문제, 문제점, and 문젯거리. In English, we might use “problem” or “question” for all of them. But how exactly are they similar and how are they different? Let’s find out!
문제 is the most commonly heard of these three. According to Naver, it has three definitions:
1. A question asking for/demanding an answer
2. The focus of a dispute, debate, research, etc.
3. Something that is hard to settle
Looking at those definitions, we can say that ‘문제’ translates to “problem” in English with pretty much no issue. It matched up pretty well! Let’s look at some examples of each of the three definitions of this word.
1. 시험지를 받으면 문제를 잘 읽고 풀어보세요. (When you get your test sheet, read the problems carefully and try to solve them.)
2.현대 사회에서는 가공 식품 섭취 증가에 따른 비만 문제가 심각합니다. (In modern society, the problem of obesity caused by the increased consumption of processed foods is severe.)
3. 현 정부에서 가장 먼저 해결하고자 하는 문제는 실업 문제입니다. (The problem that the current government means to address first is the problem of unemployment.)
문제점’s definition is “something that is/becomes a problem (문제).” The “점” in 문제점 here is important. 점 comes from Hanja (Chinese characters) and means “point.” Following that, 문제점 is a problematic point or drawback out of the whole of something. You can use this word when, for example, pointing out a flaw or flaws in something.
이 계획의 가장 큰 문제점은 비용이에요. (This plan’s biggest flaw is its cost.)
남들의 문제점만 계속 지적하는 사람은 좋은 사람이 아니에요. ( Someone who constantly only points out others’ flaws is not a good person.)
Please note that you could use “문제” in the first sentence here and it would also be correct. There is a bit of overlap among the three terms in question in this post, so there will be cases where one is interchangeable with another.
This word is perhaps the least easily translatable out of the three. The two definitions of 문젯거리 given in the Naver dictionary are:
1. Something that could be the cause of different problems
2. An issue that is hard to take care of
If we look at the second half of this word, “거리,” we can get a better feel for what it means. In this case, 거리 is sort of like “ingredient” or “element.” It follows that 문젯거리 is a problematic element. We can see the same 거리 in the word 걱정거리, which is something that causes worry (an element or ingredient of worry). Let’s look at some examples.
1. 이렇게 빡빡한 스케줄은 문젯거리가 될 것 같아요. (I think a schedule this tight would be a problem (be problematic).
2. 요즘 미국에는 신나치가 문젯거리예요. (Lately in the US, neo-Nazis are a problem.)