Is the Same Language Spoken in North and South Korea?

July 1, 2019


Yes, people living in both North and South Korea speak Korean (also called Hangul). Nonetheless, the differences in dialects have continued to grow as the states have been separated for quite some time. Moreover, strict government policies and the isolation of North Korea from the outside world have contributed to underlying language differences in today's spoken word. Linguists regard Korean as a language isolate and there are an estimated 80 million native speakers of the Koreanic language family. Although controversy exists, most academic research supports the fact that Modern Korean evolved from the language used in Prehistoric Korea.

Most of the distinctions between the South and North Korean language standards can be attributed to North Korea's inclination for a speech of the working class. However, seventy years of separation has led to numerous variations in both North and South Korea. The Munhwa dialect was adopted as the standard language in 1966 and serves as the primary dialect spoken in North Korea. Gyeonggi dialect is common in the Seoul area of South Korea as well as the larger Gyeonggi province, which is home to the southern national capital. Pyongan dialect is spoken in the northwest areas of North Korea as well as the Chinese province of Liaoning.

Koreans are descendants of ancient people who settled along the Korean Peninsula. Archaeologists believe that proto-Koreans were paleo-Asian migrants from Manchuria during the Bronze Age. English is spoken in South Korea as a second language and is taught in schools in both South and North Korea. Many school systems and universities in North Korea teach English as the international language that everyone must know and be able to speak. Typically, South Koreans tend to use loaner words from English more frequently, whereas North Koreans try to keep borrowed words out of the Korean language.

In conclusion, both North and South Korea have numerous regional dialects. Nonetheless, the differences are not significant enough to prevent people for communicating with each other.  In response to the diverging vocabularies in North and South Korean, the Univoca language app was released to help North Korean defectors learn South Korean terminology by translating them into North Korean dialects.

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