Book Review: KLEAR Integrated Korean

About three weeks ago, I was super excited to finally get my new Korean textbooks!  I’d heard a lot about the KLEAR Integrated Korean series from a number of Korean learners online so I was curious to give it a try.  I know a lot of people have already reviewed this book but just thought I’d throw in my two cents.  Tons of pictures ahead…

The series is broken up into 5 levels and 10 books:  Beginning I & II, Intermediate I & II, Advanced Intermediate I & II, Advanced I & II, and High Advanced I & II.  I wasn’t really sure what level I was at, but after doing some investigating, I decided to order Intermediate II and Advanced Intermediate I.  Turns out that was a good decision!  Intermediate II is quite easy for me in terms of grammar and there are a lot of familiar words but, of course, it’s always good to solidify the things you know.  Now, more on the organization of the book (pictures from Intermediate II):

Each chapter opens with a set of mini conversations centering around the main theme of that particular chapter.  This is actually really great because it’s a very natural way to integrate the different levels of speech.  What’s even better is that you can download and listen to the conversation (and, in fact, the narration as well as the grammar points) from their awesome website.  A lot of textbooks tend to have unnaturally formal conversations but not this one.  The conversations are among people of different social statuses so we can see a lot of banmal along with jondaemal as well as honorific speech.  Also, since this series was made primarily for university students, the topics tend to be things young people would frequently talk about.  This could be a good thing or bad thing depending on whether you’re a university student or not.  (Personally, I prefer reading conversations like these over “office”-type conversations I’ve seen in other texts).

Next, in the chapter is a short narration section followed by comprehension questions.  A lot of textbooks have conversation-style chapter openings but I’ve seen very few that have narrations so this is a big plus point.  In Korean and many other languages, the written language is quite different compared to the spoken language.  The narration allows one to practice reading longer, more complex sentences in plain style.

Following the comprehension questions is a list of new words and expressions, organized by part of speech.  There are also additional notes about the new words and expressions.  This section (not shown) is really really useful because it explains certain idiomatic expressions as well as the context and literal translation of certain phrases.  There are also plenty of examples on how to use the new expressions.

Next is a culture section which, personally, is my favorite part of the chapter!  I’ve always thought you can’t truly learn a language without immersing yourself in its culture.  The information the book provides is interesting, brief, and just good to know.

Now, onto the most important part:  Grammar.  I have to say, this book has one of the most organized grammar sections I’ve ever seen.  It’s separated into smaller subsections, with each subsection designated by a boxed and labeled grammar point.  Following the grammar point is a series of examples, some notes, and then exercises.  Finally, at the end of the chapter, you can find the English translation of the conversations and the narration at the beginning of the chapter so you can double check your comprehension (not shown).

Additional Thoughts:  There are some very minor issues that should be addressed.  First of all, these books are meant to be used in a classroom setting so the pace might be quick and there may not be as many exercises as one likes but I think for a dedicated self-learner, there should be no problem.  Another issue is that there are no answers to any of the exercises.  But again, I think the internet provides plenty of opportunities for self-learners to practice Koreans with native speakers (through Lang-8, Twitter, etc.) so the fact that there isn’t an answer key in the book isn’t a big disadvantage.

Honestly, this is one of the best language books I’ve ever seen.  It’s beautifully organized, the explanations are thorough, and there’s no dearth of examples.  Also, it may be a minor thing, but the Hangeul font type in the text is also large and spaced out in way – making it much easier on eyes that aren’t used to reading in Korean.  However, in my opinion, the absolute best thing about these books is that they are RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP.  Yes.  They sell for around 20 USD each which is kind of mind-blowing because most “really good” language texts are around the 30+ USD range.  FINALLY, the answer to a poor, Korean-learning college student’s prayers!

If you’re looking for a textbook to study Korean from, I highly recommend this series!!


  1. alodia says:

    This book looks interesting! It makes me want to buy it but I’ve got so many unread books and materials… So I’m kinda trying to stop myself from getting more books and make myself finish reading what I have first (and as a reward, get myself new ones once I’ve managed to finish all of them).
    I visited their website though and I like the fact that we can access the slide presentations of each lesson. ^_^


    1. Archana says:

      Hehe. Yeah, it’s probably better if you finish what you have first!


  2. Jeannie says:

    I’m really really really itching to get one myself but I still have tons of books here that I barely open so I might finish them first before indulging myself into another new book. I heard so much about this book. One American friend of mine actually used the series and just wow her Korean is superb! She said she learned so much through those books and of course conversing with Koreans online.

    I like how you explained everything in details! I wish I can write a review on my books like you ahaha.


    1. Archana says:

      Thanks!! It looks like a lot of people have a problem with unfinished books. For me, these were among the first books I bought for Korean. My problem is in buying too many books for OTHER languages – I have a lot of material for Japanese, Hindi, Sanskrit, French… and I don’t even use them much. I’m proud that I stuck with Korean for a year before deciding on investing in a couple books. ^^


  3. Fauxrean says:

    Ahh yay! I was looking for a korean book to either order, or find in a library. My CA at college said he would help me learn (since I’m taking french this quarter, and may not be able to get into korean this year) if I get a textbook!

    Archana to the rescue once again!


    1. Archana says:

      Yay, I’m glad this was helpful!


  4. Refan says:

    there is a workbook that goes with it


  5. Lora says:

    Have you seen the Hello Korean self study books with audio by Lee Jun Ki? I was thinking of getting those since I am studying Korean on my own but they are so expensive and I’m not sure they are worth it. But the Integrated Korean books look good too and are much less expensive…not sure which to buy though.


    1. Archana says:

      I know about the Hello Korean books but haven’t extensively looked through them. Honestly, I only have the highest praise for Integrated Korean and you WILL outgrow textbooks, so why not be economical and try to spend the least amount of money while getting high quality content? :) I can guarantee that money spent on Integrated Korean is well worth it.


  6. Lora says:

    Thanks so much for your reply! You’re right about outgrowing textbooks, I hadn’t thought about it that way. I hope you don’t mind a couple more questions about the Integrated Korean books….have you used the workbooks that go along with them? And is there any way to check your answers to the exercises in the textbooks? According to the reviews on Amazon there aren’t any answer keys in the workbooks.


  7. Lora says:

    Oh sorry! I just remembered that you mentioned the fact that there aren’t any answer keys in your review! I went to their website to make sure they still have the audio files that go along with the books before I order the first book and it looks like a lot of people have been asking for answer keys for self study. It looks like they were considering offering online answer keys for the workbooks, but I don’t see any updated info about that. I may post a question about it myself. Thanks for your awesome in depth review of this series!


    1. Archana says:

      You’re welcome and good luck!


  8. Maria says:

    Hi, Archana! I had been studying korean for 2,5 years now with a tutor using the Sejong Korean Series, up to Vol. 4, Ch. 10. Having decided to continue on my own, I am considering using the Integrated Korean Series. When I begun studying korean on my own, 4 years ago, I used the Integrated Korean Beginning 1 with much satisfaction. I also own Beginning 2 and plan to acquire the Intermediate Series. I would like to know, in case you are familiar with the Sejong series, what is the correspondense between the two book series, in terms of language level. Next October I am planning to attend the Topik II exams aiming for level 4, if possible, without losing time revisiting already familiar material.


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