Korean Idioms & Proverbs: 꿩 대신 닭
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Korean Idioms & Proverbs: 꿩 대신 닭

I am in the mood to spend some time on Korean idioms and proverbs. So today I want to bring a new proverb to the front. This new proverb is very easy to understand, but like all proverbs it needs a little introduction.  So it is time to compare chickens with pheasants and decide which is better. Time for the expression 꿩 대신 닭.

The Korean proverb “꿩 대신 닭” is perhaps one of the easiest to understand even if you translate it litterally. Literally this proverb translates into “Chicken instead of pheasant”. In Korea a pheasant was considered a luxurious fowl, while chicken was plain, yet useful. In the spirit of those valuation they created this proverb. You use this proverb generally to tell that even though the best option is unavailable, the available option is still better than nothing. The expression ‘If you can’t get a horse, ride a cow’. is therefore highly similar to “꿩 대신 닭”.

Unlike the previous expression 긁어 부스럼 만들다, the proverb 꿩 대신 닭 does not come with a preferred verb to pair it up with. Instead you’ll have to pick the verb most suitable. This is very akin to the proverbs 그림의 떡 or 가는 날이 장날. And, like those proverbs, the copula verb 이다 is a good choice to use with this proverb.

Example: 직업을 찾지 않아서 요즘 아르바이트를 꿩 대신 닭으로 선택했어요.

Translation: I couldn’t find word so I chose a part-time job instead of nothing.

Have you seen this expression before? Or perhaps you’ve used it in a text you’ve written yourself! Please share your experience in the comments. You can more easily learn expressions when you actively use them yourself.