My boss is curious how much Modern Korean he can recognize from his fluency in Cantonese and Mandarin. He plans to start by learning solely Hanja, obviously to take advantage of his fluent Cantonese and Mandarin. We are referring just to Hanja commonly used by ordinary Koreans in 2021. We don't need archaic or esoteric Hanja that ordinary Koreans won't recognize.

We know that mastering Hanja is NOT enough to learn Korean, because Hanja constitutes just 60% of Modern Korean vocabulary. My boss is computer illiterate and asked me to post this. As his first choice, he prefers print books or monographs in English or Chinese. But if there are none, he can try trustworthy websites.

  • 1
    He will probably be able to recognize the common words in spoken Korean, if he can overcome possible differences in pronunciation, but I think he will be better off learning Korean script from a beginners book and starting from there, instead of going the Hanja route. I might be wrong here, but even in beginner Korean books in Chinese for Chinese native speakers, I don't think they attempt to teach Korean through Hanja
    – user17915
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 9:13
  • I agree with @user17915 - Not sure if your boss wants to learn Korean or just interested in he theoretical question "How much Korean can one understand by only learning Hanja?" If it's the former, then he should definitely start with Hangul. (In the latter case, please note that even Sino-Korean words are written in pure Hangul 99.9% of the time, so unless someone transcribes these words into Hanja, one won't be able to understand anything by knowing Hanja alone.)
    – jick
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 17:33
  • with related answers: korean.stackexchange.com/questions/4990/…
    – user17915
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 2:21

3 Answers 3


I would say this one. It provides the frequency of all words, including Sino-Korean words, from various samples. According to the data, some of the most frequently used S-K words of two or more syllables include: 問題, 社會, 自身, 境遇, 女子, 程度, 人間, 時間, 自己, 政府, 世界, 事實, 始作, 時代, 只今, 關係, 經濟, 男子, 以上, 運動, 地域, 文化, 映畵, 方法, 內容, 過程, 作品, 政治, 生活, 女性, 大統領, 親舊, 記者, 意味, 重要, ...

Note that some of these words have different meaning, or are not used in Cantonese. Other than that, yes, you can easily predict Korean pronunciation of Chinese characters if you are fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin.


I’d say that Chinese would help but Japanese kanji use is much closer. If he wants to do Hanja vocabulary there are courses like that on Memrise and it d be easy enough to just look at the list. Of words ... I know Japanese and sometimes can recognize korean words even if different sounds by Hanja even though I’m not looking at the Hanja. Some are straight up no brainers but not often .. 高速道路. For example Kosoku Douro in jap Korean ALMOST identical. These Hanja would be basically same as a sign in Chinese too, but that’s relatively rarer for Chinese n korean than Japan korean pair I suspect.... generally learning the language isn’t helped that much, but it’s ( in a way ) a “ gimme” to get easy vocabulary ... I’ve noticed remembering to pronounce it korean is harder tho oops. Eg yoori hada 料理する.. is in my head as Ryori n hard to say in korean Also hmje s list above, with a few character variations, 90 % of those are also words in Japanese... compound ( eg 2 character ) words are more likely to have sounds relatable to both Chinese sounds n Japanese .. Japan ( and Korea ) used “ Chinese pronouniation versions “ for these words... single character words in Japan tend to be native sound words ... 自ら( Mizukara ) vs 自由 ( jiyu ) which is a word n sounds that Chinese n Koreans could easily recognize as similar. Mizukara would be incomprehensible...


Maybe the reference material for the lower levels of this specific certification for Hanja might be useful.

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