News

Sixty Years After Division, Korean Language Has Gone in Separate Directions

The two Koreas differ in more than just political ideology.  Since the Korean Peninsula was divided more than 60 years ago, the way North and South Koreans speak has gone separate ways.  And, for thousands of North Korean refugees, the language divide is one of their biggest challenges to adjusting to life in South Korea.

When you listen to South Korean and North Korean newscast you might not hear much of a difference, but for many of the 15,000 North Koreans who have defected to South Korea, the difference is loud and clear.

For them, language is one of the hardest parts of adjusting to life in their new home.

That is according to Ko Gyoung Bin, director of Hanawon, a South Korean government-run facility that gives newly arrived defectors a crash-course on living in the capitalist world.

Ko says Hanawon tries to teach them the new terminology through textbooks.  He says the organization also uses movies to teach how to speak.

He says Hanawon even hires defectors who have lived in South Korea for a while.

The North Korean language is a relic.  It has not changed that much since the 1940's, whereas South Korean has added a wealth of new vocabulary.

Chae Su Jeong, who defected in 2001, says she found that out the hard way.

Chae says she did not realize how different North and South Korean languages were until she started working for a recycling company.  For example, she says, North Korea has only one word to describe all types of paper, but, in the South, there are many.
 
Political manipulation might be a reason for the North-South language divide.

As in many aspects of life in North Korea, language has been altered to serve the nation's rulers.

So says Kim Seok Hyang, who lectures at the Ewha Institute for Unification Studies in Seoul and who has written a book on how North Koreans use their language, gives an example of one word that has had its meaning changed since the Koreas were divided.  

"Sun-mul, in Korean language, sun-mul, which means present to your friend," says Kim.  "But now, North Korean way of speaking this sun-mul, sun-mul is the reserved word by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong il.  So, only Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong il are the only two who can give sun-mul to another person."

Kim adds, unlike in South Korea, where many English words are intermixed with Korean, the Pyongyang government has prevented foreign words from entering the vernacular.

Kim says, for these reasons, many North Korean defectors believe they speak a more pure form of the language than their South Korean counterparts.

But speaking their North Korean dialect in their new home has caused problems for some refugees.

North Koreans can face job discrimination.  Many South Koreans look down on defectors.

One refugee, Nan Byun Hee, 30, says she did whatever she could to hide her North Korean identity.

Nan says she was really worried about discrimination and being teased at school.  In Seoul, when people heard her speak, they asked where is she from. Nan says she tried not to talk, or told them she was from a different province.

But, for other refugees, speaking their language is a way to reconnect with the home they left behind.

Defector Chae Su Jeong is proud of his dialect.

He says he feels comfortable speaking with other people from North Korea.  He says the South Korean dialect still feels strange.

To help close the language divide, the two Koreas have agreed to compile a joint dictionary.  But any future linguistic cooperation is in question now, as the two governments are currently not speaking to each other.  


This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs