Originally published October 2017
This month we are going to look at the character 方 which can mean angle, edge, corner, or direction. This character is pronounced 방 (generally anglicized as “bang” but rhymes with “long” or “wrong”) in Korean. This character can be found in many Korean words, and knowing its meaning will help you learn these words.
For example the word 사방 (四方 – “Sa-bang”) means in all directions, or all around.
The first character 四 (사-“Sa”) means four. The second character 方 (방 – “Bang”) means direction. So together the combined word literally means “four-directions”
불이 사방으로 옮아갔다
(“Bul-I Sa-bang-eu-ro Olm-a-gat-da”)
The fire spread in all directions.
The word 방향 (方向-“Bang-hyang”) means direction or way. The first character 方 (방 – “Bang”) means direction. The second character 向 (향 – “Hyang”) means to face. You would use this word when talking about going, pointing, or looking in a certain direction.
그들은 같은 방향을 바라보고 있다.
(“Geu-deul-eun Gat-eun Bang-hyang-eul Ba-ra-bo-go It-da”)
They are looking in the same direction.
The word 상대방 (相對方-“Sang-dae-bang”) is a common word that is a little difficult to explain. It basically means ‘the other person’, or the ‘person opposite of you’ or ‘your ‘opponent’. The first character 相 (상-“Sang”) means mutual. The second character 對 (대-“dae”) means to face or a pair or couple. The third character 方 (방 – “Bang”) means direction. When put together it has the meaning ‘mutual-facing-direction’ or two people facing each other.
그가 상대방을 향해 돌진했다.
(“Geu-ga Sang-dae-bang-eul Hyang-hae Dol-jin Haet-da”)
He lunged at his adversary.
The next two words are confusing because they are just the same two characters but with their order swapped. The word 금방 (今方-“Geum-bang”) means ‘about to happen’ or ‘in a second’ and 방금 (方今-“Bang-geum”): ‘just happened’ or ‘a second ago’. Notice that both words have the same characters, but in opposite order. In both words I think that 방 (方 – “Bang”) takes on the meaning of ‘edge’, like on the edge of something about to happen. The other character 今 (금 – “Geum”) means now. Both words are on the ‘edge’ or ‘now’. 방금 (方今-“Bang-geum”) just happened so it is just before ‘now’ and금방 (今方-“Geum-bang”) is about to happen so it is just after ‘now’. Can you blame me for getting them confused?
One final word that I think is very interesting is the word 지방 (地方 – “Ji-bang”) which refers to essentially any area in Korea that isn’t Seoul- i.e. the provinces. You might use this word to say you were going to the countryside to visit your relative. It can also mean ‘local’ or ‘regional’ as opposed to national or international. The Hanja characters behind the word are just as revealing. The first character 地 지 (“Ji”) means the earth or ground. The second character方 (방 – “Bang”) means direction. So you are literally heading ‘in the direction of the earth’ as opposed to the big city.
그는 지방 교회의 성직자이다.
(“Geu-neun Ji-bang Gyo-Hoe-eui Seong-jik-ja I-da”)
He is a minister of a local church
I hope that learning the character方 (방 – “Bang”) will make remembering all these different vocabulary words easier!
I would also like to say “G’day” as I am writing this article from beautiful Sydney Australia!