Korean Dialects: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Table of Contents

What are Korean Dialects? 

In Korea, there are two official varieties of Korean: the Seoul dialect in South Korea and the Pyongyang dialect in North Korea. Each country’s national language policy distinguishes and regulates dialects.

Province boundaries roughly correspond to regional dialects, which tells us how many Korean dialects there are. Thus, South Korean dialects (regional) include Kyongsang, Chungcheong, Cholla, and Cheju Island. The regional dialects of North Korea are Hamkyong, Pyongan, and Hwanghae. Some dialects are difficult to understand.

The Korean language is part of the Altaic language family, which also includes Turkish, Mongolian, and Japanese, implying early Northern migrations and trade. The Chinese heavily influenced Korea, but in the 16th century, it developed its writing system.

Standard Korean 

Standard Korean is what you’ll hear in the majority of k-movies and television shows. It’s what you’ll read in textbooks and hear in listening exercises.

This is also the dialect spoken in Seoul, the capital city. Seoul is technically not part of Gyeonggi-do; instead, it has its own “Special City” district. However, because this district is located within Gyeonggi-do, it is easily associated with it. This dialect’s speakers are thought to have a mellow or smooth intonation. When listening to speakers of this dialect, don’t expect to hear any changes in pitch.

Here are the major Korean Dialects

  1. Gyeonggi Dialect – (Gyeonggi bangeon), or the Gyeonggi dialect, is spoken in several South Korean cities, primarily Seoul and Incheon. This is the standard language that you will learn when studying Korean, and it is used in the majority of TV shows, radio stations, news channels, and so on. Even if the person you’re speaking with speaks a different dialect, everyone in Korea will understand this dialect.

Example- 먹고 싶다 (meokgo sipda) or “I want to eat” -> 먹구 싶다 (meokgu sipda) or “I want to eat”

  1. Gangwon Dialect – (Gangwon dialect) is spoken in (Gangwon), northeast South Korea. This area is well-known for its mountains and forests. In addition, the Pyeongchang Olympic Games were held in this province in 2018. This dialect is not significantly different from the standard dialect, which makes sense given its proximity to Seoul. People who live closer to Seoul naturally sound similar to the standard dialect, whereas those who live further west sound more distinct.

Example- 여러분께 알려드립니다.

yeoreobunkke allyeodeurimnida.

“I would like to make an announcement to you.”

여러분들인데 알코 디레요. (yeoreobundeurinde alko direyo.)

  1. Chungcheong Dialect – This next dialect is described as slower by native speakers. It is another largely rural region of the country, though it includes the large city of Daejeon. Even in the past, the differences between the Northern Chungcheong dialect and the standard dialect were not that pronounced. You would be hard-pressed to hear a difference these days in cities and northern areas.

Example- 학교에서 (hakgyoeseo) “at school”

A: 왜그래 뭐 화나는 일 있어?

A: waegeurae mwo hwananeun il isseo?

A: “What’s the matter?”

A: 왜 그랴? 뭐 씅깔나는일 있어? (wae geurya? mwo sseungkkallaneunil isseo?)

  1. Gyeongsang Dialect – As it includes the Busan dialect, the Gyeongsang-do dialect is one of the more well-known dialects of Korean. You may have heard Gyeongsang Dialect referred to as the Busan dialect. However, Daegu and Ulsan are also included in this area. A native speaker could probably tell whether someone was from Busan or Daegu, who speaks Korean Daegu dialect.

Example- 아이구 셔

aigu syeo

“How sour it is.”

아구 샤구랍어래이~ (agu syagurabeoraei~)

  1. Jeolla-do Dialect – This area is mostly rural, though it does include the city of Gwangju. As we travel further away from Seoul, the dialects become increasingly distinct. The consensus among native Korean speakers is that this dialect is distinguished by rapid speech and distinct accents.

Example- 너 그거 좀 버리지 않을래?

neo geugeo jom beoriji aneullae?

“Can you throw this away?”

너 그것좀 찌끄라뿌러야? (neo geugeotjom jjikkeurappureoya?)

  1. Jeju Dialect- The Jeju dialect is very distinct from the standard dialect. It has Japanese and Mongolian influences and even has its own vowel. Some people consider it to be its language. Because courtesy is less important in the Jeju-do dialect, older speakers of Jeju may appear a little gruff or unfriendly.

Example- 여기서 서울에 전화할 수 있지요?

yeogiseo seoure jeonhwahal su itjiyo?

“Can I call Seoul from here?”

여기서 서울더레 해집주양? (yeogiseo seouldeore haejipjuyang?)

Standard Korean v/s Common Korean 

There are nine Korean language dialects. South and North Korea both have standard Korean dialects that are used in official settings. The dialect on Jeju Island is most distinct from standard Korean. Because of the time spent apart following the Korean War, the dialect used in North Korea has evolved significantly from the dialect used in South Korea. The other countries that took part in the Korean War influenced both regional dialects.

  • South Koreans frequently use the English loanword juseu. Danmul, which translates to “sweet water,” is used in North Korea.
  • The Korean-English dictionary defines musical as “eumhakwi,” though South Koreans prefer “myujikeol.” North Koreans still refer to music and dance stories as “gamuiyagi.”
  • Octopus/cuttlefish. North Koreans refer to cuttlefish with the South Korean term for octopus (either “nakji” for small octopus or “muneo” for large octopus). In South Korea, the cuttlefish is known as “ojingeo.” 
  • South Koreans use “shampu” to wash their hair, whereas North Koreans use “meorimulbinu.” The phrase “hair water soap” is a combination of meori (head), mul (water), and binu (soap) (water).
  • A lunchbox. A “bapgwak” (pronounced doshirak) is a North Korean lunch box, whereas a “dosirak” (pronounced doshirak) is a South Korean lunch box, which is similar to a bento in Japan.

Why Are There So Many Korean Dialects?

The Korean language is relatively homogeneous, and dialects from different areas are often mutually intelligible. Nonetheless, the phonology, morphology, and vocabulary of Korean dialects vary greatly. They are subdivided into several categories based on regional differences. There is no obvious relationship between modern dialects and Korea’s ancient historical divisions, i.e., the Three Kingdoms period. Silla and Paekche dialects roughly correspond to the current southeastern and southwestern dialects, respectively, but the northeastern, northwestern, central, and Cheju dialects are unrelated to any ancient historical kingdom in Korea. Because Korea is mountainous, the language is naturally divided into different dialects based on topography.

How Should Dialects Influence Your Korean Learning? 

Many cultures have influenced Korean culture in the past, just as English influenced the South Korean dialect and Russian influenced North Korean dialect. It has adopted some words to make modern-day Korean speak casually. The distinction between the North and South Korean accent or languages are analogous to the differences between the English dialects spoken in Birmingham and Manchester. The accents and pronunciations are very different.

Aside from the Korean peninsula, there are many native Korean speakers living abroad. The countries with the largest Korean populations are the United States, China, Japan, Canada, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Russia, Australia, and Kazakhstan.

What Korean dialect is taught in schools?

At present, the Seoul standard language is taught in all schools and universities in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia, textbooks and dictionaries compiled in South Korea are used, and teachers who are native speakers of the language are assigned from the Republic of Korea.

What Are The Benefits of learning Korean and the Different Korean Dialects? 

  There are multiple benefits of learning different Korean dialects, such as:-  

• Improved understanding of Korean culture and concepts. 

• Increased brainpower. 

• Improved personal and business relationships.

• Improved travel experience

• It’s a useful language that isn’t too difficult to learn.

• You can experiment with “Konglish”

Which Korean Should I Learn? 

The National Institute of the Korean Language, which is based in Seoul, the country’s capital and most populous city, governs Korea. As a result, the dialect spoken in Seoul is considered the standard version of Korean, as well as the dialect most “widely used by the well-educated.” So if you’re learning Korean, you’re almost certainly studying this dialect.

Because of South Korea’s interconnectedness through mass media and universal education, almost all Koreans can use this standard dialect when necessary. Despite the physical and political divide between South and North Korea, the Seoul dialect serves as the foundation for the North Korean version of the language.


  1. What is the most simple Korean dialect?

The standard dialect is usually the easiest to learn when you first begin studying Korean. However, adding some Satoori dialect makes it a lot more enjoyable. Not only that, but it will aid you in your travels throughout Korea.

  1. Are there accents in Korean dialects?

Each country’s dialect is distinct in its own way. For example, in Korean, these various Korean accents are referred to as “Satoori.” Sometimes the dialects have different grammar rules, but these are generally similar.

  1. How many different sounds can the Korean language make?

There are 19 consonant phonemes in Korean. There is a three-way contrast between unvoiced segments for each stop and affricate, which are distinguished as plain, tense, and aspirated.

  1. Which Korean dialect is the most powerful?

Because Jeju has its own language, it is possibly the most difficult dialect in South Korea.

  1. Can Koreans understand other Korean dialects?

Korean dialects are among the fascinating aspects of studying Korean. Simply put, they are dialects of the same language, and people speaking different dialects of the same language can usually understand each other.