English guide to Korean air conditioner remote controls

Here's a simple guide to using the remote control for your Korean air conditioner.

Many new English teachers arrive in Korea and find an air conditioner in their apartment, but have no clue how to use the remote control (에어컨 리모콘) that came with it. All the buttons are in Korean, and the functions and settings may be confusing. So I've taken a few different sample remote controls and labeled the buttons for you. Plus I've translated some of the usual buttons/features with a bit of explanation so hopefully you can get your aircon up and running and not die in Korea's humid summers.

Sample air conditioner remote controls with English translations

Here is a representative sample of some of the more common types of A/C remotes I've seen here. Click the images for a better view.

A/C remote 1

A/C remote 2

A/C remote 3

A/C remote 4

A/C remote 5

A/C remote 6

Common functions and buttons on Korean air conditioner units

Here I'll explain what the buttons and modes do. If you're totally lost, try to match the Korean symbols on your remote unit with what you see here. I've tried to group them the way they often appear on the remotes.

Basic functions

  • 냉방 - Cooling / normal A.C.
  • 제습 - Dehumidifying
  • 송풍 / 환기 - Fan / vent
  • 자동 - Automatic

These are the main modes that your A/C unit can do. There probably won't be buttons for these functions. Instead they'll appear on the LCD screen of the remote. Usually only one of these at a time will appear. It's common to press a button like "운전선택" (Operation selection, mode setting). Each time you press it, it will cycle through the modes.

The fan/vent option will just blow air. Treat it like just having a fan in the room. Good for getting air moving but not much else. Dehumidifier mode will also do a bit of cooling but not as much as full cooling mode. 

Air strength

  • 터보 - Turbo
  • 강 - High
  • 중 - Medium
  • 약 - Low

This is how powerfully the air conditioner will blow. You may have separate buttons for each of these, or just up-and-down arrows for controlling the strength (and may have just icons on the LCD screen to suggest higher and lower).

Or, only one of the strength indicators will appear on the LCD and you cycle through them by pressing something like these ( all of which do the same thing):

  • 바람세기 - Wind/blower strength
  • 풍량선택 - Air strength setting
  • 풍량 - Air strength 

Air flow / wind movement

If your unit has this feature, you can control the direction of the air. It's fins will move back and forth in the appropriate direction.

  • 바람방향 - Blower direction
  • 풍향좌우 - Set blowing direction to left-and-right
  • 좌우 - Left and right
  • 풍향상하 - Set blowing direction to up-and-down
  • 상하 - Up and down
  • 풍향고정 - Fixed direction

General functions

  • 올림 - Higher
  • 내림 - Lower

Raises or lowers the temperature. Probably you'll just have arrow buttons but some remotes label them this way.

  • 운전 - Operation (On/Off)
  • 정지 - Stop/ Off / Cancel
  • 운전정지 or 운전/정지 - Stop / Off or On / Off

운전 will be the main power button. You may only see 정지 (stop or off) written on the same button, or a separate button but if it's separate, it may be specifically to cancel/end the reservation/timer setting.

  • 설정 - Settings
  • 취소 / 해제 - Cancel
  • 나가기 - Exit (from the current menu)
  • 바람 - Wind/blower

Setting the desired temperature

  • 온도조절 - Temperature settings / regulation
  • 희망온도 - Desired/target temperature
  • 실내온도 - current inside temperature

Other useful buttons. Probably these labels will appear besides other buttons or to group features. 

Special modes

Some A/C units have special modes that do different things.

  • 부가운전 - Additional features/functions

Some of the following may be under this setting, or just be standalone.

  • 쾌속냉방 - Rapid cooling
  • 강력운전 - High-power mode

These are modes where the unit will go full-blast. Useful for when you just get home and the house is sweltering. Depending on your unit, it may automatically go down to a more normal setting after 15 minutes or so of full-blast cooling.

  • 취침 - Sleep mode
  • 쾌적 취침 - Sleep mode
  • 조용 - Quiet mode

These can be useful modes at night. Usually turning on "sleep mode" means that the unit will be on and pumping out cold air for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Then once you've "fallen asleep" the unit automatically goes into a lower power mode. The idea is to not be blasting all night and wasting energy keeping your room ice cold when you're already out cold and don't notice it. I saw a unit once that would then crank back up the A/C 7 or 8 hours later to wake you up refreshed and chilled, but that seems uncommon.

  • 절약운전 - Low-power mode
  • 경제운전 - Economical mode
  • 절전 - Energy savings mode

For saving energy and money. I personally find it only useful to switch to this mode only after establishing my cool comfort zone. In some units, activating this mode will prohibit you from turning the temp down below 25 degrees or so.

  • 공기청정 - Air purifying

I'm assuming this just runs air through the A/C's filter, so basically just "fan/vent" mode but for units that have a filter installed.

  • 난방 - heating
  • 냉난방 - heating/cooling

Some newer units include a setting for heating the room. Notice how similar 난방 (heating) looks to 냉방 (cooling) so if you have this feature double check you haven't turned on the heat by mistake.

  • 실외기 - A/C unit

This literally specifies the outside part of the A/C unit (i.e. the compressor itself that's sitting on your roof or hanging outside your window). Remote #6 in the images above shows this, though I'm not sure why. Maybe the panel will indicate a problem/issue with it? Maybe in the menus there's a special setting for it.

Timers and Reservation mode

  • 예약 - Reservation / schedule / timer
  • 타이머 - Timer

Most units will have this feature, which is all done by the remote. Depending on your unit, you either have the clock set on your remote and then can set the unit to turn on/off at a specific time (like "turn on at 8:00am"), or else you just set it for chunks of hours ("turn off in 4 hours").

It can take some trial and error to figure it out, and many units handle this a little differently. A good rule of thumb for simpler units is that setting the 예약 will have the unit at that time do the opposite of what it's doing now. So if your air is blowing at 24 degrees right now, and you set the 예약 for 8am, then at 8am the unit will shut off. So you'll want to set the 예약 and then shut off the unit before bed, so that at 8am it (being off) will turn itself back on.

Personally, when I first arrived in Korea, I had remote #4 in the images above. Holding down the 예약 button let me cycle through setting the timer (using the temp up/down arrows) and then setting the clock if I held it down longer. Tapping the button would turn the timer on/off (the screen would indicate whether the timer was active by a little clock icon).

Stay cool out there

Hope this helped. I always feel bad when I see posts like this from guys asking how to use their own A/C. I definitely remember being in their shoes.

By the way, I'm assuming here total unfamiliarity with Korean A/C units. So apologies if I sounded like I'm treating you like a moron. I figure if you can't read Korean, hopefully you can just match the symbols on your buttons with what I've shown/explained. My goal is just to get it working for you. I know how disgustingly hot and sweaty it can get here.

And for winter time, check out my post on using your ondol control panel for heating your room.

Finally, an oldie-but-goodie reminder not to confuse 에어컨 ("air con") with 콘에어 ("Con Air") though I gotta say both are amazing in summertime.

Stay cool out their folks.


Zedsonata said…
I've had my aircon on econo mode for the last year... Thank you!
Sam Nordberg said…
Haha well just think of all the money you've saved.
Bonne Vivante said…
Thank you! Your explanation was very helpful.
Sam Nordberg said…
Glad it helped.
Unknown said…
Which is more energy efficient, econ mode or automatic?
IGustiAyu said…
Hai. I have the #4 remote. Could you teach me how to set the timer?
Sam Nordberg said…
Probably just keep pushing the timer button. It will scroll through time options.
Unknown said…
hi.. can u help me.. i just turned on my aircon but after 2mins the 실외기 turned off then the air is not cold.. then after 2mins again the air is cold again.. how can i steady the cold air?? ty
Sam Nordberg said…
Could be a problem with the unit. Might need to be cleaned or serviced. Is it a divided unit, where one outside compressor serves 2 internal outlets? I had a similar problem once, and realized that somehow the "smaller" indoor unit in the bedroom would only function well if the "larger" unit in the main room was turned on first. Once the bedroom unit was working well and nice and cold, I could then turn off the main larger unit and it would continue to work well. But if I kept the main unit off at all times, the smaller unit would sputter out just slightly cool air and the outdoor compressor would shut off quickly or not even turn on. Weird situation.
Unknown said…
Can u help me about my 2 in 1 lg aircon... floor stand with split type whizen model... if i want to use the split aircon it does'nt work. There is no cold and the condenser is not working. But if i turn on the floor stand, the split type is working.. what if i just want to used only the split type only. Why should i need to do? Thank you
Sam Nordberg said…
Sorry, I'm not familiar with the kind of machine you're describing. LG air conditioners are pretty popular and many of the same models sold here are sold abroad. I'm sure you could find an online manual in a different language.