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What is a Finger Heart? What Korean Hand Gestures Mean and When to Use Them

What is a Finger Heart? What Korean Hand Gestures Mean and When to Use Them

Have you ever heard of finger heart? It is one of theKorean hand gesturesthat has grown into popularity worldwide. Before you hop on the plane to Korea, you may want to familiarize yourself with some important points ofKorean culture, society, and customsincluding these hand signs. 

To decrease confusion and language barrier between you and Koreans, we have included the most common hand gestures in Korea on this page for you to learn and review. 

What are Hand Gestures? 

Hand gestures are hand movements that are meant to express something to somebody. This is often used in conversations to further emphasize one’s point. Sometimes, these gestures are done when taking photos. 

Why is learning about Korean hand gestures important? 

Below we have given you a list of the most common hand signs that you can find in use among Koreans. It will be quite useful for you to learn these, especially if they are vastly different from what is in use in your own country. So, check out this list to know which gestures are okay to use in South Korea and which ones you should save to use until you are back in your home country! Learning these Korean gestures will also enable you to have an easier time communicating with the locals. There may be moments where you will forget a word or an expression, but instead, you can use gestures and body language to make up for it. 

Peace Sign 

The most famous hand gesture attributed to East Asian cultures is, of course, the peace sign. The index finger and middle finger create the form of a V, with the thumb squeezed over the two other fingers. 

It is a wildly common gesture to use when posing for photos, although you may not see it in use much outside of that. When it is used in situations apart from taking photos, it is usually an indication of being proud of something. 

Two hands in use when giving or receiving something 

This is another one that is important to remember if you want to ensure you are being respectful. In Korea, you ought to receive an object, as well as give it to someone, using both of your hands. If you are only doing it with one hand, you will be seen as disrespectful. 

Your friends may be more forgiving, especially as this is a common mistake foreigners make. However, the elderly and those with higher status may not think of you kindly.

two hands held open

Palm down when beckoning 

In many Western cultures, when you want to gesture someone to come over, you will hold your palm up and wiggle your fingers to do so. Well, when in South Korea, be sure to do it the upside-down way, with your palm down. 

 This is an important one to remember as the Western way of gesturing will have your Korean friends thinking you are trying to call over an animal rather than a person. 

Two thumbs up for yes… and two arms crossed for no 

Instead of using just one thumb to signal a yes, it is normal to use both thumbs to do so. You can also use this to indicate “well done,” whether it is a job or an accomplishment or something else similar. It is typically done only among friends, however. 

Although a bigger expression than a simple shake of the head, this does get the expression across clearly even when there is no common language in use otherwise. Besides a simple refusal, this also expresses that something is prohibited. You can also do a double hand wave to express the same. 

two thumbs up

arms crossed no

Covering mouth when laughing 

The origins of this gesture are unclear, but this is especially common among women to do. It can be done to seem more feminine, or coy, or simply to avoid embarrassment. 

cover mouth when laughing

Money sign 

In Korea, it is normal to talk about money and financial affairs in an everyday manner. Thus, it comes as no surprise there is also a money sign in use as one of the common hand signs. There are two money signs if you think about it carefully. 

For both, first, place your fingers as if you are making the OK sign. Then, flip your palm around so that your thumb is on top. Leaving it like that turns your sign into that of a coin. If you then rub your thumb against your index finger and middle finger, you are further creating the other money sign. 

money sign

Promise Swear 

This is Korea’s version of a pinky swear. In fact, you will start making the gesture by indeed interlocking your pinkies like in a pinky swear. But then, because that is not sufficient for making a promise, with your pinkies interlocked, you will also have the same hands’ thumbs pressing together on top. 

pinky promise swear

Korean Finger heart  

If you follow anyKorean actorsoractresses, you have seen this hand gesture a lot. The Korean finger heart is done by pinching together with your thumb and index finger, and then skewing one of them onto the side slightly so that it forms a shape resembling that of a heart.

It is a symbol created in the past couple of recent years, having originated from Korean celebrities or K-pop artists. You will also see this often in romantic Korean dramas or movies. However, it has quickly become popular also with the general population to use, and it looks like it will stay in use for many years to come. 

Besides the newer and smaller finger heart, Koreans have since long ago been using a heart gesture to showcase their love and affection. In this “original” version, one places their arms above their head to make the shape of a heart. 

Korean heart sign

Source: 90 Day Korean (March 24, 2022) 

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