가방끈이 길다 – Korean Idioms #9

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With Explanations

Everyone has his or her own educational background. Some graduated from graduate schools and has master or doctor's degree, others just graduated from high schools. When you have more education, it is called "가방끈이 길다" in Korean.

The opposite of 가방끈이 길다 is 가방끈이 짧다.

Let's say 철수 graduated from an MBA and 영희 only graduated from a high school, we can say "철수가 영희보다 가방끈이 길다." or "영희는 철수보다 가방끈이 짧다."

It has nothing to do with the quality of the school. Suppose that 유라 graduated from Harvard and 수미 graduated from an ordinary university. We don't say 유라가 수미보다 가방끈이 길다. Actually, they have same 가방끈 in that situation.

It is hard to find the exact origin of this expression but it is told that it is an expression made up of combining two words 가방 and 끈이 길다. We bring bags(가방) to out schools. And in old Korean, there was an expression "끈이 길다" to speak "something happens for a long period of time." We don't use this expression now and 끈 here has nothing to do with the straps in our bags.

Examples

가방끈이 짧다 보니 써 주는 곳이 없다.
As I am not well educated, no one wants to hire me.

언니가 나보다 가방끈이 기니까 더 잘 판단할 수 있을 줄 알았어. 그런데 이건 아니잖아!
You are more eduacated than me, so I thought that you can make decisions better. But you shouldn't live like this.

그는 가방끈은 짧지만 혼자 공부를 많이 해서 그런지 아는 것은 진짜 많다.
He is not educated for a long time, but he has a lot of knowledge. It seems that he studied a lot on his own.

Final Note

In conversations, if you use this expression to somebody else like "가방끈이 참 기시군요." or "가방끈이 짧구나", it can be rude, so use it to describe yourself like "제가 가방끈은 짧지만, 열심히 하겠습니다." (I am not well educated, but I will try my best). In that case, say something like "좋은 학교 나오셨군요."(You graduated from a good school) "박사 학위라니 대단하시네요." (Doctor's degree. That's great!)