The Wikipedia article on Sino-Korean vocabulary states:

Sino-Korean words today make up about 60% of the Korean vocabulary, though in actual speech (especially informally) native words are more common.

Are there any statistics on the percentages of 한자어 that are used in actual speech and writing? I am aware that the percentage would be very different between an academic paper and a chat between teenagers.

1 Answer 1


Most sources report the percentage of vocabulary in dictionaries, and the figures range from 53% to 70% - this will really depend on the dictionary used to calculate the figure.

The running words frequency is the percentage of words actually found in a text. This depends on the text used, but if a balanced representative corpus is used, you should get a fairly good estimate.

In 2002, the National Institute of Korean Language (국립국어원) published a study called 현대 국어 사용 빈도 조사 based on a corpus of 1,531,966 words, with the frequency of every word contained in the corpus. Based on that study, a newspaper article reports that the percentage of word origins among running words are as follows:

  • Native Korean words ("토박이말"): 54%
  • Hanja words (한자어): 35%
  • Foreign words (외래어): 2%

I couldn't confirm those figures myself, as they don't seem to be in the original article published by the 국립국어원, but rather calculated from the tables provided in the article.

  • 1
    The percentage doesn't seem to add up. 101% can be explained by rounding errors, but these only add up to 91%, perhaps one of them was mistyped to be 10% less then the actual value?
    – busukxuan
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 13:49

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