The Korean Number Systems

That’s not a misprint above. The word systems is plural, because Korean has two different sets of numbers.

One set of numbers is “pure Korean” and is used mainly for counting. There’s a slight twist to their counting, though. You know how we say “three sheets of paper” or “six bottles of soda?” Korean has similar classifiers to say what kind of things they are counting, and they’re used with nearly everything. We don’t say “three animals of cats” or “fives things of purses,“ but Korean does.

[I’m not covering the classifiers in any detail here; I’m not competent to give a lucid or thorough explanation, and I’m writing this section in a burning hurry as well.]

The other set of numbers is called “Sino-Korean” and is borrowed from the Chinese numbers (or, depending upon your reading of history, was imposed upon Korea by the Chinese). It’s used, among other things, for expressing these concepts in numbers:

You may have noticed that hours is left out of the list. In an absolute schizoid fit, Korean uses the pure Korean words for numbers to count hours but uses the Sino-Korean numbers for minutes.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry would say, “I swear I am not making this up.”

Move onward, please, to see the Pure Korean numbers in all their purity.

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