Do people in North and South Korea speak/write the same language?

What major differences are there? I imagine, some were bound to develop over this long period of isolation. Judging from those who have escaped from the North or visited it, can one say it is still one language, absolutely mutually compehensible and that Northerners have no trouble, if only ideological, understanding or writing to Southerners and vice-versa?
  • PianoMan

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    They are practically identical, as far as I know though, the spelling is slightly different (I think on certain suffixes) for North Korea, they extend it a bit I think. But, the differences are probably a lot smaller than American/British English or Latin American/Castillian Spanish. Of course, I'm not native Korean or even learning it, but that's what I know.


    New Member
    As a native of South Korea, I can say the language is exactly the same and there is no trouble in communicating between a Southerner and a Northerner.

    Nevertheless, there are some idiomatical differences between the two Koreas which could quite possibly lead to misunderstandings.

    ex) If someone offers you something which you do not need, the reply in Korean is as follows:

    괜찮습니다. - (Gwen-chan-seup-ni-da) South Korean (=It's okay)
    일 없습니다. - (Il Eup-seup-ni-da) North Korean (=There is no necessity to do so)

    Should a person in the south use the North Korean way of 'it's okay' as a reply, the message would be delivered, but it would sound quite awkward and in some cases, possibly sound rude.

    Since Korean is completely phonetical, Southerners and Northerners can both comprehend the message. But in this way, different phrases can be used for same situations.

    Also, the North prefers to convert most of the foreign vocabulary in pure Korean, while the South tends to use the pronunciation of its original language.

    ex) 'Database' in Korean is as follows:

    데이타베이스 (Dae-ta-bae-i-se) - South Korean
    정보기지 (Jeong-bo Gi-ji) - North Korean

    *정보 (Jeong-bo) means 'Data' and 기지 (gi-ji) means 'Base'.

    I'm not sure if this is of any help, but if you have more questions always feel free to ask. :)


    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    As far as I know the educated, high-level language is very different North vs South, 1) due to a huge number of borrowings in the South and word coinage in the North. It's a few decades of seperate development with hardly any communication. 2) North Korean standard is based on Pyongyang dialect and South Korean standard is based on Seoul dialect. This had an effect on both pronunciation and vocabulary.

    Even that Wikipedia article highlighted quite a few differences.
    North Korean refugees when arriving in South Korea become practically illiterate, as they don't know any words related to modern technologies and realities, besides, the average knowledge of Chinese characters in North is around 300 vs 1000-2000 in the South.

    In the North they got rid of a lot of words of Chinese origin, much more than this was done in the South (in a similar language reform).

    The differences caused a project to create a North Korean - South Korean dictionary - Choseonmal - Hangugeo. Even the Korean language is called differently, depending on where you are.

    The differences will almost go away when/if the borders become open, IMHO.


    Senior Member
    Korea has been divided to two states since 1945. Their isolation is continuous. What is the effect of this isolation? Has the language of South and North diverged?


    New Member
    Korea - Korean
    The isolation is affected words and grammer

    1. in words, in North korea, they are changing english and the other languages to pure Korean. but South Korea do not change them.
    for example, word of Icecream is said 아이스크림(sounds like with Icecream) in South Korea. but In North Korea say 얼음보숭이(sounds entitlt unlike with Icecream)

    2. Grammer is diverged too, but it is very slightly changed.

    (I'm poor in english, so I don't know you could underatand... Sorry in advance)


    Simply, they're still intelligible to each other and are considered as one language. There are a few differences between them such as spelling, grammar and pronunciation but these are not that critical. To some degree, they are general features of dialects. The biggest difference is probably vocabulary, specifically loanwords. South Koreans use a lot of English loanwords while the North doesn't. That's one of obstacles North Korean refugees settled in the South often face with.
    for example, word of Icecream is said 아이스크림(sounds like with Icecream) in South Korea. but In North Korea say 얼음보숭이(sounds entitlt unlike with Icecream)
    This is a misconception many South Koreans have. North Koreans say 아이스크림 as well, not 얼음보숭이 which had been created by the regime but failed to encourage people to use it.


    New Member
    Moderator note: I merged this new thread with the previous one about the same topic. Please don't forget to search the forum before opening a new thread to avoid unnecessary repetitions. Thanks.

    I have been always wonder about this, like if someone from North Korea speak the Korean to South Koreans, are they going to understand and vise versa? Is the language the same in both north and south Korea?
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member

    you can compare it with one of your many provinces' dialect.
    In china, although they speak their own accent and intonation, they speak and understand each other, since they speak mandarin, right?

    We surely understand each other in speaking & writing but because of the divided period, our language (including writing grammar) has a little bit evolved accordingly, I think.
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