Are there any major differences between North Korean and South Korean? Is there anything that tends to cause difficulty communicating or are there just more minor issues (like accents or idioms)?

This was one of our definition questions.

  • Yes of course there are. Accent is clear to native speakers, also vocabulary is markedly difference, esp. with anything to do with state, politics, war and even home electronics :) On a more fundamental note, NK avoids words of Chinese origin (replaces with own inventions). Jun 21, 2016 at 18:08
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    This is a difficult question to give a complete answer to. There are a large number of differences that are hard to summarize.
    – user12
    Jun 21, 2016 at 18:11
  • I would definitely expect a million small differences, but I think it would be sufficient on differences that are "important". I realize that's ill-defined but it seemed like the the supporters of this proposal wanted this question :) Jun 21, 2016 at 18:17
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    This question will hopefully acquire a long, canon answer explaining it exactly. If it's good enough it should end up with a couple of bounties as well. Eventually. For now, smaller answers will likely pop up.
    – Mast
    Jun 21, 2016 at 18:46
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    There's a cute comparison of different vocabulary at the beginning of this video: youtube.com/watch?v=ym3HnjBxPsw
    – Dmiters
    Jun 21, 2016 at 21:52

3 Answers 3


I think the dialect tag is a good one to put here as it basically summarizes the idea of the differences here: enough to be like two separate dialects (simplifying, Korean has 9 dialects). To my understanding Korean spoken in the North has aimed to be 'pure' in a sense - that is refraining from having loan words from the Japanese language (English too, really just most borrowed words) like Korean in the South does. There are too many differences to list as a full answer, but here are a few more differences:

  • North has intentionally avoided Hanja altogether, South is divided on this issue.
  • (You asked about spoken but it's interesting to note that Korean in the South has more spaces than that in the North.)
  • Both are influenced by Seoul dialect, but a main difference is that the North has some influence from Pyongan dialect.
  • A slew of slight spelling changes and slight (to sometimes significant) pronunciation differences such as 어.
  • This answer would probably be much more at-home in this meta discussion.
    – user12
    Jun 21, 2016 at 21:11

As a born and raised in South Korea. The difference between South and North are.. (imo)

  • accent like British English and American English
  • North Korea use try not to use words from other countries. They translate to a pure Korean word but it sounds weird.
  • Each country use own dictionary. A long time ago in 1980ish, they try to make one unify dictionary (http://www.gyeoremal.or.kr/eng/jsp/index.jsp)
  • I understand what North Korean ppl say on the news. I never spoke with North Korean but I understand what they are talking about without any issue.
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    do you think their news sounds funny? I always make a face or laugh when I see/hear North Korean news because they're so melodramatic (I know that the newscasters have to talk that way otherwise they'll get executed etc etc) .
    – gdgdgdgd
    Jun 16, 2018 at 19:39
  • yes it is. Most news from NK we facing they deliver msg or warning ..ish. So it sounds like they are mad.
    – tk0221
    Jun 21, 2018 at 1:15
  • North Korean also has many loanwords from English, which may sound different from South Korean, although their quantity is much smaller. Dec 11, 2018 at 16:03

these sites list some vocab differences like doughnut and sandwich



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