Korean Proverb

There is a proverb in Korea that is “가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다”

Original script: 가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다

Phonetic (Roman) script: Ganeun mal-i gowaya oneun mal-i gobda

Transliteration: If the word you say is good, then the word coming back at you is good

Full translation: What goes around comes around.

Background: My informant is a 23-year-old friend from Korea, identified as J. She remembers this proverb because she thinks it’s applicable to everyday life. J says that she thinks this proverb has the idea that if she were to give someone a compliment, they will compliment her back. And because of this proverb, she tries her best to say nice things to people instead of gossiping behind their backs.


I agree with J on this because it is a common belief that you should treat others the way you want to be treated. I think everyone, regardless of cultural background, should believe in this idea of treating others well because what goes around will come around. Just as some traditions believe in Karma, if you don’t treat others well, you will be punished and have to pay for your actions.