Korean Nursery Rhymes

by Linda McKenna // March 15 // 0 Comments
Korean Nursery Rhrymes

A nursery rhyme is a traditional poem or song for children. <Eeny, meeny, miny, moe>, for example, is a nursery rhyme in the United States and England. As a nursery rhyme has relatively simple and lyrics and melodies, it will be fun to practice Korean by singing a nursery rhyme. Today we are going to learn some of the Korean nursery rhymes!

곰 세마리 / Three Bears [Gom Se-ma-ri]

곰 세마리가 한 집에 있어 [gom se-ma-ri-ga han jip-e iss-eo]Three bears are in a house
아빠곰, 엄마곰, 아기곰 [a-ppa-gom eom-ma-gom a-gi-gom]Daddy Bear, Mommy Bear, Baby Bear
아빠곰은 뚱뚱해 [a-ppa-gom-eun ttung-ttung-hae]Daddy bear is fat
엄마곰은 날씬해 [eom-ma-gom-eun nal-ssin-hae]Mommy bear is slim
아기곰은 너무 귀여워 [a-gi-gom-eun neo-mu gwi-yeo-wo]Baby bear is so cute
으쓱, 으쓱, 잘한다! [eu-sseuk, eu-sseuk, jal-han-da!]Eu-sseuk (strutting), eu-sseuk, good job!

곰 세마리 is one of the most famous Korean nursery rhymes. Children sing this song at home or in kindergarten with dance. As the lyric consists of the grammar structure [Subject + Subject Complement], children can learn how to describe people or things by singing this song.

눈 / Snow [nun]

펄, 펄, 눈이 옵니다 [peol, peol, nun-i op-ni-da]Peol (Large Snowflakes), peol, the snow is falling
하늘에서 눈이 옵니다 [ha-neul-e-seo nun-i op-ni-da]The snow is falling from the sky
하늘 나라 선녀님들이 [ha-neul na-ra seon-nyeo-nim-deul-i]The heavenly Seon-nyeos (Taoist fairy)
송이 송이 하얀 솜을 [song-i song-i ha-yan som-eul]The white cotton
자꾸 자꾸 뿌려 줍니다 [ja-kku ja-kku ppu-ryeo jup-ni-da]Keeping sprinkling (The heavenly Seon-nyeos keep sprinkling the white cotton)

is a Korean nursery rhyme that elementary school students sing in winter. As the lyric contains a metaphor for the snow, students learn how to refer to one thing by using metaphor. You can also see the Taoist influence in the word “선녀,” which is a Taoist fairy (similar to angels in other religions).

솜사탕 / Cotton Candy [Som-sa-tang]

나뭇가지에 실처럼 날아든 솜사탕 [na-mus-ga-ji-e sil-cheo-reom nal-a-deun som-sa-tang]The cotton candy, flying to the branch like a silk
하얀눈처럼 희고도 깨끗한 솜사탕 [ha-yan-nun-cheo-reom hui-go-do kkae-kkeus-han som-sa-tang]The cotton candy, white and clean like a white snow
엄마 손 잡고 나들이 갈 때 먹어 본 솜사탕 [eom-ma son jap-go na-deul-i gal ttae meok-eo bon som-sa-tang]The cotton candy, that I had when I went on a picnic with my mom
훅 훅 불면은 구멍이 뚫리는 커다란 솜사탕 [huk huk bul-myeon-eun gu-meong-i tdulh-ri-neun keo-da-ran som-sa-tang]The big cotton candy, that I blew off

솜사탕 is a song that children sing when they are on picnics or in amusement parks. This song describes the cotton candy and the memory related to it. I feel quite nostalgic when I think of cotton candy. Maybe it is because of this song!

텔레비전 / Television [tel-le-bi-jeon]

텔레비전에 내가 나왔으면 [tel-re-bi-jeon-e nae-ga na-wass-eu-myeon]If I was on the television,
정말 좋겠네, 정말 좋겠네 [jeong-mal joh-gess-ne, jeong-mal joh-gess-ne]It would be really cool, really cool
춤추고, 노래하는, 예쁜 내 얼굴 [chum-chu-go, no-rae-ha-neun, ye-ppeun nae eol-gul]Dancing, singing, my beautiful face
텔레비전에 내가 나왔으면 [tel-re-bi-jeon-e nae-ga na-wass-eu-myeon]If I was on the television,
정말 좋겠네, 정말 좋겠네 [jeong-mal joh-gess-ne, jeong-mal joh-gess-ne]It would be really cool, really cool

텔레비전 is a modern song that got popular in the late 20th century. At that time, television was a luxury, and getting a chance to be on TV was more difficult than now. Soon being on TV became a synonym of wealth and fame. Singing this song, children were dreaming of being actors and singers!

원숭이 엉덩이는 빨개 / Red monkey butt 

원숭이 엉덩이는 빨개[won-sung-i eong-deong-i-neun ppal-gae]A monkey’s butt is red
빨가면 사과, 사과는 맛있어[ppal-ga-myeon sa-gwa, sa-gwa-neun mas-iss-eo]Red is an apple, an apple is delicious
맛있으면 바나나, 바나나는 길어[mas-iss-eu-myeon ba-na-na, ba-na-na-neun gil-eo]Delicious a banana is, a banana is long
길면 기차, 기차는 빨라[gil-myeon gi-cha, gi-cha-neun ppal-ra]Long is a train, a train is fast
빠르면 비행기, 비행기는 높아[ppa-reu-myeon bi-haeng-gi, bi-haeng-gi-neun nop-a]Fast is an airplane, an airplane flies high
높으면 백두산[nop-eu-myeon baek-du-san]High is the Baek-du mountain

원숭이 엉덩이는 빨개 is a song that children sing when playing. This song starts with a word and moves to another word that has similar attributes. Children would modify or lengthen the lyrics for fun.

Conclusion

Today we learned 5 Korean nursery rhymes. Which one was the most interesting? Knowing and singing Korean nursery rhymes will give you an understanding of both Korean grammar and culture. So why don’t you sing Korean nursery rhymes today!

About the Author Linda McKenna

Linda was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the U.S. as a teen. She previously taught at a Korean language school. She is a language enthusiast and loves learning about different languages and cultures