premise: A detective becomes embroiled in the world of an alternate reality when she meets a man claiming to be an emperor.
ㅌ: 태양의 후예/ Descendants of the Sun
ㅌ is known as tieut. It is the fifth consonant in the Korean alphabet and produces the sounds ‘d’, ‘th’, and t. English words thought, dot, and taught have similar sounds as the consonant.
Kdrama: 태양의 후예/ Descendants of the Sun
Pronunciation: Daeyang-ui Huye
Premise: Sparks fly when the paths of a dedicated surgeon and a captain of the special forces meet.
ㄹ: 로봇이 아니야/ I’m Not a Robot
Also known as rieul, ㄹ is the sixth consonant in Hangeul and creates sounds between ‘r’ and ‘l’. The word Ramyeon is the best example of the pronunciation of this letter. Essentially, ㄹ makes an alveolar sound produced when the tongue is in the middle of the roof of the mouth
Kdrama: 로봇이 아니야/ I’m Not a Robot
Pronunciation: Robosi Aniya
Premise: A struggling entrepreneur pretends to be her robot lookalike to help her ex-boyfriend and get mixed up in a love triangle.
ㅁ: 메모리스트/ Memorist
The seventh consonant of Hangeul is mieum, ㅁ. The letter creates the sound, ‘m.’ Similar sounding English words are meme, mean, and munch. However, due to the nasal nature of its pronunciation, foreigners tend to hear ㅁ as a b-sound.
Kdrama: 메모리스트/ Memorist
Premise: A man with the power to read people’s memories teams up with a talented criminal profiler to hunt a serial killer.
ㅂ: 뷰티 인사이드/The Beauty Inside
The eighth consonant among the Korean alphabets makes the sound of a soft p, ranging from b (bee) to p (pop). As the final consonant, ㅂ (bieup) makes a very soft sound that is not easily distinguishable.
Kdrama: 뷰티 인사이드/The Beauty Inside
Pronunciation: Byuti Insaideu
Premise: Paths of a face blind airline company director and an actress with a mysterious power cross.
ㅍ: 피노키오/ Pinocchio
ㅍ is the ninth consonant and makes the sound of a strong p as in the English word peace. It has the name pieup and can also emit a soft p sound when placed as the final consonant.
Kdrama: 피노키오/ Pinocchio
Premise: The relationship of a young couple working towards a journalism career is threatened when an ugly truth is revealed.
ㅅ: 사이코지만 괜찮아/ It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
The tenth consonant in Hangeul is ㅅ, named siot. The pronunciation is the same as in the word See but more aspirated. However, when two ㅅ are written together like ㅆ, it becomes a ‘sh’ sound as in the word She. As the final consonant, ㅅ sounds like t.
Kdrama: 사이코지만 괜찮아/ It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Pronunciation: Saikojiman gwaenchana
Premise: An anti-social children’s author finds healing and acceptance when her paths cross with a psychiatric hospital caretaker.
ㅈ: 전설의 마녀/ 4 Legendary Witches
ㅈ, pronounced as ‘j’ in the English word Job, is the eleventh consonant and has the name jieut. Like siot, ㅈ sounds like a subtle t when placed as the final consonant. When used in the form of ㅉ the sound becomes a ‘jj’ sound where j is stressed upon.
Kdrama: 전설의 마녀/ 4 Legendary Witches
Pronunciation: Jeonseolui Manyeo
Premise: A falsely accused woman works towards setting up a bakery with three of her former jailmates.
ㅊ: 초면에 사랑합니다 / The Secret Life of My Secretary
The twelfth consonant, ㅊ, is also known as chieut and creates a ‘ch’ sound like in the word chapel, church, and chastity.
Kdrama: 초면에 사랑합니다 / The Secret Life of My Secretary
Pronunciation: Chomyeon-e Saranghamnida
Premise: A perfectionist mobile company manager develops face blindness and mistakes his secretary as his fiance.
ㅎ: 화랑 / Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth
ㅎ is the fourteenth and the last consonant on this list. It goes by the name hieut and is essentially a variation of ieung, ㅇ. The glottal consonant makes a strong h sound as in the word hide and head.
Kdrama: 화랑 / Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth
Premise: An elite group of young warriors, Hwarang, discover love and friendship in the Silla period.
Wow, 23 Korean alphabets and that many Korean dramas! Did I just update your binge list or what? You can thank me later. Go practice your alphabet first!