North Korea vs. South Korea

North Korea vs. South Korea: Language and Cultural Differences

North Korea vs. South Korea

Although Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea, there are noticeable differences in the dialect of the two nations. Here, we will examine these differences so you can gain a better overall understanding of the Korean language… 

North Korea and South Korea were originally divided across the 38th Parallel, then later, along the Demarcation line. The division, a result of the end of Japanese rule following World War II, pitted the two nations in a bitter battle. Some 70 years later, much of the rivalry and tension continues to exist.

While North Korea and South Korea both officially speak Korean, there are subtle difference between the two languages, just as there are difference between the two cultures.

Korean Vocabulary

North Korea and South Korea have markedly different cultures, and because of this, the vocabulary that they use is very different. When looking at vocabulary in terms of North Korea vs. South Korea, it should be noted that South Korean culture is far more open to adopting words and phrases from other cultures.

Seoul is the epicenter of South Korean culture, and because of this, the majority of South Korean residents speak a language based off of the Seoul dialect. A great deal of English has been introduced into common vocabulary, as well as melding in with western entertainment, which is readily available in South Korea. Japanese words and phrases have also been adopted into the South Korean dialect for the same reason.

The same is not true for North Korea. North Korea is largely insulated and its residents have limited access to culture and information from other nations. Because of this, and an overall culture of isolation, the adoption of foreign words and phrases has been largely discouraged. English words are rarely used in the North Korean language. Most residents speak the Pyongyang dialect. Chinese, Japanese, and words of western origin have been stripped from the language in recent years, and adapted words generally have Russian origins.

Korean Pronunciation

Just as people in the United States pronounce words differently based on region, the same is true with North Korea and South Korea. The combination of consonants and vowels sound different between the two languages, and it can be difficult for an individual who has learned one language to decipher the other.

When looking at North Korea vs. South Korea in terms of the spoken word, one of the most obvious pronunciation differences is that of hanja. Hanja are Chinese characters adopted by the two cultures, but they are spoken in different ways, and used in different situations.

The use of hanja is more widespread in South Korea, but hanja is used, in informal conversation, in North Korea, as well.

The Korean Alphabet

When looking at the alphabet, there is a North Korea vs. South Korea version. Both nations use hangul and jamo for their written words. Jamo is a type of character alphabet, similar to Japanese hiragana. The actual writing is different when looking at North Korea vs. South Korea. The sound and tone of each character is often different, depending on the dialect and how far removed from the Demarcation zone a person is. The tone and infliction are subtle nuances that can be difficult for beginners, but they can change the meaning of words and phrases, especially in the written word.

If you’re interested In learning more about the subtle and not-so-subtle difference between the North Korean and South Korean languages, you should take language lessons with a native Korean speaker.  A native Korean speaker is the most qualified person to teach you these differences and make sure you have a better understanding of the Korean language as a whole.

What do you find difficult or confusing about the different dialects? Let us know in the comments below!

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quiz to see where you should live

Quiz: What Country Were You Meant to Live In?

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t REALLY belong in the land of big macs and slurpees?

Sure, you love living in the land of opportunity and there are things in the U.S. that you couldn’t imagine living without.

That being said, you’re ready for a change.

Don’t worry, there’s a country that perfectly matches your personality—no matter how quirky or eccentric you are. Take this fun and easy quiz to see where you should live.

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Before you pack your bags and board a plane to Italy, France, or Japan make sure you renew your passport and take some language lessons! These lessons will come in handy when you’re exploring your new country and meeting the locals.

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Ultimate Resource Guide for Korean-Language Students

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Korean-Language Students

Ultimate Resource Guide for Korean-Language Students

When you’re taking Korean lessons, some reliable, thorough online resources can help you brush up on your skills between sessions with your Korean teacher. From Korean-language websites to fun YouTube videos, here are the best online resources to help you learn Korean.


How to Study Korean

Learning any new language isn’t just about memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary, mastery of a language requires the ability to apply it in real-life situations. How to Study Korean understand this and is designed to help you learn to actually speak and apply the Korean language. The website is divided into units and lessons with tests at the end of each unit to make sure you understand the material.

According to the website, by the time you’re done with the lessons, you will know “nine thousand of the most common Korean words and 99.9 percent of the grammar that is used in Korean conversations.”

Start with the basics of the Hangul alphabet and work your way up to sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary. This website takes a gradual approach, so you wont feel intimidated, and you can study at your own pace.

If you get stuck on a specific topic, check the website’s community forum for support from their Korean teachers.

Remember, you can also go over anything that confuses you with your Korean tutor.

Sogang Korean Program

This website is provided by the Korean Language Education Center at Sogang University, and its mission is to promote education, culture, and language.

The lessons will give you a great overview of Korean grammar and pronunication, and there are interactive practice exercises to reinforce the lessons. is a fun, interactive website to help you learn Korean. The website uses lots of different types of media like audio and video lessons featuring Korean hosts, downloadable PDF guides, and smart phone apps to help you learn on the go.

Learn Korean Language

One of the best parts of studying a language is learning about the history, culture, and traditions. This will broaden your knowledge and enrich your learning experience.

The Learn Korean Language website offers Korean-language lesson, a Korean blog, Korean news, and information on Korean history and culture.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the Korean language and information about traveling to Korea, bookmark this website, now!


KOSNET offers e-Books and video lectures for Korean-language students. No matter your level, you can find the right resource to expand your knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of the Korean language through reading, listening, and speaking.

In addition to Korean-language textbooks, you can also find educational materials on Korean history and culture.


Omniglot is an extensive online encyclopedia of languages, writing systems, and alphabets. Omniglot has educational materials for many different languages, but you can find some excellent resources to learn the Korean writing system, and learn about Korean vowels, consonants, phrases, and more.

Life in Korea

Life in Korea is an excellent resource for Korean-language students and travelers. The site is broken into sections which group different real-life situations so you can learn useful, applicable Korean phrases.

If you’re planning to visit Korea, Life in Korea is a fantastic place to find accommodations and information for your trip.

Korean Learning for Correct Pronunciation

If you don’t have native Korean speakers you can practice with, then this website is great to perfect your pronunciation.

The audio files will help you learn the correct pronunciation for Korean words. There is also a character glossary for a quick reference for Korean characters.


Study Stack

Memorize Korean vocabulary with these digital flashcards. Choose from the pre-made sets or create your own.


LearnWithOliver offers audio flashcards, learning exercises, and tests to help you memorize Korean words and phrases.

You can also compete with other users with fun, interactive online games.

Anki Korean Deck Flashcards

Study online or sync these digital flashcards across multiple mobile devices.


Videos are a fun and entertaining way to learn Korean. Here is a list of some of our favorite videos to help you learn Korean:

The Best YouTube Korean Videos for Beginners


Whether you’re looking for textbooks, workbooks, or eBooks, here are the best, most resourceful books to help you learn Korean.

The Best Korean Books for Language Students

5 More Fantastic Books for Language Students

What other Korean-language resources do you love? We want to hear from you, let us know in the comments below!

While these resources are all very helpful, remember, the best way to learn Korean is through private lessons with a Korean tutor. Find a Korean teacher near you and start learning Korean today!

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Photo by Oneterry Aka Terry Kearney


Korean BBQ dishes

10 Mouth-Watering Korean BBQ Dishes You Have to Try

Korean BBQ dishes

One of the best things about studying the Korean language is learning about different aspects of the culture. What better way to learn some Korean vocabulary than sampling some delicious Korean delicacies?

Korean BBQ restaurants have table-top grills so guests can cook their own food at their tables. The food is delicious, and the table-top grills make for a fun group dining experience.

Here are 10 Korean BBQ dishes you have to try.

1. Grilled Pork Belly

Grilled Pork Bellyphoto from Maangchi

At most Korean restaurants, grilled pork belly is made with garlic and green onions. You can cook it at your table, and enjoy salad and vegetables on the side.

You can try grilled pork belly at just about any Korean BBQ restaurant, or make your own with this recipe.

2. Ddeokbokki

ddeokbokkiphoto from Seoul Taste

Don’t let the name intimidate you, ddeokbokki are essentially spicy Korean rice cakes. There are many different ways to make them, but they usually contain fish cake, cabbage, and hard-boiled eggs.

Want to try to make this dish yourself? Get the recipe here.

3. Bibimbap

bimbimbapphoto from whats4eats

Bibimbap is a bowl of steamed rice with an assortment of toppings. You can add meats, vegetables, or a fried egg, and then top the bowl with a spicy soybean paste called gochujang.

Find a Korean BBQ restaurant near you, or make your own bibimbap.

4. Kimchi

kimchiphoto from Maangchi

 Kimchi is a staple and a popular Korean BBQ side dish. Kimchi is made either from seasoned vegetables or cabbage, and it can be made spicy or mild.

If you make your own kimchi, you can customize the ingredients and the spice level.

5. Galbi

galbiphoto from Sura Korean BBQ & Tofu House

 These beef short ribs are marinated in garlic soy sauce. They’re grilled to order at Korean restaurants like Sura KBBQ, and served on a skillet with a bed of onions.

6. Korean Seafood Pancake

seafood pancakephoto from the kitchn

Korean seafood pancakes, or haemul pajeon, contain your choice of seafood with scallions wrapped in a batter-based shell. Pair it with the dipping sauce of your choice and some soup, salad, or kimchi.

You can try different types of haemul pajeon at various Korean restaurants, or invite your Korean language study group over for dinner and make your own!

7. Bulgogi

bulgolgiphoto from A Spicy Perspective

 Bulgogi is thinly-sliced marinated beef. The marinade usually contains garlic, ginger, siracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar. You can grill bulgogi at your table at Korean BBQ restaurants.

Learn more about how to make bulgogi here.

8. Soon Doo Boo

soon doo boophoto from Sura Korean BBQ

Soon Doo Boo, or soft tofu soup, is a popular Korean dish. You can customize the spice level and order a vegan-friendly or beef broth. Add toppings like pork belly, beef, kimchi, jalapeno chicken, or mushrooms.

Soon Doo Boo is a very popular dish at restaurants like Sura Korean BBQ.

9. Yangnyeom Tongdak

spicy chickenphoto from To Food With Love

 Yangnyeom tongdak is Korean fried chicken. The chicken is deep fried and then covered in a sweet-and-spicy sauce. The added gochujang gives the chicken a spicy kick, so you may want to try a different entree if you’re not a fan of spicy foods.

Find a Korean BBQ restaurant near you, or learn how to make your own yangnyeom tongdak.

10. Jap Chae

japcahephoto from Steamy Kitchen

 Try these sweet potato noodles that are mixed with vegetables like spinach, carrots, and onions. The noodles turn clear when they are cooked, which is why this dish is sometimes called “Korean glass noodles.” Some Korean restaurants also add beef to their jap chae.

Want to try jap chae? Get the recipe here.

Now that you know some of the most popular dishes, find a Korean BBQ restaurant near you. Bring a group for a fun dining experience, and enjoy some delicious food while you practice your Korean language skills.

Want to learn to speak Korean? Search for a Korean teacher near you!

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The 5 Best Korean Books for Beginners

The 5 Best Korean Books for Language Students

The 5 Best Korean Books for Beginners

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When you’re taking Korean lessons, it’s great to have some study materials to supplement your learning. Here Korean teacher Keulin H. shares the best books to help you learn how to speak Korean

Interested in learning Korean, but not sure where to start?  A comprehensive, thorough Korean book can help you learn the basics.

Because Korean pronunciation is quite different than English, it’s essential to enlist the help of a Korean language teacher. If you can, try to find someone who is a native speaker. A Korean language teacher can help you learn grammar and pronunciation, and he or she can also explain language levels and cultural differences.

When you’re working with a Korean teacher, you’ll need some resources to keep you on track on your way to becoming a Korean master. In addition to old-fashioned textbooks, Korean language students  also have digital and eBook options. There are some great resources out there, if you know where to look. Here are some of the best Korean books for beginners.

“Talk to Me in Korean”

Talk to Me in Korean” is one of the best, most comprehensive Korean resources. The lessons are broken down into separate sections, or you can download them as one complete package.  The lessons start at a very basic level, and progress to the intermediate level. There are also more advanced study materials like video clips and MP3s. Besides the workbooks, there are a number of additional e-books on various aspects of the Korean language.

“My Korean”

The “My Korean” series is provided by Monash University.  The downloadable books start at the beginner level, and allow you to progress at a comfortable pace. These Korean books are available in PDF, and include worksheets and audio files to complement each chapter.

“Sogang Korean”

The “Sogang Korean” books are separated into three different levels, and help Korean students progress from language basics to more advanced concepts. Learn Korean through in-depth lessons, grammar explanations, and workbook exercises. The books come with CDs to help you improve your pronunciation and comprehension.

“Korean Grammar for International Learners”

Grammar is arguably the most important part of the language, so it’s important to develop a solid foundation as a beginner. Although “Korean Grammar for International Learners”  is a very thorough resource, it’s an excellent beginner-friendly grammar guide.

“500 Basic Korean Words”

Verbs are essential in any language, and 500 Basic Korean Verbs is the perfect resource for Korean language students. This book will help you learn proper conjugation, usage, and pronunciation through lessons, examples, and audio files.

Bonus: Expand Your Vocabulary with Flashcards

Whether you purchase them or make them yourself, flashcards are one of the best ways to expand your Korean vocabulary. This Korean Flash Cards Kit  includes audio files and can help you learn one thousand basic Korean words and phrases.

Remember, when it comes to learning, everybody is different, so it’s important to find the resources and study methods that work best for you. Use these Korean books to supplement your one-on-one lessons, and you will be well on your way to learning a new language.

Looking for some more books to add to your language-learning library? Here are five more Korean books you might like! 

Keulin HKeulin H. is a Korean language instructor in Severn, MD. He teaches in-home and online lessons. A native Korean and English speaker, he graduated from Inha University and spent four years as a Korean tutor for English speakers in Seoul. Learn more about Keulin here!




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korean language

5 Surprising Facts About the Korean Language

korean language

The Korean language is a rich one with a long history. Like any language, the Korean language has gone through many changes over time. When you’re learning Korean,  it can be fun and helpful to learn about the history and intricacies of the language. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Korean language.

1. There are Minor Language Differences Between North and South Korea

The biggest influences on the Korean language come from English and Chinese, respectively. While the language in South Korea reflects this, North Korea has tried to keep the language free of loan words. This means there may be different ways of saying certain things in the north versus the south.

Don’t worry though, the differences aren’t so major that you can’t learn and use Korean. It’s still the official language of both areas.

2. The Written Language is Based on an Alphabet, Not Just Pictures

Many people see Korean writing and assume it has roots in pictures or ideographs, like Chinese and Japanese characters. What you see when you look at one of their characters isn’t a picture, though; it’s a combination of sounds, and the letters that make up a syllable.

3. The Honorifics System Can Make All the Difference

There is also the more advanced nuances that come from the honorifics system. The honorifics system dictates how you address someone, depending on your relationship with that person. There are several speech levels, each one for a different level of respect. Learn more about the Korean speech levels here.

For example, you would use completely different words to  address a relative than you would to speak with your employer. This system can be quite complex. Learn it, and you won’t accidentally slip and show disrespect when you use familiar phrasing rather than a deferential one.

4. Singular and Plural Nouns Aren’t Always Different

In English, words change depending on if the subject is singular or plural. For example, there is a distinction between one book versus four books, we add an “s” to the end of the word. In Korean, not every word changes to a different plural form to indicate more than one person place, or thing. For the most part, the context of the phrase will indicate if the subject is singular or plural.

5. Context Goes a Long Way

In a lot of everyday Korean speech, the subject and object can be dropped from a sentence. The person you’re speaking to will understand because of the context.

In English, the basic sentence is subject, verb, and object. In Korean, the basic word order is subject, object, verb.

  • S-V-O – He feeds the dog
  • S-O-V – He the dog feeds

In Korean, you can often drop the subject and object as long as the context is there. In almost all cases, the verb is the most important part.

Learning Korean is challenging, but it is also fun and rewarding. You can apply many of these principles as you learn the language and use them to help you advance.


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Photo by Emmanuel DYAN