Korean/Getting started on Hanja

For beginning Korean language students, learning hanja is not necessary. However, because many Korean words come from Chinese roots, knowing hanja can be quite helpful in mastering enough vocabulary to become fluent in Korean.

What are Hanja and why do we use them?


Hanja are Chinese characters that have been borrowed into the Korean language. Like many languages, many Korean words are composed of roots, many of which are from the Chinese language. In the quest of mastering a foreign language, learning the roots of the words is one approach to learning vocabulary.

Just how many Hanja do I need to know?


There's no exact number that you need to know. Since many people learn Korean without learning the characters, it is possible to know the language without learning any characters. Around 2000 characters is a good number for learning how to read and recognize words. The 1800 standardized Hanja set will cover the majority of the roots for the Sino-Korean words.

Below is one example of how Hanja can be used to remember words.
*船 -- 선. Boat
*漁 -- 어. Fish
*夫 -- 부. Husband/father

In Korean a fisherman is 어부, and fishing boat is 어선. The corresponding characters are 漁夫 and 漁船.

Before we list the standard 1800 character set, you need to learn the 214 radicals that make up the characters. See List_of_Kangxi_radicals for the list of radicals. You need to write them on flashcards and commit them to memory. If you know the radicals, it will be easier to remember the characters and to look up unknown words in a dictionary when necessary.

List of Hanja


歌 -- song
家 -- house, can also be pronounced as 고
價 -- price
加 -- add
可 -- right, can also be pronounced as 극
街 -- street
假 -- pretend, can also be pronounced as 하 or 격
暇 -- leisure
佳 -- beautiful
架 -- shelf

各 -- each
角 -- horn
刻 -- carve
覺 -- awake, can also be pronounced as 교
腳 -- leg
閣 -- pavilion
卻 -- reject

間 -- gap
干 -- shield, can also be pronounced as 건
看 -- see
簡 -- letter
幹 -- trunk, can also be pronounced as 관
懇 -- sincerity
刊 -- publish
肝 -- liver
姦 -- adultery

渴 -- thirsty, can also be pronounced as 걸 or 할

感 -- feel
減 -- decrease
監 -- look
甘 -- sweet
敢 -- daringly
鑑 -- mirror

甲 -- armor, can also be pronounced as 압



江 -- river
強 -- strong
康 -- peaceful
講 -- exercise, also pronounced as 구
降 -- surrender, also pronounced as 항
綱 -- head rope
剛 -- firm
鋼 -- steel

開 -- open
改 -- change
個 -- piece
介 -- between
槪 -- generally
蓋 -- cover, also pronounced as 합
慨 -- lament
皆 -- all



客 -- guest



更 -- again, also pronounced as 경