I just noticed the North Korean passport says "려권". Indeed, Naverdic says "려권" is North Korean for "여권". Apparently both words use the same hanja, just pronouncing it differently.

Can anyone explain the history/reason behind this difference?

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2 Answers 2


As I explained in the linked answer Why is the Korean name 이 often Romanised as 'Lee'?, there is

'두음법칙 (First Initial Sound Rule / Law)' in Korean:

<언어> 일부 소리가 단어의 첫머리에 발음되는 것을 꺼려 다른 소리로 발음되는 일. ‘ㅣ, ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ’ 앞에서의 ‘ㄹ’과 ‘ㄴ’이 ‘ㅇ’이 되고, ‘ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅐ, ㅔ, ㅚ’ 앞의 ‘ㄹ’은 ‘ㄴ’으로 변하는 것 따위이다. [비슷한 말] 머리소리 법칙.

부가정보 : 한글 맞춤법 제5 절 제10 항에서 제12 항에 따르면 “한자음 ‘녀, 뇨, 뉴, 니’가 단어 첫머리에 올 적에는 두음 법칙에 따라 ‘여, 요, 유, 이’로 적고, ‘랴, , 례, 료, 류, 리’가 단어의 첫머리에 올 적에는 ‘야, , 예, 요, 유, 이’로 적으며, ‘라, 래, 로, 뢰, 루, 르’가 단어의 첫머리에 올 적에는 ‘나, 내, 노, 뇌, 누, 느’로 적는다. 예를 들어 ‘여자(女子), 연세(年歲), 요소(尿素), 유대(紐帶), 이토(泥土), 익명(匿名)’은 ‘녀자, 년세, 뇨소, 뉴대, 니토, 닉명’이 아닌 ‘여자, 연세, 요소, 유대, 이토, 익명’으로 적는 따위이다.

Short summary:

When consonants such as 'ㄹ' and 'ㄴ' are placed at the first block of a word as an initial consonant, it is pronounced in a different way. For example:

  1. In front of 'ㅣ, ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ' , 'ㄴ' and 'ㄹ' are pronounced as 'ㅇ': 녀자 -> 여자, 려권 -> 여권

  2. In front of 'ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅐ, ㅔ, ㅚ' , 'ㄹ' is pronounced as 'ㄴ': 락원 -> 낙원, 로동 -> 노동

*This rule applies to only Chinese characters and doesn't apply to original Korean words such as '리을 (ㄹ)' and '녀석', etc. Sometimes, it applies to a compound noun such as '신성', '남존비', '남녀소' and '중동', etc.

However, North Korea has ignored this rule and written '로동 (Labor)' instead of '노동' and '녀자 (woman)' instead of '여자'.

'려권' is another case where North Korea doesn't follow this rule. It is '여권' in South Korea. There is no such rule in North Korea.


Ryeogwon is a Chinese word. It consists of two characters - 旅 (lǚ) and 券 (quàn). So, the 려 syllable is taken from lǚ and changed to yeo in South Korea.

There are many other examples.

laodong 로동 - 노동

liu 륙 - 육

lai + ri 래일 - 내일

nüzi 녀자 - 여자

lüxing 려행 - 여행

  • 3
    It's misleading to say 여권 is a Chinese word: if I say the word to a Mandarin speaker I'm pretty sure they'll have no idea what I mean. Korean 여권 and Chinese 旅券 are two different words in two different languages that may be written in the same Chinese characters. In this particular case the meaning may be almost the same, but in general there will be differences in how the words are used. (E.g., 汽车 is a car in Chinese, but "기차" means train.)
    – jick
    Oct 19, 2018 at 0:05
  • 2
    No, 려/여 /rjʌ/ or /jʌ/ is not taken from Mandarin lǚ /lɥy̌ː/, but from Middle Chinese /liɔX/. The Sino-Korean pronunciation and the Mandarin pronunciation are siblings from a common ancestor. One is not taken from another.
    – Ignatius
    Mar 19, 2019 at 6:25

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