This article is part 2 of a series called Hanja for Beginners, where I attempt to explain some of the most commonly used hanja in Korean and how they’re used. If you haven’t seen part 1, here’s a link.

Today, we’ll be looking at 10 hanja characters, all of which are tied to the theme of ‘space’.



We’ll start with the most generic one on the list – 지, which is essentially the hanja version of ‘땅’, meaning land/earth. It can be found in a lot of everyday words, such as Earth (as in the planet Earth), 지구, which literally translates to ‘land-ball’. A map, 지도, would be a ‘land-drawing’. An earthquake, 지진, would be a ‘land-shake’ and a region would be 지역, a ‘land-area’. Geography is 지리, literally ‘land-law’ (the laws of the land), and of course, there’s the subway, 지하철 – earth-below-iron, with ‘iron’ referring to the metal train tracks.

Basically, when you see 지, you can assume that it probably has something to do with ‘land’. That, or ‘fat’ (as in body fat), depending on the context.

장 (场), 관 (馆), 소 (所), 실 (室)

These characters are kinda like place markers – their role is to 1) let us know that it’s a place; 2) give us some sort of idea what the place is used for.

장 is usually used for relatively large, open spaces. They aren’t always outdoors, but they usually are. For the sake of simplicity, I’m translating it to ‘field’. Here are some examples – 운동장, sports-field, is a stadium; 주차장, parking-field, is a car park (or a parking lot, depending on where you’re from); and 수영장, swimming-field, is, you guessed it, a swimming pool. It doesn’t always refer to a physical place, either. For example, the word for ‘workplace‘ is 직장, meaning ‘job-field’, and the word for ‘market‘ – not just literal wet and dry markets but also in an abstract sense, like ‘the housing market’ – is 시장, meaning ‘trade/market-field’.

While 장 generally refers to open, outdoor spaces, 관 is indoors, usually some kind of establishment. They’re generally somewhat large, often a building of their own, nicely furnished and well-equipped with facilities. Examples include 박물관, meaning ‘museum‘, literally an ‘exhibit-item-establishment’; 대사관, meaning ‘embassy‘, an ambassador/envoy-establishment; 도서관, meaning ‘library‘, a picture-book-establishment (note that the word 도 here is the same as the one is 지도, meaning ‘map’, from earlier – it can mean both picture and drawings); and 체육관, meaning ‘gymnasium‘, a physical-training/education-establishment.

소 on the other hand, generally refers to places with very specific functions that serves the public in some way. It’s often translated to ‘office’ or ‘centre’. Here are some examples: a 휴게소, rest-centre, is a rest area for public use, like those rest stops located next to highways; 사무소, work-office, refers usually to some kind of administration office or offices of law/accounting firms; 매표소, sell-ticket-centre, refers to ticket booths/kiosks; while 연구소, research-centre, is, well, a research centre.

Also, fun fact – the word ‘장소’, meaning ‘place/venue’, is the combination of the field-장 and centre-소 that we just learned!

Finally, we have 실. Unlike the previous three, 실 is pretty simple and straightforward – it just means ‘room’. There’s 화장실, meaning ‘toilet/restroom/bathroom‘; 응급실, the ER (literally respond-emergency-room, as in ‘a room for responding to emergencies’; 오락실, entertainment-room, meaning ‘arcade‘; 온실, warm-room, meaning ‘greenhouse‘; and finally, 거실, which literally means ‘living room‘.

국 (國)

I’m sure you know this one already – it means ‘country/nation’. It’s in the names of various countries, such as 미국 (America), 중국 (China), 태국 (Thailand) and even Korea itself, 한국. It’s typically found in words that have to do with the concept of a nation, or national institutions. The National Assembly, for example, is called 국회, with 회 meaning ‘gathering/assembly’ (we covered this briefly in part 1). 국민, nation-people, refers to the citizens of a country, while 애국자, a love-country-person, is a patriot. 국제, nation-end, means ‘international‘, because all things international begin at the end of a country’s border.

Spatial Dimensions & Directions

I wanted to cover these in the previous article, but it was getting too long, so I decided to group them with other space-related hanja. I’m splitting them into 2 categories, as follows:

내 (內), 외 (外)

These two are fairly simple. 내 means ‘inside’, the hanja equivalent of 안/속, while 외 means ‘outside’, which is the same as 밖/바깥. They are rarely used on their own, and are instead combined with other hanja to form meanings.

Here are some examples. If you combine them with 실 (room), you get 실내 and 실외, which mean ‘indoor‘ and ‘outdoor‘ respectively. If you attach it to 국 (nation), you get 국내 (nation-inside), which means ‘domestic‘, while putting 외 and 국 together gives you 외국, which means ‘foreign country‘. Add an 인 at the end, and you have 외국인, meaning ‘foreigner‘. There’s also 해외, sea-outside, which means ‘overseas‘.

There’s also the fact that maternal grandparents are called 외할아버지 and 외할머니, which means ‘external-grandfather’ and ‘external-grandmother’ respectively. This is because traditionally, the male side of the family is considered to be one’s ‘main’, immediate family. The maternal side, while technically equal to the paternal side in terms of ‘genetic proximity’, is considered to be more far removed – just one of the many products of patriarchy.

입(入), 출(出)

These two are also fairly straightforward. 입 means ‘to enter’, while 출 means ‘to exit’. Depending on the context, they may also be translated as ‘in/into/inward’ and ‘out/outward’. 입구 and 출구, literally enter-mouth and exit-mouth (mouth being an opening in a wall), mean ‘entrance‘ and ‘exit‘ respectively. ‘Passage‘, the act of going in and out of a place, is ‘출입‘ – you might see ‘출입 금지’ on a ‘no-entry’ sign in Korean, which means ‘exit-entrance forbidden’. ‘Import‘ and ‘export‘, on the other hand, are ‘수입‘ and ‘수출‘, which literally mean ‘send/transport-in’ and ‘send/transport-out’.

That’s it for part 2! I hope you learned something new today. Part 3 is currently in the works – I’ll be sure to update with the link as soon as it’s ready, so stay tuned.

Happy learning!

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