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Counting Numbers in Korean

This article explains how to count numbers and money in Korean.


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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 1 System 2
Origin Related 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.
Usage Preferred 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
0 1 - 10 11 - 19 20 - 99 100 - 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)


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




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


Number Korean Pronunciation Words
to
Combine
11 십일 sib-eel 10 & 1
12 십이 sib-ee 10 & 2
13 십삼 sib-sahm 10 & 3
14 십사 sib-sah 10 & 4
15 십오 sib-oh 10 & 5
16 십육 sib-yook 10 & 6
17 십칠 sib-chil 10 & 7
18 십팔 sib-pahl 10 & 8
19 십구 sib-goo 10 & 9
20 이십 ee-sib 2 & 10
21 이십일 ee-sib-eel 2 & 10 & 1
22 이십이 ee-sib-ee 2 & 10 & 2
23 이십삼 ee-sib-sahm 2 & 10 & 3
30 삼십 sahm-sib 3 & 10
35 삼십오 sahm-sib-oh 3 & 10 & 5
70 칠십 chil-sib 7 & 10
77 칠십칠 chil-sib-chil 7 & 10 & 7
90 구십 goo-sib 9 & 10
98 구십팔 goo-sib-pahl 9 & 10 & 8
99 구십구 goo-sib-goo 9 & 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


Number Korean Pronunciation Words
to
Combine
100 bag 100
일백 eel-bag 1 & 100
200 이백 ee-bag 2 & 100
300 삼백 sahm-bag 3 & 100
400 사백 sah-bag 4 & 100
500 오백 oh-bag 5 & 100
600 육백 yook-bag 6 & 100
700 칠백 chil-bag 7 & 100
800 팔백 pahl-bag 8 & 100
900 구백 goo-bag 9 & 100
1,000 chun 1,000
일천 eel-chun 1 & 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


Number Korean Pronunciation Words
to
Combine
101 백일 bag-eel 100 & 1
102 백이 bag-ee 100 & 2
103 백삼 bag-sahm 100 & 3
109 백구 bag-goo 100 & 9
110 백십 bag-sib 100 & 10
111 백십일 bag-sib-eel 100 & 10 & 1
118 백십팔 bag-sib-pahl 100 & 10 & 8
120 백이십 bag-ee-sib 100 & 2 & 10
125 백이십오 bag-ee-sib-oh 100 & 2 & 10 & 5
199 백구십구 bag-goo-sib-goo 100 & 9 & 10 & 9
201 이백일 ee-bag-eel 2 & 100 & 1
234 이백삼십사 ee-bag-sahm-sib-sah 2 & 100 & 3 & 10 & 4
358 삼백오십팔 sahm-bag-oh-sib-pahl 3 & 100 & 5 & 10 & 8
360 삼백육십 sahm-bag-yook-sib 3 & 100 & 6 & 10
540 오백사십 oh-bag-sah-sib 5 & 100 & 4 & 10
685 육백팔십오 yook-bag-pahl-sib-oh 6 & 100 & 8 & 10 & 5
812 팔백십이 pahl-bag-sib-ee 8 & 100 & 10 & 2
907 구백칠 goo-bag-chil 9 & 100 & 7
998 구백구십팔 goo-bag-goo-sib-pahl 9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 8
999 구백구십구 goo-bag-goo-sib-goo 9 & 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


1,000 chun
10,000 mahn


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


Table 10: Thousands


Number Korean Pronunciation Words
to
Combine
1,000 chun 1,000
2,000 이천 ee-chun 2 & 1,000
3,000 삼천 sahm-chun 3 & 1,000
9,000 구천 goo-chun 9 & 1,000
10,000 mahn 10,000


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


Number Korean Pronunciation Words to Combine
1,001 천일 chun-eel 1,000 & 1
2,003 이천삼 ee-chun-sahm 2 & 1,000 & 3
2,054 이천오십사 ee-chun-oh-sib-sah 2 & 1,000 & 5 & 10 & 4
3,009 삼천구 sahm-chun-goo 3 & 1,000 & 9
3,857 삼천팔백오십칠 sahm-chun-pahl-bag-oh-sib-chil 3 & 1,000 & 8 & 100 & 5 & 10 & 7
6,300 육천삼백 yook-chun-sahm-bag 6 & 1,000 & 3 & 100
9,781 구천칠백팔십일 goo-chun-chil-bag-pahl-sib-eel 9 & 1,000 & 7 & 100 & 8 & 10 & 1
9,999 구천구백구십구 goo-chun-goo-bag-goo-sib-goo 9 & 1,000 & 9 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 9
10,000 mahn 10,000




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)


Number Korean Pronunciation Words
to
Combine
10,000 mahn 10,000
20,000 ee-mahn 2 & 10,000
30,000 sahm-mahn 3 & 10,000
100,000 sib-mahn 10 & 10,000
200,000 이십 ee-sib-mahn 2 &10 & 10,000
500,000 오십 oh-sib-mahn 5 & 10 & 10,000
1,000,000 bag-mahn 100 & 10,000
5,000,000 오백 oh-bag-mahn 5 & 100 & 10,000
10,000,000 chun-mahn 1,000 & 10,000
50,000,000 오천 oh-chun-mahn 5 & 1,000 & 10,000
90,000,000 구천 goo-chun-mahn 9 & 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)


Number Korean Words to Combine
11,000 10,000 & 1,000
20,000 2 & 10,000
26,000 육천 2 & 10,000 & 6 & 1,000
90,000 9 & 10,000
99,000 구천 9 & 10,000 & 9 & 1,000
100,000 10 & 10,000
103,000 삼천 10 & 10,000 & 3 & 1,000
200,000 이십 2 & 10 & 10,000
204,000 이십 사천 2 & 10 & 10,000 & 4 & 1,000
264,000 이십육 사천 2 & 10 & 6 & 10,000 & 4 & 1,000
900,000 구십 9 & 10 & 10,000
1,000,000 100 & 10,000
7,000,000 칠백 7 & 100 & 10,000
10,000,000 1,000 & 10,000
20,000,000 이천 2 & 1,000 & 10,000
83,000,000 팔천삼백 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000
83,700,000 팔천삼백칠십 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 10,000
83,750,000 팔천삼백칠십오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000
83,752,000 팔천삼백칠십오 이천 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
80,752,000 팔천칠십오 이천 8 & 1,000 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
80,052,000 팔천오 이천 8 & 1,000 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
80,002,000 팔천 이천 8 & 1,000 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
99,999,000 구천구백구십구 구천 9 & 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


Number Korean Words to Combine
83,752,000 팔천삼백칠십오 이천 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000
83,752,100 팔천삼백칠십오 이천백 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100
83,752,190 팔천삼백칠십오 이천백구십 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 9 & 10
83,752,195 팔천삼백칠십오 이천백구십오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,752,105 팔천삼백칠십오 이천백오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 5
83,752,005 팔천삼백칠십오 이천오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 5
83,750,005 팔천삼백칠십오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 5 & 10,000 & 5
83,700,005 팔천삼백칠십 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 7 & 10 & 10,000 & 5
83,000,005 팔천삼백 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 5
83,000,000 팔천삼백 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000
83,000,095 팔천삼백 구십오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,000,195 팔천삼백 백구십오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,002,195 팔천삼백 이천백구십오 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 2 & 1,000 & 100 & 9 & 10 & 5
83,000,005 팔천삼백 8 & 1,000 & 3 & 100 & 10,000 & 5
99,999,999 구천구백구십구 구천구백구십구 9 & 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


Number Korean Words to Combine
100,000,000 100,000,000
200,000,000 2 & 100,000,000
900,000,000 9 & 100,000,000
935,000,000 삼천오백 9 & 100,000,000 & 3 & 1,000 & 5 & 100 & 10,000
1,000,000,000 10 & 100,000,000
5,000,000,000 오십 5 & 10 & 100,000,000
10,000,000,000 100 & 100,000,000
43,590,000,000 사백삼십오 구천 4 & 100 & 3 & 10 & 5 & 100,000,000 & 9 & 1,000 & 10,000
50,000,000,000 오백 5 & 100 & 100,000,000
100,000,000,000 1,000 & 100,000,000
500,000,000,000 오천 5 & 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


43,592,800,000 사백삼십오 구천이백팔십
43,592,844,121 사백삼십오 구천이백팔십사 사천백이십일
536,228,406,117 오천삼백육십이 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
15,000,000,000,000 십오
35,218,463,000,000 삼십오 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 Form Adjective Form*
1 하나 hah nah hahn
2 dool doo
3 seht seh
4 neht neh
5 다섯 dah suht same as the noun form
6 여섯 yu suht same as the noun form
7 일곱 eel gob same as the noun form
8 여덟 yu dul same as the noun form
9 아홉 ah hob same as the noun form
10 yul same as the noun form
20 스물 smool 스무 smoo
30 서른 suh reun same as the noun form
40 마흔 mah heun same as the noun form
50 sheen same as the noun form
60 예순 yeh soon same as the noun form
70 일흔 eel heun same as the noun form
80 여든 yu deun same as the noun form
90 아흔 ah heun same 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 Form Adjective Form
11 열하나 yul hah nah 열한 yul hahn
23 스물셋 smool seht 스물세 smool seh
38 서른여덟 suh reun yu dul same as the noun form
57 쉰일곱 sheen eel gob same as the noun form
82 여든둘 yu deun dool 여든두 yu deun doo
99 아흔아홉 ah heun ah hob same 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


Number System 1 Vernacularized
(System 1 + System 2)
109 백구 아홉
276 이백칠십육 이백일흔여섯
2,457 이천사백오십칠 이천사백쉰일곱