I know the hangul ㅁ is equivalent to "m", but I've also heard it sounds more like "b"

This is based on anecdotal observation where the former is usually the case in song lyrics and the latter in drama, reality shows, etc.

Which is correct? Or maybe a better question would be which is the norm?

Is this something influenced by accents?

EDIT for examples:

ㅁ as "b":

0:53 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_nZ1RwvPmE

ㅁ as "m":

0:14 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdzLl-XpJt0

  • Korean alphabet pronunciation chart: blog.naver.com/mh7785/221352096601
    – user17915
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:54
  • 1
    Where is it pronounced as 'b'? Do you have any references (like name of show where it was possibly pronounced as 'b', or a video link)?
    – user17915
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:54
  • 4
    korean.stackexchange.com/questions/2744/… - same phenomenon on a different word
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:59
  • @Michaelyus the answer in that question clarified it. Thanks!
    – bolt997
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:22
  • 1
    Interestingly, a Korean, who speaks in the Busan dialect in daily life, sensed the same phenomenon after learning some English.
    – Klmo
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


A quote from my answer to the question "Why is 눈 pronounced the way it is?"

The phenomenon you're hearing has been described not just in academic literature but also in more modern learners' guides to the Korean language. It is an example of initial denasalisation. Basically, the nasals ㅁ and ㄴ, phonemically /m/ and /n/ respectively, tend to denasalise to a heavily voiced [b] and [d] in initial position, and especially before ㅜ /u/.

This was reported as far back as 1924 by Daniel Jones himself no less, with this phenomenon happening before /u/. It seems to have generalised now. The 2011 study showed that they are perceived as nasal consonants by Korean speakers but as non-nasal /b/ and /d/ by English speakers.

Also, there is some regional variation: 경기도 (Seoul and around Seoul) has a much greater extent of denasalisation than 경상도 (Busan and Daegu etc.) where nasality is retained. However, there is also a considerable generational difference; older Busan speakers seem to never denasalise, whereas younger Busan speakers 40-70%.


No in both videos that you've given links to, 몰라요 sounds the same. There is no (and there should not be) 'b' sound. The pronunciation for this is 'mol-la-yo'.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.