I've heard that in Yanbian or North Korea ㅈ is pronounced as "ts" rather than "j". However, in this article about Yanbian Korean it also describes it as "j" . Which is more common in Yanbian? Is there one which is more "dialectal"/"rural"? https://www.korean.go.kr/nkview/nklife/1998_4/8-8.html .

In the same article, it describes ㄱ followed by i or y as becoming ㅈ. Does this occur consistently, or only in some words? How does this combine with the pronunciation question above? e.g. 김치 kimchi = kimchi, kimtsi, jimchi or jimtsi?

Thank you

1 Answer 1


This k-palatalisation (ㄱ 구개음화) is reportedly a huge part of the Hamgyeong dialect. However, one has to distinguish the Hamgyeong dialect group from the Yukchin/Yukjin/Ryukjin (육진 / 六鎭) dialects. They are geo-politically within 함경북도 North Hamgyŏng province, but dialectally they share some features with the Pyeong'an dialect group:

P'yŏngan dialects are virtually unique in that they never underwent the change of palatalization which took place in the south and swept over most of Korea in the 18th century. The Yukchin dialects in northernmost Hamkyŏng were also free from palatalization. Thus, P'yŏngan dialects show neither the t-palatalization nor the k- and h-palatalizations prevalent in southern and northeastern dialects.

Yanbian is of course a very distinct linguistic community; although it is geographically closer to the Yukjin Korean-speaking regions of North Korea, it is generally held to be a variety of Hamgyeong Korean, whereas e.g. Koryo-mar is closer to Yukjin Korean. However, Yanbian Korean does not show strong t-palatalisation, unlike Hamgyeong Korean, and from what I can tell, does not show strong k-palatalisation either.

Some examples:

  • Lesson 11 here has the word 기도, unpalatalised, in a very "professional" reading
  • 기와 as said in a documentary report by 김송월, "godmother of Korea food in Yanbian", again unpalatalised
  • 김치 as said by this lady in a documentary filmed by ADVChina, also unpalatalised - although they're making a South Korean kimchi recipe.

As an example of 육진방언:

What has caused this lack of palatalisation is open to debate. A more conservative form of Hamgyeong dialect? A greater adherance to the literary idiom? Yukjin dialect mixing? Standard North Korean / Pyeong'an dialect mixing? Standard South Korean / Seoul dialect mixing, even?

  • Wow, thank you so much for this answer. The Korean Dialect article was particularly useful. I had no idea they had so many language options on the Jehova's witness videos
    – dinolingo
    Apr 6, 2020 at 22:51

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