Korean Language – Simple Phrases for greeting your Instructor.


To simply say “congratulations,” it is pronounced like this:

축하 해요 chukha haeyo (pronounced phonetically like: chewk-hah hae-yo)

However, this might be more of a casual term among friends (contemporaries).

From a junior to a senior, I think it might be more appropriate to say this.

축하합니다 chukha hamnida (chewk-hah hahm-nee-dah)

If you are going to add the term for his instructor title, it should probably come first in the sentence, since this is the Korean speech pattern.

If he/she is the head of a dojang, “sabeomnim” (sah-buhm-nim) would be appropriate.

Example: “Sabeomnim chukha hamnida!” (Instructor, Congratulations!)

If he is a Grandmaster, then Kwanjangnim (Kwahn-jahng-nim), would be more appropriate.

Example: “Kwanjangnim chukha hamnida!” (Grandmaster, Congratulations!)

As with any language, there are multiple meanings for each word. It is helpful to note the origin of each, and also their similar usage recurring in other words.

In this context, the Korean term “Bu” is used to mean “vice” as in the following examples

President (national) 대통령 Daetongryeong (Dae-tong-ryeong)
Vice President (national) 부통령 Butongryeong (Bu-tong-ryeong)

President (company or firm) 사장 Sajang (Sa-jang)
Vice President (company or firm) 부총장 Buchongjang (Bu-chong-jang)

Principal (school master/headmaster) 교장 Kyojang (Kyo-jang)
Vice Principal 부교장 Bukyojang (Bu-kyo-jang)
University President 총장 Chongjang (Chong-jang)
Dean of a University 학부장 Hakbujang (Hak-bu-jang)

The Korean term “jang” appears in several of the above titles, and is used to denote a “chief executive” or “General.”

General or Chief 장 Jang (pronounced “jahng”)

Just as in English and many other languages, Korean words often do have multiple meanings depending on how they are used.

In this case, the word “jang” is spelled and pronounced the same in both terms, but in one context it is used as the title of a person, and the other to denote each form in the series of poomsae.

It is also used in the word dojang (도장) to mean a hall or gym.
The word “Kwan” is often interpreted as a “school” but actually has roots in the Korean expression for a family or clan.

A family relation 가족관계 Kajokkwankye (Ka-jok-kwan-kye – pronounced “Kah-joke-kwahn-kyay”)

A family or clan under one leader 관 Kwan (pronounced “Kwahn”)

Head of a family or clan 관장 Kwanjang (Kwan-jang)

In the early development of Taekwondo, each school followed a curriculum that was unique to its founder. The family of students and Black Belt instructors were known as a Kwan, and the founder, leader, or head of the Kwan is known as the Kwanjang. As time progressed, and Black Belt graduates sought to open their own schools, they either did so under the name of their Kwan, or they branched off and started an annexed Kwan. Beginner Black Belts were simply Assistant Instructors (Jogyo / Jogyonim), or full Instructors (Gyosa / Gyosanim). However, in order to be qualified to open a dojang affiliated with your Kwan, the Instructor must have reached the level of “Master” (Sabeom / Sabeomnim). Many of these terms are used different in every day language in Korea, but were applied to specific titles in the Korean Taekwondo.

Master Instructor 사범 Sabeom (Sa-beom – pronounced “Sah-buhm”)
Master Instructor (honorific form) 사범님 Sabeomnim (Sa-beom-nim)

“Sabeom” could just be used as a name for a teacher, but usually means one that is highly skilled, or mastered a subject. In Taekwondo, the Sabeomnim is the Headmaster, or Senior Instructor in charge of a Dojang. Each Dojang is part of the

Kwan, and the students and their Sabeom all follow the head of the Kwan – the “Kwanjang” (honorific: “Kwanjangnim”). Today, some schools and organizations use these terms differently, so there are exceptions to the rule, and students should follow the terminology of their Instructor, but there are some Instructors who have not studied the Korean language, and don’t really know the meaning or correct spelling and pronunciation of the terms.

Each Kwan has only one leader (Kwangjangnim), however it might be the case where your organization uses the term “Bu Kwangjangim” to refer to a Grandmaster within your organization who is not the founder or current leader.


When speaking the Korean language, one must always be aware of the status of the person to whom you are speaking, or about whom you are talking. Age has a great deal to do with seniority, but individual status, job title, governmental positions, etc., all hold a higher level of respect. The term “nim” ( ) is actually a suffix added to a person’s title to indicate that you are a junior addressing a senior (elder person, boss, or someone of higher status). It basically means “sir” or “ma’am.” As an example In terms of English language comparison, if you worked at a company where there was a foreman, the owner of the company is the most senior, the foreman in the middle, and the employees at the bottom. The owner would refer the foreman simply as “foreman.” However, an employee would never call their foreman as “foreman,” but would say “foreman, sir” every time they spoke to him.

In Taekwondo, the Kwanjangnim (head of a Kwan or association) might call a school owner “Sabeom,” (사범) because the “Master” of the school is his junior, therefore the Kwanjangnim does not use the suffix “nim” when speaking to his junior. However, students of the school would address their school Master using the honorific form of “Sabeomnim” (사범님“Master, sir” or “ma’am”). The “nim” suffix is added when you are talking to, or about your senior, but is not used if you are the senior talking to or about your junior. I call the assistant instructors at my dojang “jogyo” (조교 – joe-gyoe), and the instructors “gyosa” (교사 – gyoe-sah) However, the students would refer to the assistant instructors as “jogyonim,” and the instructors as “gyosanim.”

Any junior is referred to as “hubae” (후배 – who-bae), and a senior is called “seonbaenim” (선배님 – suhn-bae-nim).

Blue Knight

Chief Master Darwin J. Eisenhart – Taekwondo 7th Dan with the United States Chung Do Kwan Association