둘째 가라면 서러워하다 – Korean Idioms #11

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With Explanations

We always want to get the first place, not the second. It is really good if you are at the first place. But there are some sad situation that you were moved to the second from the first for some reasons. Then, you might feel sad or humiliated.

Today's expression "둘째 가라면 서러워하다" came from this feeling. 둘째 means second place, 서러워하다 means sad because of humiliation or unfairness. 둘째 가라면 here means "if someone makes you go to the second place." If we add them all up, "둘째 가라면 서러워하다" means "You will feel sad if someone makes you go to the second place." She was always the first, so it might be so harsh for her if she had to be the second.

Therefore, "둘째 가라면 서러워하다" means simply the best, second to none, or better than anybody.

Examples

처음에는 동네 작은 구멍가게였는데, 30년이 지난 지금, 그 회사는 대한민국에서 둘째 가라면 서러워할 만큼 큰 기업이 되었다.
Originally, it was a small rural village supermarket. 3 decades later, that company became bigger than any other corporation in Korea.

100년이 넘게 전해져 내려온 고전들은 똑똑한 것으로 둘째 가라면 서러워할 천재들이 쓴 책이다.
The classics which was passed down for more than 100 years were written by the geniuses who are the second to none in cleverness.

요리만큼은 둘째 가라면 서러울 정도로 잘한다고 생각했다. 그런데 갑자기 그 녀석이 나타났다.
I thought that I am better at cooking than anybody else. But all of sudden, that guy appeared.

One more note to the expression

This expression is usually used as a adjective phrase like "둘째 가라면 서러워 할 사람," "둘째 가라면 서러워 할 제품," "둘째 가라면 서러워할 만큼 큰 기업," "둘째 가라면 서러울 정도."

It is not used as a verb phrase like "둘째 가라면 서러워했다," "둘째 가라면 서러워한다," "둘째 가라면 서러워할 것이다."