How to Say I’m Sorry in Korean: 11 Best Ways to Apologize

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

Learning a new language is not easy and adapting to a different culture when visiting a new country does require some adjustment.

Therefore, when visiting a country like Korea, you may make some language errors and cultural mistakes, it is only natural to do so! 

Because of this, learning how to say I’m sorry in Korean will be very useful and the phrase will come in handy when trying to smooth over any mishaps. 

Of course, if you make a mistake that could cause offense, saying “I’m sorry” will not only help to resolve the error but will also provide you with an opportunity to show how polite you are. 

Manners are an important part of Korean culture, so noticing you have made a mistake and apologizing for it is a great way to be humble and polite which will help you when trying to integrate into the new culture. 

Of course, like any words or phrases in Korean, it is important to use the correct level of formality when speaking in different contexts. You do not want to say “I’m sorry” in an incorrect way and cause more offense! 

This guide will break down all the ways to say “I’m sorry” in Korean so you can smooth over any mishaps you have when in Korea no matter the situation. 

I’m Sorry in Korean at a Glance 

  • I’m sorry (formal):  죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida) 
  • I’m sorry (formal): 미안합니다 (mianhamnida) 
  • I’m sorry (standard): 죄송해요 (joesonghaeyo) 
  • I’m sorry (standard): 미안해요 (mianhaeyo) 
  • I’m sorry (informal): 미안해 (mianhae)
  • Excuse me: 실례합니다 (sillyehamnida)
  • Just a moment: 잠시만요 (jamsimanyo)
  • I’m really sorry (formal): 정말 죄송합니다 (jeongmal joesonghamnida)
  • Apology: 사과 (sagwa) 
  • Apologize: 사과하다 (sagwahada)

Common Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean 

Even though the content of this guide is about how to say “I’m sorry” in Korean, you don’t actually need to say the “I” part when speaking in Korean.

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When saying “I’m sorry” in Korean you are simply saying “sorry” with the implied context that the apology is coming from you.  

죄송합니다 (Joesonghamnida) – Formal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

There are two different formal versions of “I’m sorry” in Korean. 

The first version is “죄송합니다 joesonghamnida” and this is the most respectful of the two formal ways to say “I’m sorry”. 

“죄송합니다 Joesonghamnida” is the phrase that you should learn if you only want to remember one version of “I’m sorry” in Korean. 

Of course, you should accompany this apology with a complimentary action. Face the person and bow your head slightly whilst saying sorry. 

미안합니다 (Mianhamnida) – Formal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

The second formal way to say “I’m sorry” in Korean is “미안합니다 mianhamnida”. 

It is mostly down to preference which of the two formal phrases you decide to say but this is slightly less formal of the two so if you are wanting to be respectful but not overly formal this may be slightly better.  

죄송해요 (Joesonghaeyo) – Standard “I’m Sorry” in Korean

Similar to when speaking in the formal form, there are two ways to say “I’m sorry” in standard Korean. 

The first way to say “I’m sorry” using the standard form is “죄송해요 joesonghaeyo”. 

You would say “죄송해요 joesonghaeyo” when you want to be polite but not too informal. 

미안해요 (Mianhaeyo)  – Standard “I’m Sorry” in Korean

The second standard form of “I’m sorry” is “미안해요 mianhaeyo”.

“미안해요 mianhaeyo” can be used interchangeably with “죄송해요 joesonghaeyo” as they are simply different variations of “I’m sorry” with the same meaning and the same level of formality. 

Keep in mind, when saying a phrase like “I’m sorry” in Korean it is common to use an increased level of formality than usual to emphasize the message.

Therefore, it might be better to use the formal versions of “I’m sorry” when you are in a situation where you would usually use the standard forms.  

미안해 (Mianhae) – Informal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

As you may know by now, when you are talking to people of a similar age who you are close to, e.g. friends or family, you will speak using the informal form. 

“미안해 Mianhae” is the informal form of “I’m sorry” that you would use when you want to apologize in a casual way to someone you know well. 

“미안해 Mianhae” is an excellent phrase to learn if you are in a relationship as a way to say “sorry” to your significant other and smooth things over with them. 

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Usually, to reduce a words formality you simply change the conjugation, however, it is important to note that “죄송해 joesonghae” isn’t used as an informal version of “I’m sorry” so just stick with “미안해 mianhae”. 

실례합니다 (Sillyehamnida) – “Excuse Me” in Korean

In English “I’m sorry” is not just used to apologize for a mistake, you can use “sorry” to mean many different things depending on the context of a situation.

So of course it is useful to know different variations of  “sorry” that can be used to say slightly different things. 

You would say “실례합니다 sillyehamnida” when you want to apologize for interrupting someone or when trying to get their attention. 

“실례합니다 Sillyehamnida” translates as “excuse me” and can also be used to say the equivalent of “sorry for interrupting” 

Since “실례 sillye” actually means “discourtesy” / “bad manners,” the phrase “실례합니다 sillyehamnida” directly translates to something close to “I have bad manners”. 

잠시만요 (Jamsimanyo) – “Just a Moment” in Korean

Another alternative expression of “sorry” is “잠시만요 jamsimanyo” which means “just a moment” or “hold on a second”.

You would say “잠시만요 jamsimanyo” when are trying to get through a busy crowd. This phrase will definitely come in handy if you are on the crowded Seoul subway and need to let people know that you want to pass them by.

You can also use “잠시만요 jamsimanyo” when you are on the phone, as a response to someone who is trying to get your attention or to the person you are on the phone with if you are being interrupted. 

Saying “sorry” in these situations is too apologetic so using “잠시만요 jamsimanyo” is a useful alternative. 

Using “I’m Sorry” in a Sentence

Sometimes saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough and you may want to be a bit more specific about what you are apologizing for. 

Here is a simple breakdown of how to include “sorry” in a sentence in Korean. 

Add “sorry” to the end of a sentence:

When you want to say “I’m sorry that I am …” you would use the following structure.

  • -아/어서 죄송합니다 (a/eoseo joesonghamnida)
  • For example:늦어서 죄송합니다 (neujeoseo joesonghamnida) = I’m sorry that I am late.

Add sorry to the beginning of a sentence:

You could also add the word “sorry” to the start of a sentence to preface an explanation.

  •  죄송하지만… (joesonghajiman)
  • Example: 죄송하지만 못 가요 (joesonghajiman mot gayo) = I’m sorry but I can’t go.

Adding “sorry” to the start of a sentence is also a common way to ask for a favor in Korean

  • 죄송한데… (joesonghande)
  • Example: 죄송한데 사진 좀 찍어 주시겠어요? (joesonghande sajin jom jjigeo jusigesseoyo) = I’m sorry, but could you take a picture for me, please?
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How to Say “I’m really sorry” in Korean

When you want to be extra apologetic about something a simple “I’m sorry” may not be enough to express just how sorry you are. 

Adding “정말 jeongmal” which means “really” is the perfect word to emphasize your apology when you have done someone you are really sorry about. 

Listed below are the different ways to say “I’m really sorry” in Korean in both the standard and formal forms. 

Formal:

  • 정말 죄송합니다 (jeongmal joesonghamnida)
  • 정말 미안합니다 (jeongmal mianhamnida )

For example: “불편을 드려서 정말 죄송합니다(bulpyeoneul deuryeoseo jeongmal joesonghamnida” = “I’m really sorry for the inconvenience”

Standard:

  • 정말 죄송해요 (jeongmal joesonghaeyo)
  • 정말 미안해요 (jeongmal mianhaeyo)

For example:

“그 문제에 대해서는 정말 미안해요 geu munjee daehaeseoneun jeongmal mianhaeyo” = “I’m really sorry about that”

Other Related Words to “I’m Sorry” in Korean

Other useful words related to “I’m sorry” that may be useful to add to your vocabulary are listed below. 

“Apology” in Korean

The Korean word for “apology” is “사과 sagwa” which actually also means “apple” in Korean 

Luckily when you use “사과 sagwa” it will always be simple to tell what you mean due to the context of a situation or sentence. 

Look at the example sentences below.

“Please accept my apology” = “제 사과를 받아주세요. je sagwareul badajuseyo”

“I don’t need an apology” = “사과는 필요 없어요. sagwaneun piryo eopseoyo”

“To apologize” in Korean

It is very simple to create the verb “to apologize” in Korean. 

Simply take the word “사과 sagwa” and add the verb “하다 hada” meaning “to do” to create “사과하다 sagwahada” which is “to apologize” or “to do an apology”. 

You would use “apologize” like any verb and conjugate it based on the formality level you wish to use. 

For example:

“Apologize to him right now” = “지금 당장 그에게 사과해요 jigeum dangjang geuege sagwahaeyo”

“I should apologize for the rudeness” = “내 무례함에 대해 사과해야겠어요 nae muryehame daehae sagwahaeyagesseoyo”

How to Say I’m Sorry in Korean – Video Guide

I’m Sorry in Korean – Final Thoughts

Now you should know all the different ways to say “sorry” in Korean, for different levels of formality, and for different situations.

Obviously, it is important to remember to be respectful and extra polite when apologizing, as you would in any language, so using a more formal form of “sorry” is usually best. 

Adding this vital word to your vocabulary will increase your confidence in attempting to speak more Korean and not being afraid of making mistakes. 

Since “I’m sorry” can be used in different ways than it is in English, the best way to perfect your apologizing skills is to experience Korean conversations in TV and movies or even in real life, and see how “sorry” is used in everyday Korean life

Want an easier way to practice and learn Korean? Check out our comprehensive guide on the best app to learn Korean.

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