Korean Language Blog

Proverb of the Day Posted by on Dec 13, 2008 in Vocabulary

This is the second post on Korean proverbs in a recurring series of Korean proverbs.  Hope no one is dying of joy!  In Korean, we have what are four Chinese character based proverbs or words of wisdom called sa-ja-song-oh (사자성어).  These four lettered proverbs can be downright strange when they’re translated literally.  Let me show you what I mean with today’s proverb.

Today’s proverb is dong-ka-hong-sang (同價紅裳).  First let’s examine the characters one by one to decipher their meaning.  Dong () is the root word for ‘same’ or ‘similar’ in Korean.  Ka () is the root word in indicate value or price.  Hong () is the root word for red, and sang () is the root word for dress.  Altogether this phrase translates as ‘same priced red dress.’

So…what does this phrase really mean?  Well, to understand it we need to know a little of Korean culture and history.  In olden days, only the rich could afford to buy colorful dresses.  Peasants usually wore white garments.  When you connect this to the Korean proverb dong-ka-hong-sang (同價紅裳), it means that when there are two dresses that are priced the same, it’s going to be a given that one will choose the red dress.

In sum, this proverb is noting the human tendency to pick the better of two choices; provided that they are under the same conditions.  The next time someone offers you a choice between two goods of relatively equal quality or price and one of the choices is better than the other, just say dong-ka-hong-sang (同價紅裳).  You might get a confused look, but at least you’ll know what it means!

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