I wonder which of Chinese and Japanese Korean share more vocabulary with. I investigated it but it seems that the estimated percentage of shared vocabulary varies so much. For example according to the Wikipedia Korean language page:

The exact proportion of Sino-Korean vocabulary is a matter of debate. Sohn (2001) stated 50–60%.[48] Later, the same author (2006, p. 5) gives an even higher estimate of 65%.[43] Jeong Jae-do, one of the compilers of the dictionary Urimal Keun Sajeon, asserts that the proportion is not so high. He points out that Korean dictionaries compiled during the colonial period include many unused Sino-Korean words. In his estimation, the proportion of Sino-Korean vocabulary in the Korean language might be as low as 30%.[49]

But now I wonder then in which of the two languages the vocabulary is more common in Korean. Is there any such study, or at least is there general agreement among Korean speakers who speak both Chinese and Japanese?

  • A very rough and unsupported insight: a very high portion of the vocabulary shared with Chinese is also shared with Japanese. However, less (but yet not little) portion of the vocabulary shared with Japanese is also found in Chinese. I doubt there will be any academic support on this matter, though.
    – Ignatius
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 0:52
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    Also, there's an issue with changes in meaning between Classical Chinese, Modern Standard Mandarin, modern Sino-Korean, and modern Sino-Japanese. E.g. the words for "to study".
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


I think the best answer you can expect from any Korean is "we don't know." That is because while there are so many Sino-Korean words in Korean vocabulary, we do share certain terms and words with the Japanese language that were introduced to the Korean lexicon during Japanese colonial rule. For example, the word for politics in Korean comes from Japanese translation of the word politics. Not only that, some of the Sino-Korean words that are in use in the Korean language are not used in the Chinese language.

Considering all these, I think one could never find out the answer.

  • That's right. Even we don't know is this word from Japanese? Or we just share this word with Japan?.
    – LegenDUST
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 7:24

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