Korean food translations become easier for foreigners to understand

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Korea Tourism Organization to publish ‘Standards for Translating Foods in Korea’ in January

  • Published : Dec 30, 2020 - 15:49
  • Updated : Dec 30, 2020 - 15:52

The cover of Korea Tourism Organization's Standards for Translating Foods in Korea (Korea Tourism Organization)
Restaurant owners who are unfamiliar with English may not know how to properly translate Korean foods such as ‘bossam’ or ‘jumulleok’ for their menus, sometimes leading to confusion among foreign guests unacquainted with local dishes.

To cope with such issues amid the rising popularity of Korean food, the Korea Tourism Organization will publish new standards for translating Korean food into English, Chinese and Japanese.

While there were previously no unified guidelines for translating Korean food, local governments or public institutions used to come up with their own translations. This often caused confusion for restaurant owners and foreign customers.

The new standards focused on providing easier understanding of each dish for those who do not know much about Korean food culture, the Korea Tourism Organization said Wednesday in a press release.

Instead of translating the names directly, the standards emphasized the characteristics of ingredients, recipes and flavors and made sure the translations do not cause misunderstandings.

For already well-known Korean foods such as ‘kimchi’ and ‘bibimbap,’ the standards kept the original names and added explanations.

“It is significant that the government and the Korean Food Promotion Institute agreed to use our translations as the new standard,” an official at the Korea Tourism Organization said. “The translations will also be applied to contactless orders through mobile devices and we will continue to revise them for more accurate and easier understanding of K-food.”

The standard translations will be available on the Korea Tourism Organization’s food information website ( in January.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (