Every major city and area in Korea has its own unique dialect, and people will speak Korean differently depending on where they are from. There are six major dialects in Korea. Find out about these dialects and how you can recognize them.

안녕하세요! (An-nyong ha-se-yo!) Hello! I'm Billy from GO! Billy Korean on YouTube.

Check out the video here, and read along with the article below!

I used to live in Busan, in the southern part of South Korea. And people in Busan usually speak differently from people in Seoul which is farther north.

People from Korea tend to speak differently, depending on where they live and how old they are. This is called a dialect, or 사투리 ("sa-too-ri") in Korean.

First of all, there are six major dialects. Here is a map to show where they are.

The six dialect areas are 경기 ("Gyeong-gi"), 강원 ("Gang-won"), 충청 ("Chung-cheong"), 경상 ("Gyeong-sang"), 전라 ("Jeol-la"), and 제주 ("Je-ju").

Let's talk about the traits of each of these dialects in South Korea.

경기 ("Gyeong-gi")

This is the most common type of Korean, and it's used everywhere around the capital city of 서울 ("Seoul"). Most people on television and in movies will speak in this way, as well as radio, and news.

This is also the type of Korean that you will learn in textbooks, because it is so common. Nearly everyone in Korea will be able to understand this dialect, even if they speak a different dialect themselves.

Although this dialect is technically a little different from what is considered "standard Korean" (what is taught in school), they are very similar.

There are a few unique features of this dialect, such as pronouncing the 아 ("a") vowel sound like 어 ("eo") in some cases when conjugating it. For example:

Standard KoreanGyeong-gi DialectTranslation
그거 알아? ("geu-geo al-eo?")그거 알? ("geu-geo al-eo?")"Do you know that?"
머리 아파. ("meo-ri a-pa.")머리 아. ("meo-ri a-peo.")"I have a headache."

People in this area typically speak very clearly, and are easier to understand than other dialects. They also have a smooth intonation when they speak. For example, here is the intonation for the word 고맙습니다 ("go-map-seum-ni-da") said in Gyeong-gi dialect, which means "Thank you."

강원 ("Gang-won")

The major city in Gang-won is 강릉 ("Gang-neung"). This area is famous for its mountains and agriculture. There are farms all over the place.

One thing you might notice is that some people in this area end their sentences with 래(요) ("rae-yo") instead of the standard 이에요 ("i-e-yo") and 예요 ("ye-yo"), which is from the verb "to be." For example:

Standard KoreanGang-won DialectTranslation
제가 미국 사람이에요. ("je-ga mi-guk sa-lam i-e-yo")제가 미국 사람이래요. ("je-ga mi-guk sa-lam i-re-yo")"I'm an American."

And just like any dialect, there are many words that you could hear in this area that you won't hear anywhere else in Korea. For example, the word for bathroom in standard Korean is 화장실 ("hwa-jang-shil"), but the word for bathroom in the Gang-won dialect is 정낭 ("jeong-nang"). You might hear older people use this word instead. This is a very important word to know when visiting the area.

But there isn't a big difference between most people from the Gang-won area and people from Seoul because they're not far away.

충청 ("Chung-cheong")

Most people from this area live in the city of 대전 ("Dae-jeon").

And people here tend to speak more slowly than other areas. Because of this, they can sometimes sound friendlier than other Koreans when they talk.

One common ending from this area is 유 ("yu"). This ending can be used instead of the normal 요 ("yo") ending. For example:

Standard KoreanChung-cheong DialectTranslation
안녕하세요! ("an-nyeong-ha-se-yo.")안녕하세! ("an-nyeong-ha-se-yu.")"Hello."
밥 먹었어요? ("bab meo-geo-sseo-yo?")밥 먹었어? ("bab meo-geo-sseo-yu?")"Did you eat?"

But there also isn't a big difference between most people from the Chung-cheong area and people from Seoul because they're not far away. The farther away from Seoul you travel, the more different the language can sound.

경상 ("Gyeong-sang")

가가 가가? ("ga-ga ga-ga?") is a common phrase people might say if you ask them to say something in Gyeong-sang dialect. This phrase means "Is that guy that guy?"

Specifically, a lot of people who are interested in this dialect are actually interested in Busan dialect - the way Korean is spoken in the city of Busan.

A very popular Korean drama that uses this dialect is "Reply 1997." There are also many movies that use this dialect too, so it's very common.

But this dialect is spoken in the cities of 부산 ("Busan"), 울산 ("Ul-san"), and 대구 ("Dae-gu"). Among these, Busan dialect is the most well known and the most popular among Koreans and even some Korean learners.

First, Busan dialect can have some harsh sounding intonation. For example, here is the intonation for the word 고맙습니데이 ("go-map-seum-ni-de-i"), meaning "Thank you" in Busan dialect.

The intonation is very different for this dialect, but the most easy way to recognize this difference is to listen to it. There are many examples of this dialect, and all of the dialects in this lesson, in the video.

Men who speak this dialect are seen as masculine, and women who speak this dialect are seen as extra cute.

Standard KoreanGyeong-sang DialectTranslation
나랑 밥 먹으러 갈래? ("na-rang bab meo-geu-reo gal-lae?")나랑 밥 무러 갈래? ("na-rang bab mu-reo gal-lae?")"Do you wanna go eat with me?"

Again, I recommend actually listening to the dialect, and not only reading it. Dialects will sound the most different when spoken, and not when written.

But dialects don't only affect the way a person speaks, they can also affect the way a person behaves. For example, people in the Gyeong-sang area tend to speak more directly than people from other areas. Sentences can therefore be shorter, instead of longer. This is convenient for people learning Korean, because they can convey the same meaning in a much shorter and simpler sentence. Here is an example of 3 sentences that could be said by a father from Gyeong-sang to his wife.

Standard KoreanGyeong-sang DialectTranslation
밥 먹자! 우리 아이는 어때요? 자러 가자! ("bab meok-ja! u-ri a-i-neun eo-ttae-yo? ja-reo-ga-ja?")밥도! 아는? 자자! ("bab-do! a-neun? ja-ja!")
"Let's eat! How's our kid? Let's go to sleep!"

You might also hear a few different words in the Gyeong-sang area, that you won't hear anywhere else in Korea. For example:

Standard KoreanGyeong-sang DialectTranslation
의사 ("eui-sa")이사 ("i-sa")doctor
사과 ("sa-gwa")사가 ("sa-ga")apple

전라 ("Jeol-la")

Jeol-la is also known as 호남 ("Ho-nam"). This means "South of the Lake," because it's located south of several lakes.

One verb ending you might hear in this area is 부러 ("bu-reo") or the verb 부리다 ("bu-ri-da"). This ending can add emphasis to a sentence. Here is an example:

Standard KoreanJeol-la DialectTranslation
좋아요!좋아부리네!"That's great!"

You might also hear the sentence ending ~쇼 ("sho") used instead of ~세요 ("se-yo"). For example:

Standard KoreanJeol-la DialectTranslation
안녕하세요! ("an-nyeong-ha-se-yo")안녕하쇼! ("an-nyeong-ha-syo!")"Hello!"

제주 ("Je-ju")

It's difficult for me to call Je-ju dialect a "dialect," because it is so different from standard Korean that it is almost a separate language. Over 75% of Je-ju dialect does not even exist in standard Korean.

To illustrate this, here are two example sentences.

Standard KoreanJe-ju DialectTranslation
뭐라고 말하는지 모르겠죠? ("muo-ra-go mal-ha-neun-ji mo-reu-get-jo?")
무신 거옌 고람 신디 몰르쿠게? ("mu-shin geo-yen go-ram shin-di mol-leu-ku-ge?")
"You don't know what I'm saying, do you?"
안녕하십니까? ("an-nyeong-ha-shim-ni-kka?")펜안하우과? ("pen-an-ha-u-gwa?")"Hello (how are you?)"

But a benefit to Je-ju dialect, is that you don't have to worry so much about speaking honorific Korean (such as using ~세요 ("se-yo")). In Je-ju, you can speak the same way to someone older than you, as you can to someone who's closer to your same age. This is only when speaking in the Je-ju dialect, and not when speaking standard Korean in the Je-ju area.

And there's simply too much about Je-ju dialect to cover in this short lesson, but it's an incredibly unique dialect and a lot of fun to learn about. However, it's not so useful.

This lesson only covered the major dialects in South Korea (and not any of the dialects in North Korea).

Depending on who you talk with, where they're from, their upbringing, and how old they are, each person will speak a bit differently. Only take this information as a guide, and not as a rule book. There are no rules in dialects, as they are only spoken languages.

Let me know if I missed anything in the comments.

If you have any questions for me, you can also comment below this article. I love teaching Korean, and I'd love to help you.

If you're learning Korean for the first time, check out my book here. --> Korean Made Simple: A beginner's guide to learning the Korean language

Also visit my YouTube channel, where I upload videos about Korea and Korean every week. --> GO! Billy Korean on YouTube


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