Skip to content

North and South Korea – A Case Study in Linguistic Evolution

March 23, 2009

VOA has an interesting article on the difficulty North Koreans defectors have in understanding the Southern dialect. It turns out that the South’s version has gone through the natural evolution that languages go through, e.g. new terminology, idioms, slang, foreign-word-appropriation, etc. This makes a lot of sense – the isolation of DPRK results in a literal retardation of the language.

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

Photo By Eric Lafforgue
Photo By Eric Lafforgue

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.

(via Japundit)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: