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The 6 Dialects of South Korea and Ways to Distinguish

Depending on where you’re from in South Korea, people speak with a different accent. This is called 방언 (bangeon) or 사투리 (saturi) in Korean. Also, the Korean language that you learn is standard Korean language, which is the Gyeonggi dialect. We won’t go into too much detail about how Gyeonggi dialect and the standard Korean language differ, since this is a very complicated topic. Instead, we’re going to introduce something more interesting; we’re going to introduce six different dialects in South Korea and how you can distinguish between them.

The important message to you is that we don’t expect you to memorize the different dialect usage. Just note that there are different dialects in South Korea and that they sound different. Once you know these dialects, your trip will be more interesting since you’ll be able to recognize the different sounds and accents.

Table of Contents

  1. 경기 방언 (Gyeonggi dialect)
  2. 강원 방언 (Gangwon dialect)
  3. 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialect)
  4. 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang dialect)
  5. 전라도 방언 (Jeollado dialect)
  6. 제주 방언 (Jeju dialect)

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1. 경기 방언 (Gyeonggi dialect)

Seoul

경기 방언 (gyeonggi bangeon), or the Gyeonggi dialect, is used in a number of areas in South Korea and is concentrated in Seoul and Incheon. This dialect is the standard language that you’ll learn when you study Korean, and it’s used in most of the TV shows, radio stations, news channels, and so on. Everyone in Korea will understand this dialect, even if the person whom you’re speaking to uses a different dialect.

Let’s listen to 경기방언: Just to give you an idea of what the gyeonggi dialect (a.k.a. Seoul dialect) sounds like, you can watch this video.

1- Characteristics of Gyeonggi dialect:

1 - They change ㅗ sounds to ㅜ
Example:

  • 먹고 싶다 (meokgo sipda) or “I want to eat” -> 먹구 싶다 (meokgu sipda) or “I want to eat”
  • ~하기도 하다 (~hagido hada) or “sometimes I~” -> 하기두 하다 (~hagidu hada) or “sometimes I~”

2 - You add an extra consonant such as ㄹ to a word
Example:

  • 이거로 (igeoro) or “this one” -> 이걸로 or 이걸루 (igeollo or igeollu) meaning “this one”

2. 강원 방언 (Gangwon dialect)

Korean Flag

강원 방언 (Gangwon dialect) is spoken in 강원 (Gangwon) which is located in Northeast South Korea. This place is famous for having many mountains and forests. Also, the Pyeongchang Olympic was hosted in this province in 2018.

Let’s listen to 강원 방언 (Gangwon dialect): Pay attention to the grandmother in this video, as she speaks with a very strong 강원 (gangwon) dialect.

1- Characteristics of 강원 방언 (Gangwon dialect):

1 - They pronounce ㅆ as ㅅ
Example:

  • 쌀 (ssal) meaning “rice” -> 살 (sal)
  • 싸움 (ssaum) meaning “fight” -> 사움 (saum)
  • 쓰레기 (sseuregi) -> 스레기 (seuregi)

2- They changeㅏ to ㅓ at the end of a sentence
Example:

  • 합시다 (hapsida) meaning “let’s do this” -> 합시더 (hapsideo)
  • 남자 (namja) meaning “man” -> 머스마 (meoseuma)

3 - They use various words at the end of a question, such as -나, -노, -고, -가, and so on
Example:

  • 비 와? (bi wa?) meaning “is it raining?” -> 비오나? (biona?)
  • 누구 책이야? (nugu chaegiya?) meaning “whose book is it?” -> 누 책인고? (nu chaegingo?)
  • 어디가? (eodiga?) meaning “where are you going?” -> 어데 가노? (eode gano?)

2- Example of 강원 방언 (Gangwon dialect):

강원방언 (Gangwon dialect) is underlined in these example sentences.

  • 여러분께 알려드립니다.
    yeoreobunkke allyeodeurimnida.
    “I would like to make an announcement to you.”
    여러분들인데 알코 디레요. (yeoreobundeurinde alko direyo.)
  • 큰일났어요.
    keunillasseoyo.
    “We have a problem.”
    클나싸요. (keullassayo.)
  • 어디 계십니까?
    eodi gyesimnikka?
    “Where are you?” (honorific expression)
    어데 간? (eode gan?)
  • 그것은 무엇입니가?
    geugeoseun mueosimniga?
    “What is this?”
    그건 머인? (geugeon meoin?)
  • 지금까지 잤어?
    jigeumkkaji jasseo?
    “You slept until now?”
    여적 잔? (yeojeok jan?)
  • 저기 있는 저 아이는 누구입니까?
    jeogi inneun jeo aineun nuguimnikka?
    “Who is the child over there?”
    쟈는 누꼬? (jyaneun nukko?)
  • 어머, 어떡하면 좋아!
    eomeo, eottekhamyeon joa!
    “Oh my goodness, what should I do!”
    우아노! (uano!)

3. 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialect)

Korean Alphabet

The 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialect) is commonly used in many regions of South Korea, mainly concentrated in 충청북도 and 충청남도, which are both located right below 서울 경기도.

Let’s listen to 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialects): Are you interested in what 충청 방언 sounds like? Listen to the dialogue of these two MCs in this video. The lady in the red dress speaks the standard Korean language and the man on the left speaks with a very strong 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialect).

1- Characteristics of 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialects)

1 - If the last word of the sentence ends with ㅐ or ㅔ, it changes to ㅑ
Example:

  • 피곤해 (pigonhae) meaning “I feel tired” -> 피곤햐 (pigonhya)
  • 뱀 (baem) meaning “snake” -> 뱜 (byam)
  • 뱀에게 물렸대 (baemege mullyeotdae) meaning “someone was beaten by a snake” -> 뱜한태 물렸댜 (byamhantae mullyeotdya)

2 - If the last word of a sentence ends with 야, it changes to 여
Example:

  • 아니야 (aniya) meaning “be not” -> 아니여 (aniyeo)
  • 뭐야? (mwoya?) meaning “what is it?” -> 뭐여 (mwoyeo)

2- Example of 충청 방언 (Chungcheong dialects)

Let’s look at some more examples. (We underlined the Chungcheong dialect examples for you.)

학교에서 (hakgyoeseo) “at school”
A: 왜그래 뭐 화나는 일 있어?
A: waegeurae mwo hwananeun il isseo?
A: “What’s the matter?”
A: 왜 그랴? 뭐 씅깔나는일 있어? (wae geurya? mwo sseungkkallaneunil isseo?)

B: 아침에 버스 놓쳐서 택시타고 왔어
B: achime beoseu nochyeoseo taeksitago wasseo.
B: “Yeah, I missed the bus so I took a taxi this morning.”
B: 어, 아침에 버스 뼈서 택시타고 왔어. (eo, achime beoseu ppyeoseo taeksitago wasseo.)

A: 근데 태산이는?
A: geunde taesanineun?
A: “But where is Taesan?”
A: 근데 태산이는? (geunde taesanineun?)

B: 응, 머리에 돌 맞아서 입원했대.
B: eung, meorie dol majaseo ibwonhaetdae.
B: “Yeah, he was hospitalized because he was hit by a stone on his head.”
B: 응, 대굼빡에 독짝 맞아서 입원했댜. (eung, daegumppage dokjjak majaseo ibwonhaetdya.)

A: 그래?
A: geurae?
A: “Really?”
A: 기여? (giyeo?)

4. 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang dialect)

Busan

The 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang dialect) is commonly used in the Gyeongsang region of South Korea. Cities that use this dialect are Busan, Daegu, and Ulsan.

Let’s listen to 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang dialect): Watch this video of two people with different dialects. The guy on the left speaks 경기 방언 (gyeonggi bangeon) or the “Gyeonggi dialect” and the lady on the right speaks with the 전라 방언 (Jeolla dialect). Can you hear the difference?

1- Characteristics of 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang dialect)

1 - There are a number of words that they change:

  • 으 becomes 어
  • 의 becomes 에
  • 그 becomes 거
  • ㅚ becomes ㅐ
  • ㅟ becomesㅣor ㅡ

Example:

  • 저쪽 위에 있다. (jeojjok wie itda.) meaning “It’s over there.” -> 저짜 우에 있데이. (jeojja ue itdei.)
  • 왜 안 되냐? (wae an doenya?) meaning “Why can’t I?” -> 와 안대노? (wa andaeno?)
  • 뒤에 있다. (dwie itda.) meaning “It is behind you.” -> 디에 있다. (die itda.)

2 - They shorten sentences
Example:

  • 뭐라고 했니? (mworago haenni?) meaning “What did you say?” -> 뭐라카노? (mworakano?)
  • 왜 그러십니까? (wae geureosimnikka?) meaning “Why?” -> 와 그라노? (wa geurano?)
  • 가 버려라 (ga beoryeora) meaning “go away” -> 가뿌라 (gappura)

3 - Sentences that end with ~다 become ~데이
Example:

  • 같이 합시다. (gachi hapsida.) meaning “Let’s go together.” -> 같이 합시데이. (gachi hapsidei.)
  • 내가 왔다. (naega watda.) meaning “I am here” -> 내가 왔데이. (naega watdei.)

4 - Interrogative sentences that end with ~니 become ~나, ~노, ~고, or ~가
Example:

비 오니? (bi oni?) meaning “Is it raining?” -> 비 오나? (bi ona?)
누구 책이니? (nugu chaegini?) meaning “Whose book is it?” -> 누 책이고? (nu chaegigo?)
어디 가니? (eodi gani?) meaning “Where are you going?” -> 어데 가노? (eode gano?)

2- Example of 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang dialect)

Let’s look at some more examples. (We underlined the Gyeongsang dialect examples for you.)

  • 아이구 셔
    aigu syeo
    “How sour it is”
    아구 샤구랍어래이~ (agu syagurabeoraei~)
  • 제대로 해라.
    jedaero haera.
    “Do it properly.”
    단디 해라이. (dandi haerai.)
  • 괜히 이렇게 해놨네
    gwaenhi ireoke haenwanne
    “I should not have done like this”
    맥지 이캐놨네 (maekji ikaenwanne)

5. 전라도 방언 (Jeollado dialect)

Hangul

Let’s listen to 전라도 방언 (Jeollado bangeon): This is a commercial video aired in South Korea. Listen to the lady in this video; she speaks with a Jeollado dialect.

1- Characteristics of 전라 방언 (jeolla bangeon)

1 - They add ~잉, ~부러, ~ 쟤, and so on, at the end of a sentence
Example:

  • 그렇습니다.
    geureoseumnida.
    “Yes it is.”
    그라죠잉~ (geurajyoing~)
  • 추천을 하세요
    chucheoneul haseyo
    “Recommend”
    추천 하쇼잉! (chucheon hasyoing!)

2 - They have many exclamatory expressions

  • 어머 -> 오메. 왐마
  • 저기요 -> 아야
  • 어떻하지 -> 어찌아스까나
  • 그래서 -> 근디

3 - They use 거시기 (“thing”) a lot
Example:

  • 아 왜 그 왜 있잖아. 그 아이의 이름이 기억나지가 않아…..
    “You know that person. I can’t remember the name of that person.”

    내가 어제 거시기랑 거시가 하다가 가 거시기한데 거시기했는데
    naega eoje geosigirang geosiga hadaga ga geosigihande geosigihaenneunde
    아따 거 머시기 있냐, 그놈아 이름이 기억이 안나부러….
    atta geo meosigi innya, geunoma ireumi gieogi annabureo….

2- Example of 전라 방언 (jeolla bangeon)

Here, as always, the jeolla bangeon is underlined in the examples below.

  • 너 그거 좀 버리지 않을래?
    neo geugeo jom beoriji aneullae?
    “Can you throw this away?”
    너 그것좀 찌끄라뿌러야? (neo geugeotjom jjikkeurappureoya?)
  • 지금 당장
    jigeum dangjang
    “Immediately”
    시방 (sibang)
  • 빨리
    ppalli
    “Quickly”
    아따 싸게싸게 댕겨오쇼 (atta ssagessage daenggyeoosyo)
  • 조금 (jogeum)
    “A little of”
    쪼깨 (jjokkae)

6. 제주 방언 (Jeju dialect)

Jeju

제주 방언 (jeju bangeon) meaning “Jeju dialect” is only spoken on the Jeju Island. Jeju Island is located in the southwest coast of South Korea and takes about 45 minutes to travel to from Seoul by an airplane. The Jeju dialect is one of the most difficult dialects to understand in South Korea, because they have their own language. Therefore, Koreans from different regions have difficulties trying to understand Jeju dialect.

Let’s listen to 제주 방언 (Jeju bangeon): Have a listen to this conversation between these two males in this video. It’s about a miscommunication between Jeju local and non-Jeju local at a military base, and you’ll be able to distinguish who’s from Jeju instantly, by listening to the conversation.

1- Characteristics of 제주 방언 (Jeju bangeon):

If you want to know how the Jeju dialect is different from the standard language, here’s an explanation of characteristics of the Jeju dialect.

1 - Jeju dialect is perhaps the most difficult dialect in South Korea, since it has its own language
Example:

  • 어서 오십시오 (eoseo osipsio) meaning “Welcome to” -> 혼저 옵서 (honjeo opseo).
  • 와서 보고 가세요 (waseo bogo gaseyo) meaning “Please come and have a look” -> 왕 봥 갑서 (wang bwang gapseo)

* You will see a message saying 혼저 옵서 (honjeo opseo) on the wall when you land in the Jeju airport, so pay close attention to it next time you’re traveling to Jeju Island.

2 - They tend to combine words at the end of a sentence
In Jeju, they combine the last two words, so instead of ~었니, it becomes ~먹언.
Example:

  • 밥 먹었니? Meaning “Did you have some food?” -> 밥 먹언?
  • 이거 했어? -> 이거 핸?
  • 알았어 -> 알안

2- Example of 제주 방언 (Jeju dialects)

Here are some examples of the Jeju dialect, compared to the standard. The Jeju examples are underlined.

  • 여기서 서울에 전화할 수 있지요?
    yeogiseo seoure jeonhwahal su itjiyo?
    “Can I call Seoul from here?”
    여기서 서울더레 해집주양? (yeogiseo seouldeore haejipjuyang?)
  • 어디서 오셨습니까?
    eodiseo osyeotseumnikka?
    “Where are you from?”
    어디서 옵데가? (eodiseo opdega?)
  • 조금만 계십시오.
    jogeumman gyesipsio.
    “Please wait a moment.”
    호꼼만 이십서게. (hokkomman isipseoge.)
  • 차를 타고 가세요.
    chareul tago gaseyo.
    “Go there by car.”
    차탕갑서 (chatanggapseo)
  • 오천 원입니다.
    ocheon wonimnida.
    “It is 5,000 won.”
    오천 원마씀. (ocheon wonmasseum.)
  • 어제 영화 뭐 봤어?
    “What movie did you watch?”
    제 영화 뭐 봔?

7. How KoreanClass101 Can Help You with Korean

Lastly, let’s compare dialects!

Dialect “Welcome” “Grandmother”
경기도
(gyeonggido)
어서오세요.
(eoseooseyo.)
할머니
(halmeoni)
강원도
(gangwondo)
어여 오드래요.
(eoyeoodeuraeyo.)
할머이
(halmeoi)
충청도
(chungcheongdo)
빨리 와유.
(ppalli wayu.)
할매
(halmae)
경상도
(gyeongsangdo)
퍼뜩 오이소.
(peotteuk oiso.)
할무이
(halmui)
전라도
(jeollado)
언능 오랑께요.
(eonneung orangkkeyo.)
할매
(halmae)
제주도
(jejudo)
혼저 옵서예.
(honjeo opseoye.)
할망
(halmang)
Dialect “Mother” “I am sorry”
경기도
(gyeonggido)
어머니
(eomeoni)
죄송합니다.
(joesonghamnida.)
강원도
(gangwondo)
어머이
(eomeoi)
미안 하우다.
(mian hauda.)
충청도
(chungcheongdo)
엄니
(eomni)
죄송해유.
(joesonghaeyu.)
경상도
(gyeongsangdo)
어무이
(eomui)
죄송합니데이.
(joesonghamnidei.)
전라도
(jeollado)
어머이
(eomeoi)
죄송혀라.
(joesonghyeora.)
제주도
(jejudo)
어멍
(eomeong)
죄송허우다.
(joesongheouda.)


In summary, we had a look at six different dialects in South Korea. The fact is, South Korea has more than six dialects. What we introduced today in this article are the most famous dialects in Korea. Since you learned how to distinguish each dialect, you’ll be able to spot the different dialects next time you watch a Korean drama or movie!

In addition, KoreanClass101 has many study materials that you can download for free. Also, have you come across any Korean words that you don’t know? Look them up in the KoreanClass101 dictionary with free audio for you to practice pronunciation! We’re here to help you improve your Korean, so feel free to use our website anytime.

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