Korean Translation Services

Counting Numbers in Korean

Two Counting Systems in Korean


Table of Contents

Click a line to navigate within this article.



Quick Reference (opens in a new window/tab):
Korean Numbers 1 - 100 Written Out in Full


Two Counting Systems in Korean


When we learn a foreign language, one thing we need to familiarize ourselves with at an early stage is counting numbers in that language.  Numbers, however, may well be the most complicated part of Korean.

Koreans use two different numbering systems, depending on the object being counted (e.g. money, phone number, people, hours, or simply how many there are).

Imagine you are talking to a clerk at a gift shop in Korea:

"How much are these?"

"They're 10 Won [Korean currency] each."

"Can I get 10 of these?"

"Sure."

In this short conversation, number "10" is mentioned twice, but two completely different words are spoken.  For "10 Won" (for counting money), one counting system is used, and for "10 of these", a different one is used.  And it’s not merely a matter of style.   If you mix up the counting systems, the clerk will not understand what you are trying to say. 

The two systems are summarized in Tables 1 & 2 and explained in detail below.



Table 1 : Brief Overview of the Two Counting Systems


System 1System 2
OriginRelated to the Chinese language, this system was introduced into Korean probably around the 2nd century B.C. Thus, this is the "new" system.An ancient system, used by Koreans since time immemorial. The linguistic origin is obscure.
UsagePreferred system for counting money and large numbers
— See Table 2 for details
Preferred system for counting a manageable number (fewer than 100) of objects other than currency
— See Table 2 for details


Table 2: Choosing the Correct System to Use


Object Being Counted
(word following the number)
Number Mentioned
01 - 1011 - 1920 - 99100 - Infinity
All objects (people, trees, birds, books, tickets, pieces, etc.) other than the objects listed below System 1
(System 2 can be used in colloquial expressions.)
System 2 System 2 is more natural. (System 1 can be used but may sound mildly military-like or bureaucratic.) Both systems are equally acceptable.
(The usage of System 1 increases as the number becomes larger in this range.)
System 1 (System 2 sounds archaic and may not be understood; used in poetic expressions only.)
Arrows in both directions mean that one system is used from 0 to infinity.
Money (currency) <---  System 1  --->
Age <---  System 2  --->
(beyond 100, System 1 + System 2 composite form is used)
Number in postal address
<---    System 1    --->
Phone number <---    System 1    --->
Day, Month & Year <---    System 1    --->
Hour 0
System 1
1 - 10
System 2
11 - 19
System 2 is more natural. (System 1 is also used in the military and government.)
20 - 99
Both systems are equally acceptable.
100 - Infinity
System 1
Minute <---    System 1    --->
Number before units of length, area, weight & volume (kilogram, meter, inch, pound, etc.); and number before % <---    System 1    --->
Mathematical integer (number not followed by any object or unit) <---    System 1    --->



Detailed Explanations

SYSTEM 1



Component Words and Grand Units


The following 16 words are all you need to know to count from zero to trillion and beyond (in System 1).


Table 3: Component Words of System 1

(young)0
(eel)1
(ee)2
(sahm)3
(sah)4
(oh)5
(yook)6
(chil)7
(pahl)8
(goo)9
(sib)10
(bag)100
(chun)1,000
(mahn)10,000
(uck)100,000,000
(jo)1,000,000,000,000



Some round numbers in this system are shown in Table 4.


Table 4: Round Numbers in System 1


Table 4: Round Numbers in System 1


The numbers in the table above are divided into 4 groups according to the Korean logic.  You might have noticed in the figure that the English words that serve as grand units (million, billion, etc.) appear out of register with the group division.  As can be seen in Figure 1 below, there is a major difference between the Korean and English numbering systems.  In English, the word "thousand" is a grand unit.  Numbers larger than a thousand are expressed as multiples of a thousand (one thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand...).  Then, at 1,000,000 (which is one thousand-fold greater than 1,000), another grand unit, "million", is introduced.  The word "million" remains as the grand unit until the number hits one billion.  In this manner, the grand unit for large numbers changes at every thousand-fold interval in English.

There is nothing unusual about the Korean word "chun", which means 1,000 – it is a direct counterpart of the English word "thousand".  The situation, however, soon diverges.  In Korean, a new word ("mahn", meaning 10,000) is introduced at 10,000.  From 10,000 and up, the grand unit changes at every 10,000-fold interval (not 1,000-fold).  Thus, in Korean, there is no specific word for "million".  One million is simply referred to as "hundred mahn" (100 times 10,000), and ten million is "thousand mahn" (1,000 times 10,000), and so on.  At 100,000,000, another grand unit "uck" begins to be used. The difference is illustrated in Figure 1.  (This issue concerns System 1 only, for System 2 is not used for large numbers.)



Figure 1: Progression of Grand Units

Figure 1: Progression of Grand Units


Commas in Numbers

Koreans do use commas in numbers.  However, as they consider the use of commas a Western practice, they put the commas in the Western way (as a “thousand” separator).  In other words, the commas have no correlation with the Korean counting units beyond the number 9,999.



Composition Practice

0 - 100 Range


Now, let's practice mixing and matching numbers in this system.  The component words (1 - 10) are shown again in Table 5 so that you don’t have to scroll up.



Table 5: Component Words (Shown Again)


0young
1eel
2ee
3sahm
4sah
5oh
6yook
7chil
8pahl
9goo
10sib




In English, the verbal expression for 3,000 is a composite of “three” and “thousand”; 300 is a composite of “three” and “hundred”.   The expression for 30, however, is not a composite (“three ten”), because there is a separate word for it (“thirty”).   In Korean, 30 is “three ten” (a composite); 40 is “four ten”, and so on.  Thus, 33 is “three ten three”, and 47 is “four ten seven”.


Table 6: Numbers in the 11 - 99 Range


NumberKoreanPronunciationWords
to
Combine
11십일sib-eel10 & 1
12십이sib-ee10 & 2
13십삼sib-sahm10 & 3
14십사sib-sah10 & 4
15십오sib-oh10 & 5
16십육sib-yook10 & 6
17십칠sib-chil10 & 7
18십팔sib-pahl10 & 8
19십구sib-goo10 & 9
20이십ee-sib2 & 10
21이십일ee-sib-eel2 & 10 & 1
22이십이ee-sib-ee2 & 10 & 2
23이십삼ee-sib-sahm2 & 10 & 3
30삼십sahm-sib3 & 10
35삼십오sahm-sib-oh3 & 10 & 5
70칠십chil-sib7 & 10
77칠십칠chil-sib-chil7 & 10 & 7
90구십goo-sib9 & 10
98구십팔goo-sib-pahl9 & 10 & 8
99구십구goo-sib-goo9 & 10 & 9




You now know all the components and rules to count from 0 - 99 in System 1.



100 - 1,000 Range


Let’s move on to the 100 - 1,000 range.  The first number, 100, is somewhat special, as there are two ways to pronounce it, “hundred” or “one hundred”, as in English.  The simpler form, “hundred”, is more natural in most contexts.  The same is also true for 1,000, 10,000, etc.



Table 7: Hundreds


NumberKoreanPronunciationWords
to
Combine
100bag100
일백eel-bag1 & 100
200이백ee-bag2 & 100
300삼백sahm-bag3 & 100
400사백sah-bag4 & 100
500오백oh-bag5 & 100
600육백yook-bag6 & 100
700칠백chil-bag7 & 100
800팔백pahl-bag8 & 100
900구백goo-bag9 & 100
1,000chun1,000
일천eel-chun1 & 1,000


Now that we know the hundreds, we can combine them with smaller numbers to make non-round numbers in this range.  Some examples are shown in Table 8.

Hereinafter in this article, the rarely-used “one hundred” or “one thousand” expressions will not be included in tables; only the preferred simpler forms, ”hundred” and “thousand”, will be shown in number combinations.


Table 8: Numbers in the 100 -999 Range


NumberKoreanPronunciationWords
to
Combine
101백일bag-eel100 & 1
102백이bag-ee100 & 2
103백삼bag-sahm100 & 3
109백구bag-goo100 & 9
110백십bag-sib100 & 10
111백십일bag-sib-eel100 & 10 & 1
118백십팔bag-sib-pahl100 & 10 & 8
120백이십bag-ee-sib100 & 2 & 10
125백이십오bag-ee-sib-oh100 & 2 & 10 & 5
199백구십구bag-goo-sib-goo100 & 9 & 10 & 9
201이백일ee-bag-eel2 & 100 & 1
234이백삼십사ee-bag-sahm-sib-sah2 & 100 & 3 & 10 & 4
358삼백오십팔sahm-bag-oh-sib-pahl3 & 100 & 5 & 10 & 8
360삼백육십sahm-bag-yook-sib3 & 100 & 6 & 10
540오백사십oh-bag-sah-sib5 & 100 & 4 & 10
685육백팔십오yook-bag-pahl-sib-oh6 & 100 & 8 & 10 & 5
812팔백십이pahl-bag-sib-ee8 & 100 & 10 & 2
907구백칠goo-bag-chil9 & 100 & 7
998구백구십팔goo-bag-goo-sib-pahl9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 8
999구백구십구goo-bag-goo-sib-goo9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 9





1,000 - 10,000 Range


We can now explore even larger numbers, which are particularly important for understanding Korean business documents.  Since the exchange rate for the Korean currency, Won, fluctuates around 1,000 Won to 1 U.S. Dollar, monetary amounts mentioned in Korean documents tend to be large.  An average car may cost tens of millions Won, and the price of a small condominium could easily be in the range of hundreds of millions.  The Korean government's annual budget is several hundred trillion Won.

But there are no new rules you need to learn to count very large numbers.  If you understood the underlying patterns in the above examples, you can easily compose numbers to one trillion and beyond.

Let's make some numbers in the 1,000 - 10,000 range.  The word for “thousand” is “chun” in Korean.  And, as we have learned in Figure 1 above, the Korean language has a special word for 10,000, which is pronounced “mahn”.


Table 9: Korean Words for 1,000 & 10,000


1,000chun
10,000mahn


Let's compose numbers rounded at the thousands, which progress with the same basic pattern as we saw earlier.


Table 10: Thousands


NumberKoreanPronunciationWords
to
Combine
1,000chun1,000
2,000이천ee-chun2 & 1,000
3,000삼천sahm-chun3 & 1,000
9,000구천goo-chun9 & 1,000
10,000mahn10,000


To compose other numbers in this range, simply add hundreds and lower numbers as we have learned so far.  Some examples are in Table 11.



Table 11: Examples up to 10,000


NumberKoreanPronunciationWords to Combine
1,001천일chun-eel1,000 & 1
2,003이천삼ee-chun-sahm2 & 1,000 & 3
2,054이천오십사ee-chun-oh-sib-sah2 & 1,000 & 5 & 10 & 4
3,009삼천구sahm-chun-goo3 & 1,000 & 9
3,857삼천팔백오십칠sahm-chun-pahl-bag-oh-sib-chil3 & 1,000 & 8 & 100 & 5 & 10 & 7
6,300육천삼백yook-chun-sahm-bag6 & 1,000 & 3 & 100
9,781구천칠백팔십일goo-chun-chil-bag-pahl-sib-eel9 & 1,000 & 7 & 100 & 8 & 10 & 1
9,999구천구백구십구goo-chun-goo-bag-goo-sib-goo9 & 1,000 & 9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 9
10,000mahn10,000




10,000 - Hundred Million Range


Let's now explore numbers from 10,001 up to one hundred million.  When dealing with numbers in this range, it is important to be reminded that there is no specific word for "million" in Korean.  Millions are expressed as multiples of "mahn" (10,000), until another unit is introduced at one hundred million.  Also recall that the grand unit changes at every ten-thousand fold interval (not thousand-fold interval).  To see these points yourself, pay special attention to the words that precede "mahn" in Table 12 – those are multipliers of "mahn".  (In this and the following tables, the word "mahn" is written in red to make it conspicuous to first-time learners.)





Table 12: Numbers Rounded at the Ten-Thousands
(in the 10,000 - 99,000,000 Range)


NumberKoreanPronunciationWords
to
Combine
10,000mahn10,000
20,000ee-mahn2 & 10,000
30,000sahm-mahn3 & 10,000
100,000sib-mahn10 & 10,000
200,000이십ee-sib-mahn2 &10 & 10,000
500,000오십oh-sib-mahn5 & 10 & 10,000
1,000,000bag-mahn100 & 10,000
5,000,000오백oh-bag-mahn5 & 100 & 10,000
10,000,000chun-mahn1,000 & 10,000
50,000,000오천oh-chun-mahn5 & 1,000 & 10,000
90,000,000구천goo-chun-mahn9 & 1,000 & 10,000


This is probably a good time to mention that there is a minor typographical convention in Korean.  When writing a large number in Korean, a space should be placed after the word "mahn".  This gives the reader a pause, in a manner consistent with the underlying logic (grand unit progression).  However, Korean business documents you get to see may or may not have such spaces.  While newspapers editors and book publishers adhere to the rule, many ordinary business people may not be aware of it.

Now, let’s make some numbers in this range, rounded at the thousands.



Table 13: Numbers Rounded at the Thousands
(in the 10,000 - 99,000,000 Range)


NumberKoreanWords to Combine
11,00010,000 & 1,000
20,0002 & 10,000
26,000 육천2 & 10,000 & 6 & 1,000
90,0009 & 10,000
99,000 구천9 & 10,000 & 9 & 1,000
100,00010 & 10,000
103,000 삼천10 & 10,000 & 3 & 1,000
200,000이십2 & 10 & 10,000
204,000이십 사천2 & 10 & 10,000 & 4 & 1,000
264,000이십육 사천2 & 10 & 6 & 10,000 & 4 & 1,000
900,000구십9 & 10 & 10,000
1,000,000100 & 10,000
7,000,000칠백7 & 100 & 10,000
10,000,0001,000 & 10,000
20,000,000이천2 & 1,000 & 10,000
83,000,000팔천삼백8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000
83,700,000팔천삼백칠십8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 10,000
83,750,000팔천삼백칠십오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000
83,752,000팔천삼백칠십오 이천8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
80,752,000팔천칠십오 이천8 & 1,000 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
80,052,000팔천오 이천8 & 1,000 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
80,002,000팔천 이천8 & 1,000 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
99,999,000구천구백구십구 구천9 & 1,000 & 9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 9 & 10,000 & 9 & 1,000



How about non-round numbers in this range?  To help first-time learners, we will use one of the numbers in the above table (83,752,000) as a backbone and add smaller numbers to it.  Other numbers shown in Table 14 are also based on the numbers included in Table 13.


Table 14: Examples in the Tens of Millions Range


NumberKoreanWords to Combine
83,752,000팔천삼백칠십오 이천8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
83,752,100팔천삼백칠십오 이천백8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100
83,752,190팔천삼백칠십오 이천백구십8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 9 & 10
83,752,195팔천삼백칠십오 이천백구십오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,752,105팔천삼백칠십오 이천백오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 5
83,752,005팔천삼백칠십오 이천오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 5
83,750,005팔천삼백칠십오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 5
83,700,005팔천삼백칠십8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 10,000 & 5
83,000,005팔천삼백8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 5
83,000,000팔천삼백8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000
83,000,095팔천삼백 구십오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,000,195팔천삼백 백구십오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,002,195팔천삼백 이천백구십오8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,000,005팔천삼백8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 5
99,999,999구천구백구십구 구천구백구십구9 & 1,000 & 9 & 100 & & 9 & 10 & 9 10,000 & 9 & 1,000 & 9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 9





Hundred Million to Numbers Close to a Trillion


When the number reaches 100,000,000, a new grand unit ("uck") is introduced.



Table 15: Korean Word for 100,000,000


100,000,000 (hundred million)uck

(The vowel sound /u/ in “uck” is similar to the vowel in the English word “but”.)




Table 16: Numbers Rounded at the Hundreds of Millions


NumberKoreanWords to Combine
100,000,000100,000,000
200,000,0002 & 100,000,000
900,000,0009 & 100,000,000
935,000,000 삼천오백9 & 100,000,000 & 3 & 1,000 & 5 & 100 & 10,000
1,000,000,00010 & 100,000,000
5,000,000,000오십5 & 10 & 100,000,000
10,000,000,000100 & 100,000,000
43,590,000,000사백삼십오 구천4 & 100 & 3 & 10 & 5 & 100,000,000 & 9 & 1,000 & 10,000
50,000,000,000오백5 & 100 & 100,000,000
100,000,000,0001,000 & 100,000,000
500,000,000,000오천5 & 1,000 & 100,000,000


Random examples of non-round numbers in this range are in Table 17.


Table 17: Examples up to Hundreds of Millions


43,592,800,000사백삼십오 구천이백팔십
43,592,844,121사백삼십오 구천이백팔십사 사천백이십일
536,228,406,117오천삼백육십이 이천팔백사십 육천백십칠


One Trillion and Beyond


As the grand unit changes at every ten-thousand fold interval in Korean, the next unit is 1,000,000,000,000, which is 10,000 times greater than "uck".  This unit is "jo".  It is a direct counterpart of the English word "trillion".



Table 18: Korean Word for "Trillion"


1,000,000,000,000 (trillion)jo

(The sound of “jo” is similar to the first syllable of “Joseph”.)



Some examples of the numbers in this range are in Table 19.



Table 19: Numbers Beyond One Trillion


1,000,000,000,000
2,000,000,000,000
15,000,000,000,000십오
35,218,463,000,000삼십오 이천백팔십사 육천삼백




SYSTEM 2



Composition Practice


The component words of this system are shown in Table 20.  Being the more ancient system, System 2 is deeply integral to the Korean language, and the endings of some numbers change depending on the context.

In this system, a number can be spoken (and written) in two different ways – the noun form or the adjective form.  Suppose you saw a group of geese while driving by a farm and start counting them, "One! Two! Three!.... ".  By saying the numbers in this way, at least in the Korean logic, you are treating the numbers simply as integers, because each number is not followed by any unit or counted object.  For such numbers (mathematical integers) you should use the noun form (stand-alone form).  On the other hand, if you counted the geese by saying “1 mahree, 2 mahree, 3 mahree ...” ("mahree" is a Korean unit for counting animals), then the numbers should be in the adjective form, because each number is a modifier of what follows (“mahree”). 

This noun / adjective consideration applies to System 2 only.  In System 1, there is only one form for each number, which you can use regardless of whether the number is followed by a unit or object.



Table 20: Component Words of System 2


Noun FormAdjective Form*
1하나hah nahhahn
2dooldoo
3sehtseh
4nehtneh
5다섯dah suhtsame as the noun form
6여섯yu suhtsame as the noun form
7일곱eel gobsame as the noun form
8여덟yu dulsame as the noun form
9아홉ah hobsame as the noun form
10yulsame as the noun form
20스물smool스무smoo
30서른suh reunsame as the noun form
40마흔mah heunsame as the noun form
50sheensame as the noun form
60예순yeh soonsame as the noun form
70일흔eel heunsame as the noun form
80여든yu deunsame as the noun form
90아흔ah heunsame as the noun form

(* In addition to the ones shown in the table, there are additional adjective forms, which become the preferred forms in certain contexts.  The additional forms are not included in the table, since the forms shown here are perfectly adequate for all contexts, especially when spoken by foreigners.)

Examples of non-round numbers in this system are in Table 21.  Note that the noun / adjective choice concerns the last syllable only, and all other syllables remain in the "noun form" even when the number is used as an adjective.



Table 21: Examples of Numbers in System 2


Noun FormAdjective Form
11열하나yul hah nah열한yul hahn
23스물셋smool seht스물세smool seh
38서른여덟suh reun yu dulsame as the noun form
57쉰일곱sheen eel gobsame as the noun form
82여든둘yu deun dool여든두yu deun doo
99아흔아홉ah heun ah hobsame as the noun form





Composite System (Systems 1 + 2)


For numbers 100 and up, System 1 is the form most often used in modern times.  Some people, however, perceive System 1 as tinged with foreign (Chinese) colors and not sufficiently Korean, even though the system has been in use in Korea for more than 2,000 years.  Korean linguists and teachers of the "purist" type recommend that, in conversational Korean at least, numbers should be vernacularized (“Koreanized”) as much possible.  For a large number spoken (or written) as a System 1 number, the way to vernacularize it is to convert the portion of the number lower than 100 to System 2 numbers.  The result will be a “chimera” (composite), partly System 1 (for the portion larger than 100) and partly System 2 (for lower units).

Examples are in Table 22.  In the table, the black portions are based on System 1 and the orange portions are System 2 (or vernacular) numbers. 

Such composite forms are often seen in scripts meant to be listener-friendly.  For example, most Korean news anchors take the effort to say all numbers in the vernacularized (composite) form.  Ordinary people, however, nowadays prefer to use the straight System 1 for large numbers, because it is cumbersome to make composites and they don't see foreignness in System 1 any longer.



Table 22: Large Numbers Vernacularized


NumberSystem 1Vernacularized
(System 1 + System 2)
109백구아홉
276이백칠십육이백일흔여섯
2,457이천사백오십칠이천사백쉰일곱