Increasing your reading comprehension in Korean is one of the biggest challenges that any Korean language learner faces. Why? For one, reading in a new language is undeniably difficult. And if you don’t love reading to begin with, you might be even less interested in studying in a way that you don’t enjoy.
But for students who are teaching themselves or trying to augment their in-class studies, the biggest issue actually lies in figuring out what to read — and where you can get it. Finding resources like beginner level stories to practice your Korean can be really, really hard.
It’s even harder when your Korean level isn’t high enough to search through Korean-language sites. You might not even know what you’re looking at because your vocabulary is limited. I’ve been there; I’ve done that. I’ve battled through those language learning trenches, which is why I’m here to tell you the good news: There are many different ways to find resources to increase your Korean skills through reading!
And here they are. Happy reading!
Korean Reading Practice for Beginners
This site was created by another Korean language learner, and it comes with a cute, simple, and easy to understand webcomics, or online comic that includes English translations and footnotes on basic vocabulary and culture. If you’re brand new to studying Korean and already can read 한글, then you should check this out.
If you’ve studied Korean on your own, you’ve probably run into this webtoon at one point or another. But if you’re new to self-studying, you might not have heard of Penguin loves Mev, a fantastic resource for beginners to intermediate level Korean students.
Penguin loves Mev follows the adorable antics and daily life of a married couple; the husband is British and the wife is Korean. And it’s based on reality! The webtoon’s creator is none other than the Korean wife, who goes by the nickname Penguin. She started Penguin loves Mev to chronicle their adventures as a multicultural couple.
Part of what makes the webtoon so fun for beginners is its simplicity. Will there be lots of words that you don’t know? Yes! That’s the point. You can’t learn unless you’re introduced to things that you don’t know. But the words are used in very simple sentences, and Mev, the British husband, is learning Korean, too — so you’re not alone.
Many people underestimate the resources at their disposal at their local library. Of course, depending on where you live, these may indeed be quite limited. But you don’t know until you try, do you? Have you ever asked the librarian if they have any books about Korea? What about children’s books written in Korean?
Despite how well-endowed my childhood library was, I was amazed to discover that they had dozens of Korean-language children’s books. Including books that I’d read as a kid in English! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Go check out the libraries near you!
Intermediate Level Reading Resources
If reading Penguin Loves Mev is only slightly challenging for you because you don’t know all the vocabulary, then you should be challenging yourself with new material. And you’re in luck — the online world is packed with webtoons that are updated every single day. You just need to find one that interests you while still being difficult enough that you have to look up a fair amount of words or grammar.
If you feel overwhelmed by looking at the vast supply of reading material provided for free on Naver Webtoons, you’re not alone. It can be intimidating to parse through so many different genres, art styles, story designs, and more. And to make matters worse, the first several webtoons you try will probably make you feel like you tried more challenging reading material too soon.
You didn’t. Trust me. The fact that it’s challenging is a good thing, so here are some recommendations for where to start:
- 대학 일기 (College Diary): If you’re looking for humorous, very brief episodes with fun and relatable content about college life, this is the webtoon for you. College Diary is snarky, entertaining, and challenging enough to make you open your dictionary app, but easy enough that you’ll feel smart reading it. Read 대학 일기 here.
- 스피릿 핑거스 (Spirit Fingers): If you have any interest in reading one of the best webtoons of all time, read this. It’s a masterpiece. Spirit Fingers combines gorgeous artwork, a stellar plot, a cast of highly relatable and complex characters, and the cutest friendship and romance stories (that’s right: stories) of all time. Also, as this is solely dialogue-based, you’ll practice reading natural spoken Korean and even pick up slang. If you like this, the creator has a few other webtoons. I recommend checking out 꿈꾸는 소녀, 소년 (A Dreaming Girl, A Dreaming Boy), a shorter story about friendship and overcoming your fears. Read 스피릿 핑거스 here.
- My Freaky Housemate (간 떨어지는 동거): Are you a fan of gumiho roomates and unlikely romances? Do you like ridiculous co-habitation plots in Korean dramas and a self-empowered female lead who lives life in her own way? You need to start reading this webtoon immediately. Be patient — the romance doesn’t start immediately, but it builds in clever and subtle way while entertaining you with lots of other amusing scenes. Before you know it, you’ll be addicted. This webtoon is better for upper intermediate readers or people who really want to challenge themselves. While it’s dialogue-based and thus the overall plot is easy enough to follow, a fair amount of the additional comic-esque notes in the margins consist of more complex Korean words. Read 간 떨어지는 동거 here.
Practice for Advanced Korean Readers
If you’re an advanced reader, do you really need my help? Maybe, maybe not. I have studied Korean for over a half-dozen years, and only recently did I discover the first of these fantastic resource for reading Korean novels (see below).
What about you? Like me, you’ve read the webtoons. You’ve pored over the websites. You’ve read the free resources online a hundred times. You’ve downloaded far too many annoying security programs in order to access Korean sites that still refuse to cooperate with you. You want an actual, legitimate, full-on novel, and you don’t want to wait two months to get it in the mail.
So, you’ve hunted high, and you’ve hunted low, and yet you still can’t get your hands on that specific Korean novel that you want without shelling out a shipping fee that’s often two to three times the cost of the book itself. Teaching yourself a language isn’t supposed to be this expensive, is it?
But today, you’re in luck.
As complicated and as frustrating as Korean websites can be, there’s a fairly simple way to start reading Korean e-books for typical e-book prices in under an hour. All you need is your email, PayPal, and a phone or laptop. You don’t even need a special e-reader device. Just follow these directions:
- How to Buy Korean Ebooks Part I: Creating a Kyobo Bookstore Account
- How to Buy Korean Ebooks Part II: Adding Money to Your Kyobo Bookstore Account
Like the Naver Webtoon app, Series provides free access (with ads) to Korean-language content. However, most of the stories only have the first few chapters available for free; the rest are usually accessible for a small fee, just as some completed webtoons or early-access episodes are on the Naver Webtoon app.
The other downside is that the material on Series seems to be quite limited to romance stories or more adult content, so if you’re looking to read about Korean history or other non-fiction topics, you’re better off checking out ebooks via Kyobo Bookstore.
There are far more resources than the ones listed above, but these are my recommendations based on my own reading practice. Do you have any resources that you love that aren’t listed above? Tell me about them in the comments!
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