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So most of us will use books for learning Korean, at least at the beginning. Some people (me) prefer learning from books, while for others it’s simply more affordable and convenient than relying on a stable internet connection.

But dear book reviewer”, I hear you ask “How do I know which books to buy?”

Well that’s what I’m here for.

Here’s a quick review of my top 3 Korean language books for beginners. I’ll be writing in-depth reviews in future articles but this is just to get you started. 

1.Korean from Zero  

Overall rating 4/5

This is a book co-written by 4 authors, 3 of whom are Korean. It starts from the very beginning with how to write Hangul, including the stroke order of the letters, which can be very useful when it comes to deciphering handwriting. The book provides ample space to practice, and in fact encourages writing in the book. 

After this first section, the book jumps right in to 20 starter phrases without any grammar explanations. This isn’t a bad thing as it makes you feel like you’re getting somewhere right away. 

The next section is all about numbers (I confess, I skipped this until I was more confident )and after that we go into the nuts and bolts of grammar and vocabulary. 

The chapters are set out logically, and include pronunciation tips as well as grammar. Example sentences are included, as are “fill in the blanks” type practice sentences. There is a workbook area for each chapter as well as a vocabulary section.

The book includes an answer key for each chapter, a verb reference guide, a map of South Korea, and even some handy Korean keyboard cut outs to use. 

Who is this book for? Total beginners/beginners. 

Good for: people who like to practice a lot of example sentences. People who like plain and simple books. All round learning of grammar and vocab. 

Bad for: listening practice, in depth grammar, people who like lots of photos to accompany the text 

2.비타민 한국어 1 

Overall rating 5/5

This a relatively new book (2017) and differs from many other Korean language books in that it’s mainly written in Korean. 

It starts as the previous one did with Hangul but with less explanations in English and more writing practice of actual words, not just syllables. It includes pictures which are very helpful.

After this chapter, the book settles down to a logical format for each chapter, which is further broken down to 3 sub-chapters-these include vocabulary, 3 grammar points each, and plenty of practice in reading, writing and listening with the included CD.

At the end of each chapter is a review section covering all 9 grammar points, and also a culture section. 

The answers for each section are included at the back of the book, along with listening scripts, grammar explanations in Korean, and an index.

The advantage of this book is that you’ll be seeing and reading and therefore learning lots of Korean right away.

Who is this book for? Total beginners/beginners.

Good for: People who want to read as much Korean as they can from the start. People who like regular reviews and tests of what they have learned so far. Culture snippets  

Bad for: English explanations, quick study sessions 

3.Korean Grammar In Use Beginning

Overall rating 5/5

In my opinion, this is hands down the best pure grammar book in existence. This is the book I reach for any time I come across new grammar. 

The very first chapter explains sentence structure, conjugations of verbs and adjectives, honorific expressions and more. 

Following the introductory chapter, each chapter has a varying amount of grammar expressions, all of which have a common theme. For example, chapter 1 is all about time and numbers. Chapter 13 is  about intentions and plans and focuses on how to express those intentions. 

Each chapter includes vocabulary and grammar explanations and examples. It includes listening practice via the included CD, and does have some writing practice, but not as much as other books. Little “check it out” sections include helpful comparisons of similar grammar forms that can or can’t be used in certain situations.

It includes an answer key and grammar index at the back, and also grammar explanations in Korean. 

Who is this book for? Beginners/lower intermediate. 

Good for : grammar, thorough explanations, in depth grammar study, some listening practice, serious books 

Bad for : vocabulary, people who like a lot of practice sentences, fun topics 

In conclusion, all 3 of these books are useful for beginners. I personally would recommend the Korean Grammar in Use to be used in conjunction with a separate textbook, for extra grammar explanations. I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand alone book to learn from.

Of the other 2 books mentioned today, both are suitable for independent learning and both cover a wide variety of subjects and basic grammar. It really comes down to personal preference. For me, 비타민 한국어 1 has a slight edge, purely for the fact that it’s mostly in Korean, and in my opinion, the more exposure the better.

I hope this was helpful for you and included enough information. My next article will be on the Talk To Me In Korean books 1-2.

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Helena 쌤

I applied the background created by our designer Ayelen. It's so beautiful!  

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Recently, I've been slowly reading Korean poetry.

저는 최근에 한국시를 천천히 읽고 있어요.

I've been trying to practice translating so I translated a short poem.

 저는 번역 연습을 노력하고 있으니까 제가 짧은 시를 번역 했어요.

제가 모르는 단어들 많이 있어서 아래에 썼어요 ㅎㅎ

I had a lot of words that I didn't know so I wrote them at the bottom.

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Does anyone know how to say 'plushy' or 'stuffed animal' in Korean?

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Top 3 Popular Webtoons That Make You Want to Start Over

Today we’ll be going over some Korean Webtoons that will either have you wanting to read again from the beginning, or they will have you thinking about how you can be a better person in your life. This list will include a variety of genres.

Let’s begin, shall we?

1. About Death, by Hyeono and Sini

The link above will give you more information about this webtoon.

Who would enjoy this read: For those who enjoy heartfelt and touching webtoons/stories, this is for you. (Or if you like to cry then this is very much for you. 😅)

Who wouldn’t enjoy this read: If you’re not one for too serious or wholesome topics, then you may not enjoy this read much. 

Personal Rating: 💜💜💜💜💜(Inspirational/ Heartfelt)

Rating on Webtoon: 9.8/10 (6.1 Million Readers) 

About Death is personally my favorite Webtoon that I’ve read in a long time which is why it’s number 1. In each short chapter, we see people of various different deaths, meet God. Whether it’s a murderer's death, a car accident, or natural causes, each story is for sure to keep you wanting to read to the end of each chapter. There are also a few chapters that had me misty-eyed or in tears.🥺

 Each person either lived a horrific life, a busy life, or a life where they only cared for others more than themselves. In this Webtoon, God seemed to have a very monotone wittiness to him, but his personality did show some slight changes depending on each deceased person. 

As someone who is not a very religious person, I loved how the creators showed how many people may have felt whilst going through a tough time and having religion thrown at them. The creators also went over a few topics that many young people these days go through and it was very touching.

 Even if you don’t believe in God or a specific religion in general, I still highly recommend this webtoonThe art itself is very simple and in black and white, which was very giving to the stories that were being told.

2. True Beauty, by Yaongyi

The link above will give you more information about this webtoon/ drama.

Who would enjoy this read: If you like heartfelt as well as funny and cute romance then I think you will love this Webtoon.

Who wouldn’t enjoy this read: If you aren’t interested in romance or don’t have a taste for beauty talk or women empowerment as well then this webtoon is more than likely not for you.

Personal Rating:❤️❤️❤️❤️ (Cute, Funny, Empowering)

Webtoon Rating: 9.6/10 (834.9 Million Readers) 

Where to watch Drama Adaptation: Viki Rakuten

True Beauty is honestly such a masterpiece. I’m sure many of you have already seen the drama adaptation, (I have of course.💅) but if you haven’t read the webtoon then you’re seriously missing so much! 

There are so many points in this ongoing webtoon that I found so relatable. It covers so much about bullying and unrealistic beauty standards. True Beauty follows Im Jugyeong, for the majority of her life, according to her family and most people she is considered “ugly”. That is until she learned how to master the art of ✨ Makeup✨. Now she has men all around her falling in love with her. (I mean I get it. She’s a goddess.✨)

The storyline of this Webtoon shows the really hard parts of young women trying so hard to fit into what their society deems as “beautiful”. We can see the difficulties that Jugyeong must face while trying to conceal the fact that she is “ugly” underneath her makeup. She must hide who she really is in order to be accepted by others. We can also see how exhausting and draining it is for her to keep up with this routine every day. 

As a woman, I was able to relate so much to Jugyeong. Waking up with the feeling of, either I get dressed up and put makeup on, or I can get made fun of for a face I was born with. It really hit home and I’m sure many women who have read the webtoon, (or who watched the drama as well) have felt this at some point. 

It also follows her developing love triangle between Lee Suho and Han Seojun, very complicated but very cute and also funny. I enjoyed reading their development and how much closer they all got quickly. At some point, there is a slight bromance between Suho and Seojun and I found it very adorable. 

Overall, this webtoon made me come to feel better about myself, as well as helped me realize more that we are all beautiful and great in our own ways. It helped change a bit of my thinking.

3. Cheese in the Trap, by Soonkki

The link above will give you more information about this webtoon/ drama.

Who would enjoy this read: If you enjoy lots of drama, a bit of wittiness, and some romance with many twists and turns then you will surely love this webtoon.

Who wouldn’t enjoy this read: If you’re not one who enjoys too much drama, then I highly recommend you not to read this webtoon. (But also, it’s too good to not read. I’ve read it 3 times…)

Personal Rating: 💛💛💛💛 (Juicy, Dramatic)

Webtoon Rating: 9.7/10 (151.8 Million Readers) 

Where to watch drama adaptation:

Movie: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Drama: Netflix, Viki Rakuten

This Webtoon which has also been developed into a Korean Drama and a movie is so entertaining. Cheese in the Trap is one of the most popular webtoons to date. I personally watched the drama before reading the webtoon and I must say, the webtoon is way more in-depth.

Film -

K-Drama -

That’s usually how it goes though, I mean we would have a 4 season show if we went over every detail in the webtoon😂 ! (I wouldn’t mind another season though😪…)

 Cheese In The Trap follows Hong Seol, she has multiple part-time jobs and is overall very hardworking and headstrong. She’s super smart but also really clumsy. (I relate to the clumsy part…😬🤷‍♀️)

 She takes a break from college and when she returns, she has a lot in store for her. From a Mr. Perfect (aka Jung Yoo), who seems to suddenly start being nice to her, to having a frustrating student life and many surprising (maybe annoying) situations thrown in front of her. She comes to believe that everything going wrong in her life seems to be connected to Jung Yoo. 

There’s so much that I want to say about this Webtoon but this is one of those stories where every little detail can spoil the whole thing…

From the intense family drama to the crazy sister, it's great storytelling!

I will say this, if you like plot twists and juicy drama then this is definitely a read for you!

You’ll definitely want to read it more than once.

                                                                                 Closing Note

My favorite thing about all 3 of these webtoons together, is how they talk about so many different factors of Korean Culture. The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. I love that. Something I’ve realized while studying about the culture and the language, is I’ve learned so many new things about the morals and respects of others from another country. It’s a beautiful knowledge to hold. 

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Author of "Please Look After Mom", Kyung-Sook Shin's New Book Soon To Be Released in English

Author Kyung-Sook Shin's "Violets" is her newest work to be released in the English language, and will be out in the second week of April 2022. The book will be released by Feminist Press in the United States, and by Orion Publishing in the United Kingdom. This comes after the well-received translations of her works, "Please Look After Mom" ("엄마를 부탁해", translated by Chi-young Kim), and "Court Dancer" (translated by Anton Hur). 



Just like her previous works, "Violets" is focused on the act of living as a woman. From the official synopsis: 

"San is twenty-two and alone when she happens upon a job at a flower shop in Seoul’s bustling city center. Haunted by childhood rejection, she stumbles through life—painfully vulnerable, stifled, and unsure. She barely registers to others, especially by the ruthless standards of 1990s South Korea. Over the course of one hazy, volatile summer, San meets a curious cast of characters: the nonspeaking shop owner, a brash coworker, kind farmers, and aggressive customers. Fueled by a quiet desperation to jump-start her life, she plunges headfirst into obsession with a passing magazine photographer. In Violets, best-selling author Kyung-Sook Shin explores misogyny, erasure, and repressed desire, as San desperately searches for both autonomy and attachment in the unforgiving reality of contemporary Korean society."

"Violets" is translated by Anton Hur, a prolific translator who also worked on Kyung-Sook Shin's "The Court Dancer" and Bora Kim's "Cursed Bunny". His translation of Kyung-Sook Shin's "I Want to See My Father" will also be released in 2023. 

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Helena 쌤

Nice to see you.

반갑습니다. 여러분.