11 Oct

How to localize a website for South Korea

Like any culture, South Korea has its own challenges and pitfalls that you should keep in mind when you have to localize a website for the Korean market. This post is about the unique challenges I have encountered with my projects. I am aware that there are probably more things that are commonly overlooked.

 

Korean Names are short

The normal lenght of Korean names is 1 character for the last name, and 2 characters for the first name. There are some exceptions, like last names with more than one characters. But keep that in mind when you validate your forms.

Like other asian countries, they also generally write the Last name before the first name. So a typical name Lee Kyung-Su in a standard bootstrap form will look like this:

koreanname

Keep that in mind when you design your signup, checkout or login forms.

 

Addresses are written upside down

Addresses in the west are usually written from small to large entity. In Korea, the order of these is inverted. Here is a comparison.

Name
Street and Number
District
City and Postal Code
State
City
District
Street and Number
Name
Postal Code

 

How do you talk to your users?

In everyday English you only use one form of politeness. “You”. The Korean language has a whole bunch of them divided into levels of politeness and formality. And which form you use to address your customers or users makes a huge difference. The common form to write is the Haeyo-che form also known to English speakers as the polite form. Refrain from using the impolite form, as users will definitely feel offended by that.

Another thing worth mentioning is that you can’t just address your users in the same way you would in English. If your app or website greets the user after login with “Hi John”, that could be a bad idea in Korea as calling someone by his/her first name is much less common and only done if the speakers are either very close, or if the speaker is talking to a child.

 

 Date and Time

The common formats of how dates are written in Korea are:

  • 2015.9.13
  • 2015/09/13
  • 2015년 9월 13일

 

Currency

The official currency in South Korea is the Korean Won. It uses the international abbreviation of KRW or the currency symbol ₩. Prices are written in the format #,###. Often the name of the currency “Won” is written out in Hangul as 원 to show prices. So if your website is in English and Korean, it would be a good idea to display prices a little different. For example like this:

English
₩4,500
Korean
4,500원

One important thing to know is that the Korean language does not use blocks of three to separate numbers. They do have a word for thousand (cheon), but they also have a word for ten-thousand (man). 100,000 in english would be called one-hundred thousand. In Korea on the other hand it would be called ten-man. After that follows one-hundred man, one-thousand man and then one “eok”.

1,000 One thousand 1000 Cheon
10,000 Ten thousand 1,0000 Man
100,000 One hundred thousand 10,0000 Ship (ten) man
1,000,000 One million 100,0000 Baek (hundred) man
10,000,000 Ten million 1000,0000 Cheon (thousand) man
100,000,000 One hundred million 1,0000,0000 Eok

 

If I find more, I will keep posting things here. Or if you happen to know about more Korean localization topics I’m happy to include them here.