Songs in Korean: 16 Easy and Catchy Tunes for Korean Learners
Modern Korean culture is rich with colorful, lively songs for getting your singing groove on.
Aside from Korean movies, K-dramas and fun videos, getting into Korean songs might be the most fun way to teach yourself the language.
Music in Korean is 음악 (eu-mak), while songs are called 노래 (no-rae)—and you’ll pick up more vocabulary as you get to know the songs below.
Here’s a roundup of some of the best easy Korean songs for brushing up on your listening skills, with K-Pop and traditional songs included!
- K-Pop Songs that Make Learning Korean Relaxing
- “U&I” — Ailee
- “Lonely” — 2NE1
- “아파” (It Hurts) — 2NE1
- “Fantastic Baby” — BIGBANG
- “눈,코,입” (Eyes, Nose, Lips) — Taeyang
- “양화대교” (Yanghwa Bridge) — Zion.T
- “봄봄봄” (Spring, Spring, Spring) — Roy Kim
- “태풍” (The Eye) — Infinite
- “시간아” (Time) — Nam Woo-hyun
- “어디니? 뭐하니?” (Where Are You? What Are You Doing?) — B.A.P.
- “인연” (Fate) — Lee Sun Hee
- “너를 위한 빈자리” (The Empty Space for You) — Park Yoo-chun
- Easy Korean Folk and Children’s Songs
- What Makes a Korean Song Easy to Understand?
- A Step-by-Step Guide for Learning Korean with Songs
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K-Pop Songs that Make Learning Korean Relaxing
“U&I” — Ailee
Here’s one from someone considered the “Korean Beyoncé.” Ailee herself is Korean-American, and her songs reflect both of her nationalities.
“U&I” rose to the top of charts literally within minutes of its release. It takes on the perspective of an empowered female who stands strong even after a breakup, steadfast in her refusal to give in to the pleas of her ex.
The lyrics feature questions and casual language, including the ever-critical expression of annoyance towards another person: 왜 이러니? (weh ee-ruh-nee?) — “Why are you being like this?” It also makes extensive use of pronouns and possessives, which can help you learn how they work in general Korean.
Another great trait is that there is a good amount of English included. This makes it easy for you to tune in even if you just started listening, but it also gives you a gist of what the song is about.
“Lonely” — 2NE1
With artistic videos à la Lady Gaga, Korean style, 2NE1 is one of the most notoriously unconventional Korean girl groups.
“Lonely” is about a girl who’s decided to move on from her relationship. She’s feeling lonely and sad about hurting her former beloved but realizes that she needs to pick herself back up.
This song will teach you a lot of idioms and structures to express confusion and uncertainty. The lyrics also incorporate various ways of conveying one’s personal opinion as well as verbs to convey different feelings.
“아파” (It Hurts) — 2NE1
The title itself is a must-know term, but the rest of the song is also rich with learning potential. 2NE1 provides a reflective account of an individual wondering about the state of one’s ex-lover. The speaker laments how much they have changed and wishes for a reunion, though it seems that the pain from the breakup is one-sided.
Much of the song’s theme of loneliness is portrayed as questions, so the lyrics can teach you the elements of how to ask questions in Korean. Overall, there isn’t too much advanced vocabulary, and the idioms and expressions used are helpful to know if you want to convey some good, plain bitterness in an observational manner.
“Fantastic Baby” — BIGBANG
This is a must-know for any K-pop lover. With BIGBANG’s penchant for bumping beats and fast-paced action in their music videos, “Fantastic Baby” includes all the hallmarks critical to the genre.
If you’re into learning Korean spoken at a fast pace, this song is certainly for you. You will definitely be polishing your Korean listening skills if you dissect this song thoroughly, as there are some pretty common phrases and cool action verbs. Be advised that the rapping section requires a bit of a honed ear, so you might want to tackle the slower parts of the song first.
Luckily, there is enough English speckled in the song to help you enjoy singing it. It’s best for intermediate to advanced learners, but beginners can have a good time picking the lyrics apart nonetheless.
“눈,코,입” (Eyes, Nose, Lips) — Taeyang
Here’s one for the heartbreak lovers, and certainly, this song is good at more than just teaching you how to say “eyes,” “nose” and “lips” in Korean. As popular as this song is, the lyrics are surprisingly digestible even for Korean language beginners.
Story-wise, Taeyang belts a song of a man yearning for a girl who has already left. The ghost of her presence haunts him, and so he imagines her physical features that he has memorized.
The vocabulary itself is not very difficult and the phrases are simple. Moreover, there are plenty of words that are used repetitively, so you won’t be struggling as much in absorbing new information.
While this song is not as up-tempo as Taeyang’s other songs, it is still reasonably speedy. It would be best to start learning this song with a good look at the written lyrics first, before catching up to the beat.
“양화대교” (Yanghwa Bridge) — Zion.T
Written as a kind of autobiographical account, the R&B/soul-styled “Yanghwa Bridge” reflects on Zion.T’s growth as a successful singer capable of supporting his parents and his visitation to a place that his father used to frequent. It is the song of a child who wishes for familial happiness and health.
Learners of all levels can enjoy this song for its relaxed beat and mild singing. There is nothing overwhelming about the lyrics or the tempo.
The Korean itself is prose-like, so what you hear and read are properly structured. In a way, the song is like a letter, so you can certainly approach it as one when you are analyzing its contents. You can also learn how to say some pretty common phrases (“Let’s be happy” and “Don’t be sick”) in Korean.
“봄봄봄” (Spring, Spring, Spring) — Roy Kim
If you’re tired of all the woebegone, heart-wrenching love songs, this cheery tune of spring and love is for you.
Also known as “Bom Bom Bom,” the song uses some clear-cut Korean in simple structured sentences, making it great for beginners. Roy Kim also offers some mellow, clean pronunciation, so you can easily follow. Besides that, you get a brief encounter with the past tense in the lyrics “봄이 왔네요” (bom-i wat-ne-yo) — spring came.
The song is pretty good overall for learning some easy, endearing Korean, especially if you’re all with Shakespeare in comparing your loved ones to seasons.
“태풍” (The Eye) — Infinite
Infinite combines the hyperactivity of pop with the mellowness of traditional instruments in this song about a breakup that fails to keep the protagonist truly away from their lover. The title refers to the “eye of a storm” that continually sweeps the protagonist back to their ex.
Its lyrics are passionate, poetic and casual. Some of the metaphorical stuff can take longer to unpack, so it helps to try to get an idea of what the words literally mean first.
Another pro is that there aren’t any rapping interludes, and the whole song is sung at consistently average speed. The enunciation of the words is very clear, even if the entire theme is quite emotional. You can also pick up on the multiple declaratives used in the song and analyze them.
“시간아” (Time) — Nam Woo-hyun
Nam Woo-hyun is one of the charismatic singers of the K-pop boy band Infinite.
This 2011 slow solo hit is about a man longing to be reunited with his loved one. He feels pain and confusion as he relives recent memories of the girl he loves telling him that she’s made up her mind that they shouldn’t be together anymore.
This is a song to learn if you wish to convey genuine romantic angst in Korean. It’s very heartfelt, and it features numerous verbs and idioms that convey a range of darker emotions, including pain, nostalgia and chagrin. The connective phrasing also will help you build a sense of fluidity in your speaking.
“어디니? 뭐하니?” (Where Are You? What Are You Doing?) — B.A.P.
In this song, B.A.P. tells a tale of meandering days that feel awkward because of the absence of a certain other. The catchy country-like tune, however, makes the mood more quietly nostalgic.
Its lyrics are uncomplicated, with a few English words mixed in. What’s great about this song is that it also contains some proper grammar, which can be quite lacking in the world of music. Moreover, as the title makes obvious, it includes a core component of any language: the ever-important “where” and “what.”
The song would be good for beginner learners edging into intermediate level, since there are some parts that are faster than others.
“인연” (Fate) — Lee Sun Hee
Used as the theme song for the well-known Korean film “인연” (The King and the Clown), this tells the bittersweet story of a destined love that comes with wistful promises and lingering sorrow. Although it vows reunion between two lovers, you can sense that there is a kind of impenetrable obstacle in the way.
This ballad, written and sung by one of the country’s most beloved female singers, is a celebrated hit with beautiful lyrics that can teach you some of the more poetic elements of the language.
Its style is traditional, so it’s sung in a manner ranging from tempered to striking. The slow and powerful enunciation of each word will make it easy for you to listen and repeat. After the first listen, you probably won’t forget much of what you heard due to the emotional weight (which is great for remembering the lyrics!).
“너를 위한 빈자리” (The Empty Space for You) — Park Yoo-chun
Park Yoo-chun is a controversial but talented Korean singer. Aside from having made it on his own, he also used to be the leader of JYJ, a popular K-pop group.
This song is a part of the soundtrack for the Korean drama “미스 리플리” (Miss Ripley), which became a hit across Asia. It tells the story of a tormented, impossible love.
A hardened bachelor realizes he’s got feelings for a girl he knows loves him. While hoping that it isn’t love he’s feeling, he still does his best to protect her and eventually asks that she move on, but then cries out his love for her.
This song is a fantastic introduction to 반말 (ban-mal or informal speech). It includes numerous declarative and casual sentences to help you gain a grasp of the Korean informal conversational system quickly.
Easy Korean Folk and Children’s Songs
Sometimes thought of as Korea’s unofficial national anthem, “Arirang” is a beloved folk song about a woman complaining of her unfeeling lover. Despite her love for him, he left her, much to her chagrin. The song represents the joys and sorrows of the Korean people and was used as a symbol of Korea’s struggle for independence under the Japanese annexation.
“Arirang” is so famous that the song itself is a must-know. In addition to its strong cultural component, it will teach you numerous expressions and vocabulary for talking about geography and travels, with vivid descriptions of natural landscapes, sceneries and movement.
“산토끼” (Mountain Bunny)
This is probably the best-known kids’ song in Korea, with an easy, catchy tune to help with your studies. Almost everyone in Korea knows this song by heart. The song is about a mountain rabbit hopping around the hills and hiding in the grass to find chestnuts.
“Mountain Bunny” is a great song for learning vocabulary to talk about the animals populating the Korean peninsula. It will also provide a fun introduction to onomatopoeias, as they are included in the song to mimic the sounds and actions of its furry protagonist.
“곰 세 마리” (Three Bears)
“Three Bears” is another popular children’s song that is dearly loved in Korea today. It’s very straightforward, yet incredibly endearing. Despite its simplicity, the song does a great job of proving that there’s no need for elaborate vocabulary to tell a moving story.
“Three Bears” is about a family of bears, each with their unique looks and personalities. They live together in a home. Papa Bear is big and fat, Mama Bear is slim, Baby Bear is cute and they all live happily together.
If you’re looking for a way to learn the basics without pain, “Three Bears” is the right song for you. This song will teach you all the essentials of Korean sentence structure, including word order and roots. In addition, it’s a fun way to learn about the Korean counting system and to pick up some useful Korean words to describe your family and people’s physical appearances.
“갑돌이와 갑순이” (The Story of Kap Do-li and Kap Soo-ni)
This is a romantic traditional Korean folk song that is very famous throughout the country.
Kap Soo-ni, a young lady, and her beloved, Kap Do-li lived in the same village and had feelings for one another. But they never disclosed their love to each other. Eventually, they got married to different people and suffered for not being together.
This song is a fantastic way to learn about reported speech and how it’s structured in Korean. The lyrics don’t just tell the story: Rather, the narrator tells something he’s heard in a moving and accurate way. As a result, every sentence incorporates the patterns of indirect speech.
What Makes a Korean Song Easy to Understand?
- Slow rhythm. True, many songs are catchy precisely because of their energetic groove, but if this makes them too difficult for you, try to pick a song with a more easygoing tempo. This will help you focus more on the lyrics and less on the beat. It’s a good way to cut out distracting musical elements and shift your attention to the Korean language.
- Clear pronunciation and simple language. It’s important to pick songs from singers who have clear enunciation and really pronounce every word thoroughly. Slow rap songs can be particularly helpful because the Korean words are spoken rather than sung. Understanding faster Korean rap songs may prove challenging, however, so focus on those involving slower, clearer language.
- Lots of repetition. Repetition makes it easy for the listener to remember the lyrics without much effort. Ideally, you want to be able to sing a song properly without reading the Korean words. So a song with a great chorus, catchy lyrics and repeated lines should help you get there faster.
A Step-by-Step Guide for Learning Korean with Songs
Now that you have some ideas for a Korean music playlist, our suggestion is to study with a step-by-step method. Here’s an example:
Starting point: Listen to the song with lyrics and translations right in front of you. Follow along and focus not on the beat, but on the words.
Test #1: Record your singing with your phone. Then play it back and compare your version to the original. This is to hone your pronunciation and pick out any problem spots, for which you can listen again to get it just right.
Test #2: Look away from the lyrics as you listen to the song. In the first round, pick out words you recognized and give yourself a pat on the back for them! Note and review what you missed or didn’t understand, and listen to the song again to see if you can catch them for a couple more rounds.
Test #3: Write out the lyrics and/or translations by yourself, with no reference besides the audio itself. This one will be tough, but it actively encourages memory recall and truly tests what you know. The method of retrieval is powerful in ingraining information in long-term memory, so this test will be honing just that for your Korean language skills.
Test #4: Sing the entire song to an instrumental, vocal-less version of it (aka a “karaoke” version). The only help you can have are the entirely Korean lyrics. This is a fun way to end things, but this time, you will be supplied with actual knowledge of what and how you are singing.
Aim for songs of different genres so you can get exposed to different beats and lyrics, and thus, different vocabulary.
As you’re practicing, here are a couple of great resources that you can turn to:
- Naver provides a KR-EN dictionary that lets you bookmark and create playlists with words you come across. This is a great way to learn what’s being said in some of your favorite songs and keep track of every word you come across.
- Another example is the FluentU program, which offers a library of native Korean clips as a way to study the language. Each video offers interactive features—such as subtitles, quizzes, flashcards and more—that help you break down, digest and internalize all the important information that pops up.
Armed with the songs above and these tools, start with a small goal, then advance with challenges that get progressively harder.
Who knew learning Korean through songs was this easy!
We hope you have a lot of fun with these iconic, easy Korean songs, and enjoy your Korean studies.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)