If you are walking down a street in Korea, and you are told to “Look at that Dali,” you would be easily confused as to what you’re supposed to look at. It is because “Dali” can mean either a bridge or the legs of a beautiful woman. Likewise, homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but very different meanings. Just like any other language, Korean also has lots of homophones.
First of all, the most common example of a Korean homophone is “Bae.” “Bae” has three different meanings: a ship floating on the sea, the stomach, a pear (the fruit). Thus, if you said “that Bae is pretty!”out of context, then your friend would not understand what you meant. However, in certain contexts or situations, you can easily understand the intended meaning. For instance, in the following sentence, “I am looking at the Bae on calm Han-river,” you can see that Bae used here means a ship. The sentence, “after having a bad egg, I got a Bae-ache”, used Bae as stomach. “This Bae is really delicious!” gives us a sense that Bae used here is referring to a pear.
Another interesting example of a Korean homophone is the verb “Deul-da.” This verb usually has three different meanings. “E-Moon-eu-lo-Deul-eo-ga-se-yo” uses this verb as “to enter.” However, “ga-bang-eul-Deul-eo-joo-se-yo” uses it as “to pick up stuff.” Lastly, in the following sentence, “e-kal-eun-jal-Deul-eo-yo”, “deul-da” means “to work.” “Deul-da” in Korean can have numerous meanings just like the verb “to take” in English does.
Another example of a Korean homophone, is the word“pool.” “Pool” can be either a glue to attach papers or grass on land. “Kim” is also a homophone. “A farmer is kim-me-go-it-da” means a farmer is plowing. “This kim is from that sea” means this seaweed is from that sea. “The window is full of kim” means the window is full of steam.
Though Korean homophones, like homophones from any language, can be confusing to foreigners, they can be understood with reference to context and situation. Also, understanding homophones would prevent you from not understanding the exact meaning of a word when you talk to Koreans.