How to Address People in Korean

How to Address People in Korean


The way to address someone in Korean depends on the degree of intimacy between the speakers. I’ve prepared a list of the most common name markers (also called ‘vocative particles’).

This post will give you some basic guidelines and example sentences. Notice that the familiarity (for example, how close the speaker is with the addressee/referent) determines which name marker you choose.


1. Korean name marker (vocative particle): 씨 [ssi]

Korean uses one handy word to cover ‘Mr./Ms.’ 씨 [ssi] is the most common name marker in polite speech and is added to the person’s full name or just the first name. Of course, there is a slight difference between using full name and just the first name. For native speakers, full-name-with-씨 sounds more formal than given-name-with-씨. In most situations, and with more casual acquaintances, just the given name with 씨 usually suffices. [choimirissi]

full name + 씨 : 최미리 [choimirissi]

given name + 씨 : 미리[mirissi]


① to someone you know in a friendly situation

When referring to acquaintances in a friendly situation (either addressing them directly or talking  about them), it is perfectly acceptable to use their first names, just as in English.

Situation 1) conversation with 진혁 [jinhyeok]

진혁는 어떤 일 하세요? [jinhyeokssineun eotteon il haseyo]

Jinhyuk, what do you do for a living?

Situation 2) conversation about 진혁 [jinhyeok]

진혁는 어떤 일 하세요?  [jinhyeokssineun eotteon il haseyo]

What does Jinhyuk do for a living?


② to an unknown person for identification

씨 is a common way to signal the name of an unknown person when calling out to that person. For example, when you are in a crowded waiting room at the hospital, 씨 is the form used to tell you that it is your turn to go in and see the doctor.

최보미, 들어오세요. [choibomissi deu-leo-oseyo]

Ms. Bomi Choi, please come in.


2. Korean name marker (vocative particle): 아 [a] / 야 [ya]

① to a friend of the same age

② to a person who is younger than you


When addressing a friend of the same age or a person who is younger than you, you attach the name marker 아 / 야. If the name ends with a consonant, 아 is attached. If the name ends in a vowel, 야 is used. Always keep in mind that this only occurs with non-honorific and casual speech styles (also called 반말), and tends to occur only with Korean names.

유진, 점심 먹었어? [yujina, jeomshim meogeosseo]

Hey Yujin, have you had your lunch?

지혜, 지금 시간 있어? [jiheya, jigeum sigan isseo]

Hey Jihye, do you have time now?


One more tip for you!


★  The complement particle 이 [i]

I’ve noticed so many Korean learners making mistakes on this part. When a given name ending with a consonant is followed by any kind of marker, 이 should be added between the name and the marker.

Korean first name ending in a consonant + 이 + markers

This complement marker has the same shape as the subject particle (이/가), but it’s different in its function. Keep in mind that it usually occurs only with Korean names, not with foreign names.

어제 효진를 만났어요. [eoje hyojini-leul mannasseoyo]

I met Hyojin yesterday.

어제 스티븐이를 만났어요. (X)

→ 어제 스티븐을 만났어요. [eoje seutibeuneul mannasseoyo]

I met Steven yesterday.

영민가 간다고 했어요. [yeongminiga gandago hesseoyo]

Youngmin said she is going.

레이첼이가 간다고 했어요. (X)

→ 레이첼이 간다고 했어요. [leiche-li gandago hesseoyo] (*This 이 is the subject marker.)

Rachel said she is going.


Reference :

  1. Yeon J, Brown L. Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge; 2011.
  2. Vincent M, Yeon J. Complete Korean (Learn Korean With Teach Yourself): Enhanced Edition. Teach Yourself; 2014.