Lesson #418: The Korean Languages

For some reason, the first thing I thought of when I saw the photos of the leaders of the two Koreas meeting today was about how the languages differ. Given what I know of the evolution of English in the last twenty years and North Korea’s isolation from the world, the languages have to be very different by now. My assumption was that North Korean Korean is a lot like Canadian French in its rejection of English loanwords in favour of Korean — though this is probably less rejection of loanwords and more a lack of exposure to them at all — but that their isolation may also mean they’re missing cultural touchstone words entirely.

There are times when living in the age of information is wonderful. There aren’t a lot of solid academic sources to clarify this, but there are plenty of common sources that discuss it from an experiential standpoint.

This article is probably the best side-by-side comparison of the anglicized South Korean and Korean North Korean words for the same thing, the outdated use of some language in North Korea, and the cultural touchstone words that are missing from North Korean Korean as a result of its isolation. For me, the most interesting part of this is which words take the English in Korean compared with which do in Continental French. Self-service makes sense as a loanword. Skin lotion does not.

This is an article on the linguistic struggle North Korean defectors face in a globalized South Korean culture. There’s an app for that. Because of course there’s an app for that.

This article addresses the discrimination defectors can face, especially as a result of their accents. This is a point that’s reflected in a lot of other cultures. But I find especially interesting in the face of knowing what it’s like to try to soften your accent in a place where you speak the language.*

*There are lingering effects of that. It’s an affectation in how I speak that I know is there, but I got so practiced at it that parts of it are still there. I’ve noticed one of the hangers-on starting to slip out of use recently, so it’s an evolution.

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