Category Archives: Book reviews

Sogang workbook answer keys for levels 1-4

In the comments section to the review of the Sogang books here on the blog, Walter shared a link to Sogang’s website where it is possible to download answer keys for the first four levels of the Sogang work books.

I thought this was probably too important for many readers to not dedicate a post to it.

Walter shared this link.

While I found a lot of great things in general through the link, I had problems downloading the file from the front page. Instead I was successful downloading from this part of the site. Maybe I made the mistake of asking it to open instead of save as the first time? Either way, asking it to open directly only brought me trouble while it worked the second time when I first saved the zip-file and then opened it afterwards.

In any case, here are the missing answer keys!!! Happy studying everyone! And yet again, thank you to Walter for sharing 🙂

Book review: 100 Korean proverbs/sayings

Basic details:
Title: 유행어보다 재치있는 우리 100대 속담

Level: intermediate

ISBN: 978-89-15-08079-9
Publishing house: Samsung Books (삼성출판사)
Number of stories: 100 – one per proverb

Price: 12,000 원 / $12
Purchased from: twoChois
Click here to be directed to the book on twoChois

Weight: 710 g


Why buy this book?
Proverbs are important in a language, and they help one understand the people who use them. Learning a language without ever learning any of the proverbs associated with it makes for a language learner who may know the words used, but not the meaning behind them in the given context.

I remember when learning Italian, we also had to look at proverbs. One day we were asked to go home and find some Italian proverbs and sayings as preparation for a class. One that I found roughly went “if you steal a little you go to jail, if you steal a lot you have a career”. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this saying, but judging by Italian politics there might be an element of truth to it and to this day I still remember it!


Target audience:
First and foremost Korean children – since it is a children’s book. The book contains 100 stories, each explaining the meaning of a proverb through a story.
This set up means that language learners improve vocabulary as well as learn the proverbs.


The odd observations
It seems that a lot of the characters in the stories are either angry, afraid, or stressed out if judging by the illustrations.
I guess I will know if that holds true once I make it through the book.


Being an illustrated childrens’ book, you will also learn about Korean sounds through the “captions” accompagnying the individual cartoons. There are speech bubles as well as outbursts and sounds such as the sound it makes if somebody hits his/her head against something.


Review: Korean note books

Basic information:
What: Korean note books
Brand: Komatorae / Barunson (

How many pages: 40 pages/book (a.k.a. 20 sheets of paper per book)

Purchased from: twoChois
Direct link to note books: click here
Price: $1/ book. Discount when buying 3 note books.

All the note books are standard school supplies in Korean elementary school.

The one to the far left is the “tiny space” book, the two in the middle are “10 space” and the one on top is a hanja book.

The covers are really cute, but why does everything also have to be so serious? 😉

10 tiny space: 국어 10칸
It’s a bit paradoxal, but the “tiny space” book is actually the one with the largest spaces.
This is a beginner note book for students to practice writing 한글. Each syllable gets its own space and a space is left blank when making a space between two words.
Every 5 lines are numbered although it doesn’t show in this picture.
The paper is similar to the type that the beginner TOPIK is written on albeit the spaces are a little larger and there are slightly fewer spaces per page than on the TOPIK answer sheet.


This note book is good for:
– beginner writers of 한글. More experienced learners might be a little annoyed by the size of the spaces.
– beginner writers of 한자 (who do not have a real 한자 practice note book – see below!), and who would like to have a bit more space than what is offered by a regular note book with lines.

10 space: 쓰기 10칸
In this note book, the large squares are split into 4 smaller ones.


This note book is good for:
– more experienced writers of Korean who write in “regular sized letters”.
– it could be used for TOPIK practice since every 5 (big) lines are numbered so that you know exactly how many syllables you have written.

Hanja note book
This was a present from twoChois 🙂 when they found out that I would like to practice writing hanja, they included a note book that is specifically desiged for that purpose 🙂 정말 감사합니다!

As you see, the spaces are different in this book:

Also, did you notice that even the year/month/day on top of the page is written in hanja?
There is a big space for writing the hanja character, and just beneath it there is space for writing the meaning of the character and the pronunciation.
Example: in the big space you can write: 學, and in the smaller space underneath you can write 배울 (meaning) 학 (pronunciation) 🙂

This book is a great supplement to the hanja book I bought last time on twoChois 🙂

Review: 사자성어 palm-sized flashcards

Basic information:
What: flashcards with Korean idioms based on four character hanja
How many: 580 cards
Number of characters used: no less than 2000
Size of each card: 73mm x 52mm
Language: Korean only (한글/한자)

ISBN: 978-89-6809-008-0

Publishing house: 손바닥공간 (
Publisher: 김성태
First published: 20 April 2013

Purchased from: twoChois
Specific link: click here to be directed to the site for the flashcards specifically.
Price: 20,000 원/ $20

Customs information:
Customs category: book.
Even though they are flashcards, in Korea, these types of cards are considered books (thank you to twoChois for letting me know this) and many students use them to revise for their hanja exams.

When I ordered I was a little worried about getting my parcel through customs since “playing cards” are taxed when imported into the EU, and when you add customs tax, handling fees, and regular VAT, it could add up to quite an expense all of a sudden.
I wrote to TwoChois to ask for their guidance and they were really helpful by writing “educational study cards” on the box they were shipped in. The parcel made it through customs without any fuss.
It was opened for inspection, but they accepted that they were for an academic purpose and didn’t charge me anything. (Maybe they thought “they must be telling the truth, there is no way this is playing cards, who would do this for fun???”).

Structure of complete set:
The whole box is divided into 6 individual decks of cards. Each deck has its own coloured box with a number on it.
In the first 5 boxes there are 100 cards in each. In box number 6 with the stripes, there are 80 cards, a folder with a complete overview of all the cards in alphabetical order (한글) as well as a sort of key ring that can be used to put the cards together if you take some of them with you and don’t want to risk losing one.
All cards are numbered so if you shuffle them or accidently drop them, you can put them back in order.




Let’s look at a card:
This is the very first card (see the little number 1 in the upper right-hand corner?).
In big font you see the hanja and under each character you see the meaning and the pronunciation in smaller font.
In the little boxes under each character you see how many strokes you need to write the character as well as the difficulty of the character.
Also note the little hole in the top left corner. This is where the “key ring” goes.

And the back:


Difficulty levels of hanja:
Levels are counted from higher numbers to lower numbers. A character defined as 1급 is therefore considered to be at a higher level than one which is 4급. The easiest level is level 8. The most difficult one is level 0.
I have no idea why it is defined this way…

Difficulty of the overall box/learner proficiency required:
To me they seem difficult. Chinese speakers are likely to have a serious edge here – even if the meaning might be a little more “poetic” than in regular spoken Chinese.

I think a learner who doesn’t have a background somehow involving knowledge of Chinese or who has less than a solid intermediate level of Korean will be spending a disproportionate amount of time on each card because not only will the hanja be all new, so will the Korean explanation on the back of the card.
These cards teach characters when put together as idioms and having a firm grasp of Korean as well as a basic knowledge hanja will make it infinitely easier.
If up for a challenge, I suppose studying these can be a good way for lower-intermediate learners to expand their vocabulary simply by working their way through the Korean translations of the hanja, but there are probably easier ways to do this – such as just reading a book.

Why even buy these cards?
In all languages there are fixed expressions and proverbs that regularly make their way into our daily-life language. In Korean many of these expressions happen to be based on 4 character hanja. Just as knowing that a regular word comes from a Chinese base can help a learner understand and remember a word (e.g. a “half-man-half-beast” is called 반인반수 and not 반 사람 반 동물), learning idioms will make a learner seem more fluent and help him/her understand expressions heard out and about or in dramas/movies.

That being said, first things first. Seing these cards, I would recommend to first have a good command of Korean, then getting exposed to the concept of hanja, and only then study hanja-based idioms. Of course I cannot speak for everyone, but I think that demanding oneself to learn 580 idiomatic expressions before being able to hold a regular conversation is a recipe for how to grow very tired of idiomatic expressions very quickly.

Book review: Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean

Title: Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean
Authors: Choi Eun Kyu, Kim Min Ae, Kim Sang Hee, Min Jung Won, Oh Mi Nam
Pages: 184 (appendix begins on page 174, index of all characters from page 181)
Answer key for all exercises: in the appendix.

ISBN: 978-89-5995-764-4
Publishing house: Darakwon
Associated university: Language Education Institute Seoul National University
Year: first printed 2007, 2nd ed in 2010

Weight: 410 g
Price: 12,000 won
Bought from
To purchase the book from twoChois: click here to get directed straight to this book.

For pictures, please refer to the pictures on twoChois.

Structure of book:
Overall there is a beginner part and an intermediate part. The two parts are clearly marked in the book as the beginner section has a green border on the top of the page/fact boxes are lined with green while the intermediate part is marked with a blue border along the top of the pages and blue fact boxes.

The beginner part:
The beginner part introduces stroke order, how to search for Chinese characters in a dictionary, as well as of some 10-15 characters per lesson.
The lessons are structured according to topic so that for instance chapter 2 introduces dates and week days while chapter 6 introduces characters associated with the human body.
The topics are structured around the words and topics that beginners should know to have a good foundation for making conversation such as where you want to go, when, with whom, what you do, and the ability to say if you’re hurting somewhere.

The intermediate part introduces compound words, more advanced characters, and readings consisting of both hanja and 한글.
The last two chapters are dedicated to how learners can learn to infer the meaning of a newly introduced character based on “the main radical” such as 灬 or 木
Recognising the main radical is an important skill as it makes it considerably easier to look up characters in a dictionary and just by knowing meaning the main radical, you have an idea of what the new character is related to even before learning the exact meaning.

Suitability for self-learners:
The book is very pedagogically structured by first introducing a topic (which in a class setting you can discuss in more depth of course), then characters associated with that topic, then a little challenge to read something in 한글 but interspersed with the characters you’ve just learned, then a fill-in-the-blanks challenge and lastly writing practice. The chapters build up nicely.
While it would of course add to the experience to have a teacher to speak to and to explain any doubts that might occur while studying, I think that just by having such a clear structure, the book will pre-empt many questions.

“Workload” per lesson:
When working in some books such as the Sogang series, I cannot make it through a full chapter in one go. In this book I am quite confident that I will be able to go through a whole chapter in one sitting.

Dealing with doubts of self-learners:
To me, learning hanja has always looked like a daunting task, but for each character it is made completely clear which stroke comes before another. The stroke order is drawn both when the character is introduced for the first time and in small font on the writing practice sheet so you have a little guide to refer to when writing the characters yourself.
The book does not introduce new grammar, it’s pure vocabulary and the associated hanja. I think this will prevent many questions from arising since you don’t have to worry about the particular nuance of a grammatical tense or something like that.

I should have bought along this book: A Korean notebook
My hanja-writing skills leave a lot to be desired and in hindsight I would have liked to have a notebook that is “suited” for practicing Chinese characters to practice more. Regular note books with lines make the characters seem a little crammed for some of the more intricate characters – at least when written by me.
I will buy some of these for my upcoming hanja-adventure: notebooks from twoChois
These are regular notebooks that Korean elementary students use for 한글 practice rather than ones used for Hanja practice practice specifically (where the first square usually has an upper division for the character and two lower ones for writing the meaning and the pronunciation) but I think they will serve their purpose anyway.

Review: First buying experience with TwoChois

TwoChois is a relatively new online store, and this purchase was my very first from there. For others who have not bought from there before, this is an introduction to my experience with the site 🙂

Ordering process and overall impressions:
Super smooth. Really. You add the things you want to your cart and check out. When you get to check-out, as a first-time customer you create an account with your mail and a password of your choice. You can pay with paypal, credit cards and some options I’ve never heard of before. It took no time, and I experienced no problems. If you choose registered mail, you get the tracking number as soon as it has been assigned – a.k.a. shipped.

Prices are really competitive. I found myself thinking “oooooh, I could also get myself that!” and then decided to rein in my spending urge and stick to one book. For now. I’m considering allowing myself to buy myself a treat every time I finish a Sogang level.
The selection seems to expand every day so I will check in for inspiration quite often and make myself a wishlist for what to buy to celebrate my learning milestones.

I actually ended up paying almost double the price of the book for shipping (choosing the most expensive option since I’m impatient when it comes to my Korean books, I tend to track my orders two times a day as if the parcel would arrive faster for that reason, and the difference between that and airmail wasn’t that much anyway).

The book was $12 (I’m still in awe, I cannot remember the last time I and my wallet got away from a bookshop that easily) while shipping with EMS was $21, but that’s what you get for living on the other side of the globe… Considering the distance this book is travelling, it’s still quite reasonable.

Extra praise
It is possible to look up books not only by category such as grammar/listening/TOPIK, but also by difficulty for regular literature under “books written in Korean”. I think that’s a really great idea since it can be a little difficult to figure out exactly how difficult a book is when you can only see the cover and a few pictures of pages.
Also, if there is a book you’ve been eyeing, you can see app. which level it is and this way know how much work you need to put in before you will be able to read it witout spending a week per page.
If you click to a book from the general overview of all books, you can see on the top of the page which links are associated with that book – basically all links you could possibly have clicked to get to that book. This way you can also see the difficulty of the book. For instance if you look at Reply 1997 you see the following:

Home -> Korean Books -> Reply 1997 (응답하라 1997)
Home -> Korean Books -> Books written in Korean -> Reply 1997 (응답하라 1997)
Home -> Korean Books -> Books written in Korean -> Korea Drama scripts and original pieces -> Reply 1997 (응답하라 1997)
Home -> Korean Books -> Books written in Korean -> Books for advanced level learners -> Reply 1997 (응답하라 1997)
Home -> Books by language -> Reply 1997 (응답하라 1997)
Home -> Korean Books -> Books by language 한국어(Korean) -> Reply 1997 (응답하라 1997)

Categories I would love to see expand/introduced
Drama/movie scripts
Because of the focus on dialogues, these can sometimes seem more accessible than many other types of books. Especially for intermediate learners who are not quite equipped for the regular books, but would like to spell their way through some of the books that some movies or dramas are based on.

This category does not exist at this point in time, but I would do a dance of joy if it were introduced. I have a code-free dvd/blueray player and I would love to buy some of the box sets, but finding them can be a real hassle. As long as there are official English subtitles, I don’t have any preference for whether the dvd’s are made for region 1 (US and Canada) or 3 (Asia). I have yet to see a region 2 (Europe) box set…
Yes, Amazon has some, but for some of the dramas only private sellers have offers, which frankly come across as a bit shady most of the time. It’s just more reassuring if the subtitles are officially listed in the product description rather than in the title (“good English subs”), the cover photo might be part Chinese while official posters from the drama are not, and who wants to pay some random guy $169 for a drama from 2005???
If there were dramas on TwoChois I wouldn’t have second thoughts about placing the order.

Time-lapse: order-to-delivery
Saturday 1 June:
After browsing around TwoChois, I finally convince myself that passing the TOPIK is enough of an occasion to treat myself and buy a new Korean book. Really excited I placed my order after breakfast – which would make it about 16:30 In Korea.

Monday 3 June:
At app. 16:30 Danish time which would make it 1:30 in Korea(!!!): I receive a mail that the order is “awaiting fulfillment” and that it should be shipped Wednesday latest.

Tuesday 4 June:
Morning (4:40 Danish time so about 11:40 in Korea): I receive a mail with my tracking number. The parcel is officially on its way!

Wednesday 5 June:
Morning: The parcel is registered as “arrived” at some international post center in Korea.
Afternoon: The parcel leaves Korea

Friday 7 June:
Noon-ish: the parcel is registered in an international post center in Denmark (I suppose that would be the airport/customs in Copenhagen). From this point it’s up to the Danish post… Let’s see if they can match the Koreans on this one!
Evening: the parcel has left the airport and has been registered in a post center in Copenhagen. It seems it will spend the weekend there…

Monday 10 June:
Eeeeearly morning: the parcel arrives at a distribution center.
Noon: it arrives!