A Beginner’s Guide to Saying Happy Birthday in Korea

how to say happy birthday in korean

Whether you’re wishing someone a happy birthday in person or through text, social media, or email, there are some common phrases that are used to express this sentiment. 

“Sae hae bok mani bada-yo” (새해 복 많이 받아요) is the formal version of saying “Happy Birthday” in Korean, which literally translates to “May you receive lots of blessings in the new year.” Additionally, it’s common for Koreans to say “Saeng il chukka hamnida” (생일 축하 합니다) which translates to “Happy Birthday.”

In this beginner’s guide, you’ll learn the basics of how to say “happy birthday” in Korean and get helpful tips for making the most of your newly acquired language- saying happy birthday in Korea. With our help, you’ll be wishing your Korean friend a happy birthday in Korean like a pro!

How to Say Happy Birthday in Korea

How to Say HAPPY BIRTHDAY in Korean | 90 Day Korean

“Happy Birthday” is said as “saeng-il chukha hamnida” in Korean. It directly translates to “this year, happy birthday.” 

Other ways to wish someone a happy birthday include “saeng-il bun mani baduseyo,” which means “happy birthday a lot,” and “saeng-il mani manse,” which means “many happy returns.” 

But regardless of the words you choose, make sure to add in some extra politeness by saying “chuseyo” at the end of your phrase. 

So go ahead and surprise your Korean friends or family members by wishing them a happy birthday in their language! 

Not only will it make them feel special, but it also shows that you put in the effort to learn about and appreciate their culture.

History of Birthday Celebrations in Korea

Did you know that in Korea, birthdays were not always celebrated the way they are today? 

In traditional Korean society, birthdays were not recognized as a special occasion. Instead, people celebrated their “dol,” or first birthday, as well as each anniversary of their 60th year. 

It wasn’t until the late 19th century, with the influence of Western culture, that Korean people began celebrating birthdays in a similar fashion to how they are celebrated now. This included throwing parties and giving gifts for friends and family members on their special day.

Today, when people in Korea celebrate their birthdays, they often cut the cake, sing happy birthday songs, and give each other gifts. However, there is still a strong emphasis on age and respect for elders, so it is common for older relatives to give gifts or money to younger family members on their birthday.

So the next time you celebrate your birthday in Korea, remember that this tradition may be relatively new in the country’s history. And don’t forget to thank older family members and friends for any gifts or good wishes they send.

How to Sing Happy Birthday Song in Korea

How to sing Happy Birthday Song in Korean – by Shichan Oppa

Now, let’s learn how to sing the “Happy Birthday” song in Korean. 

First, we start with the chorus: 

“Saengil chukha hamnida, sarang hae hamnida 

Joh-eun eolgul mannada, saengil chukha hamnida” 

This translates to “Happy birthday to you, I love you 

“Your beautiful face, happy birthday to you.” 

Next, we move on to the first verse:  

“Hajiman naui saengil chukha hamnida 

Eolguri mannan deut, hamkke haetdeon geu nal 

Gidarimyeo bichuneun jari mannamui gieok 

Ije saengil chukha hamnida” 

This translates to “But my happy birthday 

You were with me all the time, walking through memories 

“Like a beautiful flower, now happy birthday.” 

Last but not least, we have the second verse:  

“Nae saengil chukha haeseo ireoke neol saranghae 

Geudongan gidarilge neol, saengil chukha hamnida 

Nan geudaereul saranghaneun sarangi himdeureotjyo 

Hajiman saengil chukha hamnida” 

This translates to “My happy birthday, I love you more and more 

I will always be by your side, happy birthday 

I love you more than love itself, but happy birthday.” 

Now that you know how to sing “Happy Birthday” in Korean, go ahead and surprise your friends with this new skill! Have fun celebrating birthdays in Korean!

Six Top Korean Traditions on a Birthday Eve and What They Stand For

  • Chimaek. enjoying fried chicken and beer 
  • Doljabi. A baby is placed in front of various objects to predict their future 
  • Dduk-jjuk. eating rice cake soup 
  • Saebae.  bowing to elders 
  • Seaweed soup.  for longevity 
  • Yeon-deung hoe. lighting candles and floating lanterns on a river for good luck 

Each of these customs shows how important luck, health, respect for elders, and family are to Koreans. Chimaek, for example, is not just about eating fried chicken and drinking beer; it’s also about enjoying time with friends and loved ones during the biggest celebration.

Both doljabi and dduk-jjuk have parts that try to predict the future and make sure the birthday person stays healthy.

Saebae is a way to show respect for elders and familial unity, while seaweed soup is a special food that symbolizes a wish for longevity.

Finally, yeon-deung hoe is a beautiful tradition that brings family and friends together to wish for good luck in the coming year.

Fun Games and Birthday Customs That Will Help Add Spice to Your Korean-Themed Birthday Party

Korean Hangman 

Source: istock

Write out common Korean words or phrases on separate pieces of paper and hang them around the party space. Split the guests into teams and have them take turns guessing the word or phrase before it’s “hung.”  This game is a fun way to test and improve the language skills of your guests.

Traditional Costume Dress Up

Korean hanbok: How and when to wear the traditional Korean dress / 전통 한복 체험기

Have guests dress up in traditional Hanboks for a fun, cultural twist on a costume party. Bonus points for a Korean-themed photobooth corner. This part will be very thrilling for native speakers in the house.

Korean Drumming

Source: Istock

Bring in a traditional Janggu drummer to make a fun and interactive show for your guests.  This is a great addition if you prefer a simple birthday with a touch of culture.

Soju Bottle Ring Toss

Source: iStock

Set up empty soju bottles as targets and have guests toss rings to try and get a ringer.

Korean Drama Trivia


Use trivia questions about plots, character names, and memorable lines from K-dramas to see how much your guests know about them. 

Yut Nori

Source: iStock

This traditional board game involves throwing wooden sticks and moving pieces around a board, with the ultimate goal of reaching the end. It’s a fun and unique activity for all ages to enjoy. You can customize the wooden stick with celebratory words that will serve as birthday cards to add a special and modern touch to the game.

Kimchi Making Competition

김치 만들기 대회 – Kimchi Making Competition 2022

Divide guests into teams and have them compete to see who can make the best kimchi! This activity not only adds a hands-on, interactive element to the party, it also allows guests to take home their own homemade kimchi as a party favor. 

Korean Karaoke

Source: iStock

What’s a Korean-themed party without some K-pop jams? Set up a karaoke corner and let your guests show off their singing skills (or lack thereof). Don’t forget to have some soju on hand for liquid courage!

Eight Other Basic Phrases at a Korean Birthday

  • 생일 축하합니다 (saeng-il chukha hamnida) – Happy birthday
  • 생신 선물 뭐 주셨나요? (saengsin seonmul mwo jusyeotnayo?) – What did you give them for their birthday present?
  •  생신 케이크 먹고 싶어요 (saengsin keike meokgo sipeoyo) – I want to eat birthday cake
  •  생신 파티 언제하세요? (saengsin patei eonjehaseyo) – When is the birthday party?
  •  생일 빵 뿌려주세요 (saengil ppang ppuryeojuseyo) – Please give out birthday bread
  •  생일 날 동창회 하시는건가요? (saengil nal dongchang-hoe hasineungeonagayo?) – Are you having a reunion on your birthday?
  •  생일 축하 메시지 보내드렸어요 (saengil chukha mesiji bonaedeuryeosseoyo) – I sent a birthday greeting message
  • 생일 축하 노래 불러드릴게요 (saengil chukha norae bulleodeurilgeyo) – I’ll sing a birthday song for you.

Popular Birthday Dishes Served at a Korean Birthday


This meal is traditional south Korean rice cake soup, made with sliced rice cakes, beef, and vegetables. It is believed that eating this dish on your birthday will bring good luck and a longer life.


 Marinated slices of beef cooked on a grill. This dish is usually served with lettuce wraps and various side dishes as it contains commonly beef.

Kimchi jjigae

A spicy stew made with fermented kimchi, tofu, pork, and vegetables. 


A popular side dish made with sweet potato noodles, vegetables, and meat. 


A whole young chicken filled with rice, ginseng, garlic, and jujube (Korean dates). This dish is believed to have medicinal and health benefits with sweet taste.


Pan-fried Korean zucchini pancake made with grated zucchini, eggs, meat, and vegetables.


Braised short ribs in a soy sauce-based marinade. It is often served with vegetables and sticky rice. 


A variety of savory, pan-fried Korean pancakes made with various ingredients such as meat, seafood, and vegetables. This dish is often enjoyed as an appetizer or side dish.  

Korean birthday meals often include a variety of meat dishes, soups, and side dishes. All of these dishes are meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends and family. So the next time you attend a Korean birthday party, be sure to try out some of these popular dishes.

15 Other Ways to Say Happy Birthday in Korean and English Translation

  • 생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) – Happy Birthday
  •  생신 축하해요 (saengsin chukahaeyo) – Happy birthday to you
  •  생일 축하해 (saengil chukahaeyo) – Happy birthday
  • 생신 축하합니다 (saengsin chukahamnida) – Happy birthday to you
  • 만년 축하합니다 (mannyeon chukahamnida) – Congratulations on your birthday
  • 생신을 축하드립니다 (saengsin-eul chukahadeurimnida) – We congratulate you on your birthday
  •  생일 축하합니다 (saengil chukahamnida) – Happy Birthday
  •  행복한 생일 되세요 (haengbokhan saengil doeseyo) – Have a happy birthday
  • 그립다면서 생일 맞이 축하합니다 (geuribdamyeonseo saengil maji chukahamnida) – Happy birthday as we miss you
  • 생일에 축하드립니다 (saengile chukahadeurimnida) – Happy birthday
  •  만년생이 되신  날 축하합니다 (mannyeonsaengi doesin nal chukahamnida) – Congratulations on becoming a year older
  • 생일에 만나서 축하해요 (saengile mannaseo chukahaeyo) – Happy to meet on your birthday
  •  생일이 되셨군요, 축하드립니다 (saengili doeyeon-gunyo, chukahadeurimnida) – Happy birthday to you who has become a year older
  • 생일 복 많이 받으세요 (saengil bok manni badeuseyo) – Have lots of birthday luck
  • 생일에 추카합니다 (saengile chukahamnida) – Congratulations on your birthday

Frequently Asked Questions About Birthdays in Korean Culture 

Do Koreans Have Birthday Parties Like in Western Culture?

Yes, Koreans celebrate birthdays with parties and gifts just like in Western cultures. However, it is more common for adults to have a small gathering with close friends or family rather than a big event with a lot of guests.

Is There a Specific Age Where Koreans Have a Big Birthday Celebration?

The traditional Korean age system, where everyone is one year old at birth and adds a year on each Lunar New Year’s Day, is still commonly used for counting birthdays. So the big milestone birthdays are typically celebrated at ages 20th birthday, 30 birthday, 40th birthday, 50th birthday, 60th birthday, and 70th birthday.  

Do Koreans Have Birthday Cakes?

Yes, birthday cakes are becoming more and more popular in Korea. However, it is also common for Koreans to celebrate with a bowl of sweet rice punch called “sikhye” or a special type of rice cake called “songpyeon.

How Do Koreans Say “Happy Birthday”?

The most common way to say “happy birthday” in Korean is “saengil chukahaeyo,” which directly translates to “happy new years.” 

How Do Koreans Usually Give Birthday Gifts?

It is traditional for the person receiving the gift to give money or a small gift in return. When giving a gift, Koreans typically wrap it in beautiful paper and put it in a special celebratory wrapping called “sebaetdon.” The celebrant receiving the gift will also usually write their thanks on fancy stationery called “chonseori.” 


Final Thought

Koreans take birthdays very seriously and have many unique traditions to celebrate them. From special meals and rituals to symbolic gifts, these customs help make birthdays an extra special occasion for Koreans. 

So the next time you’re celebrating a birthday with Korean friends or family, be sure to participate in these fun traditions! And if you’re a Korean reader, don’t forget to wish your loved ones a happy birthday in the traditional way by saying “saeng-il chukha haebseeyo!” 

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that these traditions may vary among different regions and families. But regardless, birthdays are always a time for joy and celebration in Korean culture. You can check our article on the Best 60th Birthday Gift here and Best Birthday gift from Daughter to Dad here

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