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Differences Between The Dialects Of North and South Korea

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For nearly 70 years, the two Koreas have known nothing else but hostile relations. However, in 2004 there was a rarity. A historic agreement between the two halves of the peninsula to compile a “grand dictionary of the national language” the “Gyeoremal-keunsajeon” meant setting aside the differences and hashing out definitions of more than 330,000 words.

Today, the project is nearly 80 per cent complete. Its outcomes are already enriching Korean courses in Singapore. The findings are also enlightening many about the differences between the dialects of North and South Koreans.

In this article, we highlight some of these differences in dialects, before the two Koreas decided to unite their national language.

Differences in Vocabulary
The divide of the two Koreas after WWII affected cultural aspects as well. The Northerners were private and less open to external influence. On the other hand, the Southerners were voracious consumers of other cultures, more so Western – English speaking cultures. They were consumers of Western technology, entertainment, education and various other ideologies. As such, the Southerners’ dialects were heavily influenced by foreign languages. By 2002, linguists had tallied up to 24,000 loanwords in the South Korean Lexicon. However, the North Koreans still remained relatively intact.

You will notice that most Korean language schools in Singapore have a bias towards South Korean loan words. They use words such as “myujiekeol” (musical) more often as opposed to the more conservative North Korean’ word “eumhakwi”, a word that means a song and dance story. Other loanwords such as “juseu” (Juice) in South Korea are not common in the North. Instead, the more traditional “danmul” or ”sweet water” is more popular in the North.

Differences in Writing
If you are taking a Korean course in Singapore, you will notice that although there’s no difference in the letters of the Korean alphabet (called “jamo”), there’s a difference in their arrangement. In North Korea, certain vowels and consonants are considered separate letters. However, in the South, they are kept in unison.

This difference also exists in whole words. For example, South Koreans usually put more spaces when writing pairs of words that make up a single concept as compared to their Northern counterparts.

Differences in Speech
As you advance in the korean classes in singapore, you’ll notice that the North-South divide also permeates the spoken word. Certain consonants and vowels are pronounced differently while some characters are considered silent on one side but pronounced distinctly on the other half of the peninsula.

Also, you will notice that in your Korean language lessons in Singapore, some Chinese characters have been assimilated into Korean. However, these characters, also known as hanja, have different pronunciations between the North and the South.

To conclude, an ordinary speaker may not notice these differences in the Korean language. However, if you’re taking up Korean language classes in Singapore for professional purposes, it’s important to pay attention to the variances between the two and apply the appropriate version in accordance with the situation and audience.

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