21 – It Never Hurts To Ask 問

(Originally published December 2014)

Many Korean words related to the meaning of ‘ask’ have the sound 문 (“mun” – sounds like “Moon”) in them. This sound comes from the Chinese character 問 which means ‘Ask’. The character is composed of the character 口 which means ‘mouth’, and 門 which means ‘door’. Popular etymologies claim that a gate or door 門 is where you would ask 口how somebody is doing, or question a suspect. Therefore a door and a mouth mean “ask”.


The Korean word for ‘question’ is 질문 (質問 – “Jil-mun”). The verb form (i.e. to ask a question) is 질문하다 (“Jil-mun Hada”).

Example Sentence:

질문 좀 해도 될까요? (“Jil-mun jom hae-do doelggayo?”)

May I ask you a question?

The Korean word 의문 (疑問 – “Eui-mun”) means ‘doubt’. When you doubt something, you are questioning it.

Example Sentence:

그런 일이 가능할지 의문이다 (“Geu-Reon il-I Ga-neung Hal-ji Eui-mun I-da”)

I doubt whether something like that is possible.

The Korean word 문제 (問題 – “Mun-jae”) means ‘problem’ but can also have a slight meaning of ‘question’ as well. The common thing is that both problems and questions have something that need to be answered or solved.

Example Sentence:

큰 문제가 생겼다 (“Keun Mun-jae-ga Saeng-gyeossda”)

“We have a big problem”, or “We’re in big trouble”

The Korean word 설문 (設問 – “Seol-Mun”) means “survey” or “questionnaire”. When somebody does a survey they ask questions.

Example Sentence:

학생들은 모두 설문지를 작성해 달라는 부탁을 받았다. (“Hak-Saeng-Deul-Eun Mo-du Seol-mun-ji-reul jak-seong hae dalla-neun bu-tak-eul badassda”)

All of the students were asked to fill out a survey

Have a word or character that you would like to know more about? Send your questions and comments to newhanja@gmail.com.


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