Do you know Korean dialects and their main differences?

Do you know Korean dialects and their main differences?

The Korean language has several dialects, so much that the number of them is not exact, but rather varies depending on the sources consulted. In general, there are considered to be between five and nine main Korean dialects throughout the country, they all differ, especially in pronunciation and intonation.

But despite the fact that all of these dialects may have some differences in vocabulary and grammar, the truth is that speakers of any of them can communicate with each other without difficulty. Generally, mutual understanding among Korean speakers from different regions is very high.

The different Korean dialects and their main differences

Let’s now learn about the main dialects spoken in Korea. Here we should distinguish different dialects between North VS South Korea, and then move to discuss Seoul and other regional dialects of South Korea, including the genuine Jeju dialect. Let’s see what their main characteristics are.

The dialects of North and South Korea

The dialects of North and South Korea present significant differences that reflect the country’s historical and cultural division. For instance, the most commonly used dialect in the North is the Pyongyang dialect, characterized by a more closed and rigid pronunciation, along with a conservative and archaic vocabulary.

In the South, on the other hand, we find that each region has its own dialectal variations. The predominant dialect is primarily that of Seoul. The differences between the Northern and Southern Korean dialects are evident. However, they all share a common linguistic root, as they are dialects of the same language. The differences are more pronounced in the political and cultural spheres.

In the following table you can see some differences between the North and South Korean dialects:

EnglishSouth KoreanNorth Korean

The Seoul dialect and its influence

The Seoul dialect, or Henguk-eo, is among the most extensively spoken Korean dialects in the country and is regarded as the standard dialect in South Korea. This variety is prevalent in the capital and distinguished by its high pitch and nasal tone.

The Seoul dialect is not only the most widely used, but also the most widely taught in Korean schools. In recent years, its influence has spread to other regions of the country due to its use in the national media and the large influx of Koreans migrating to the capital.

Regional dialects of South Korea

The different regions that make up South Korea present a rich variety of dialects. In the Gyeongsang region, for example, the Gyeongsang dialect is spoken, which is characterized by a strong tone and a fast and clear pronunciation. On the other hand, in the Jeolla region, the dialect of the same name is spoken. Unlike the former, the Jeolla dialect is a softer-toned dialect with a slower pronunciation.

These Korean dialects spoken in different regions can be difficult to understand for people who are not familiar with them. They are so difficult that even native Koreans living in Seoul or other regions may struggle to comprehend them. However, they are a very important part of Korean regional culture and identity, and many people take pride in their dialect as a unique symbol of their communities.

The Gyeongsang dialect

The Gyeongsang dialect, spoken in the southeastern region of South Korea, is one of the country’s most distinctive dialects due to its dynamic intonation and accent. Additionally, it is recognized for its usage of unique words and idiomatic expressions that may differ significantly from other regions. This dialect frequently employs shortened and simplified words to express strong emotions or informal situations, as an example.

The Gyeongsang dialect has played a significant role in South Korean culture, particularly in the arts and entertainment industry, where it is often portrayed as humorous and lively. Despite its unique characteristics, efforts have been made to promote standard Korean in education and media, which has somewhat affected the usage and recognition of regional dialects.

The Jeolla dialect

The Jeolla dialect, spoken in the southern region of Korea with the same name, is recognized as one of the most distinct regional dialects. This dialect is distinguished by its unique pronunciation and musical rhythm, with Jeolla people frequently appending an additional “e” to the end of words and replacing the “g” sound with a “k” sound.

In addition, the accent of Jeolla is notably distinct from that of other regions in Korea, further contributing to the distinctiveness of the dialect. Due to these characteristics, many consider the Jeolla dialect to be one of the most beautiful and culturally rich dialects in the Korean peninsula.

Notably, the Jeolla region is also renowned for its culinary traditions, which include dishes like bibimbap and kongnamul gukbap, among others. These local delicacies have contributed significantly to the region’s cultural identity and are often celebrated in Korean cuisine.

The Chungcheong dialect

The Chungcheong dialect is a regional variant of the Korean language spoken in the central region of the same name. This dialect is distinguished by its soft and relaxed tone, setting it apart from other more prominent Korean dialects.

Moreover, the Chungcheong dialect contains a plethora of unique idioms and expressions that are not found in other dialects. Although it is not as well-known as the Seoul dialect, Chungcheong is commonly used in everyday life throughout the region, emphasizing the vast linguistic diversity present in South Korea.

In addition to its distinctive dialect, the Chungcheong region is also recognized for its significant historical and cultural contributions to Korean society. The region is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty and the ancient city of Buyeo, which offer insights into Korea’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Jeju dialect and its uniqueness

The Jeju dialect, spoken on Jeju Island, is considered by some linguistic experts as an autonomous language due to its unique vocabulary and particular grammatical structures that distinguish it from standard Korean. Additionally, it has some distinctive pronunciations, such as a greater tendency to aspirate consonants.

Although it is one of the Korean dialects that has received the most attention from linguists, its use has declined due to the lack of written documentation and the influence of standard Korean. Currently, only a few Jeju speakers are fluent in it, and most of them are elderly.

Nevertheless, recent efforts have been made to preserve the Jeju dialect. Television and radio programs promoting its use have been created in Jeju, and some schools on the island have included it in their curriculum. These efforts are aimed at ensuring that the unique linguistic heritage of Jeju Island is not lost.

 Did you eat?Really?
Seoul밥 먹었어요?
(Bap meo-geot-sseo-yo?)
Geong-sang밥 뭇나?
(Bap mut-na?)
Jeolla밥 먹었냐?
(Bap meo-geot-nya?)
Jeju밥 먹언?
(Bap meo-geon?)

This video is dedicated to the regional dialects of South Korea, including Seoul, Jeolla, Gyeongsang and Jeju. In this video, you can observe and learn about the unique pronunciations of each dialect and their distinguishing features.

The importance of linguistic diversity in Korea

The linguistic diversity present in Korea is essential for maintaining and enriching the culture and identity of this country. Different dialects and regional languages are spoken in Korea, which are also fundamental for inclusion and equity. Recognizing and valuing the different Korean dialects helps avoiding linguistic discrimination and promote equal opportunities.

Furthermore, this diversity can improve understanding and respect among different cultural and linguistic groups, which will lead to a greater collaboration and harmony in Korean society.

Take Korean lessons with Korean Booster!

At Korean Booster, we offer you the opportunity to learn Korean in a practical and enjoyable way. We are an online education platform that provides individual and group Korean classes to students all over the world.

These classes are designed to provide students with the most suitable resources and tools for learning this language. With our 100% online classes, you can achieve the level of Korean that you desire. These classes can be individual or in small groups of 2 to 4 people.

Our lessons are tailored to the needs of each student. Whether you want to start from scratch or improve your Korean, Korean Booster makes it very easy for you. It’s the best way to be able to communicate in any of the Korean dialects of this country.

Our teacher at Korean Booster is a native of Jeolla province, enabling students to learn the local dialect thoroughly. Despite this, she teaches in the standard Seoul dialect during class, occasionally incorporating the Jeolla dialect to provide a deeper understanding of Korean dialects.