What Language In North Korea

Background Information

North Korea is an isolated and hermit kingdom in East Asia. It is the most secretive country with severely restricted access for foreigners. The suspected nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs of this reclusive state and the retaliation from other countries have made it the focus of media and political attention around the world. Although North Korea’s language structure is complicated and not fully understood outside the country, it is widely believed to be an amalgamation of modern Korean and Chinese.


The official language of North Korea is Korean and is written in the Hangul script. However, Korean has also been strongly influenced by Chinese characters resulting in a hybridized language system unique to North Korea. Chinese characters are still used today in North Korea, primarily in education and legal documents, as well as certain publications, such as journals and newspapers. To an outsider, it may appear as if the language is purely composed of Chinese characters, however, Hangul is equally important and is the language spoken by Koreans in everyday life.

Korean Dialects

Within North Korea, Korean is spoken in multiple dialects. This is because the country is made up of different provinces, with each having their own distinct dialect. The majority of North Koreans speak one of two dialects: “Pyongan” in the north and “Hwanghae” in the south. The dialects are voice-tonal, which means that each sound can have multiple meanings depending on the tone or emphasis of the speaker.

North Korean Slang

In addition to the different dialects, North Koreans also use language in a unique way which shows how their culture and political views are reflected in their language. Examples of this include the use of terms such as “Songnim-aru:” (a term meaning “to serve the Dear Leader”) and “the Great Leader”. North Koreans also make use of special vocabulary in order to express their reverence for the leadership.


In North Korea, there is a growing trend of bilingualism, with some North Koreans speaking both Korean and Chinese. This can be attributed to the fact that North Korea’s closest neighbor and most influential foreign power is China. This has resulted in increasing numbers of North Koreans learning and speaking Chinese, either through formal education or through informal exchanges with people from China.


Due to the years of separation between North and South Korea, the language spoken in North Korea has also changed to accommodate the North Korean political system, resulting in a gap between the language spoken in North Korea and South Korea. However, with efforts towards reunification, it is hoped that the language spoken in both parts of the Korean peninsula will become more harmonized.

Teaching Korean Abroad

Increasingly, Korean is being taught in universities and language schools abroad, making it more accessible to a wider range of learners. The demand for Korean teachers abroad is on the rise as more and more people are looking to learn the language and explore North Korea’s culture.


North Korea is an interesting country in regards to language, as Korean is strongly influenced by Chinese and has been adapted to fit the political system of North Korea. This has resulted in unique language features that are different from those spoken in South Korea. Though the two countries are separated, efforts towards reunification may result in a unified Korean language that takes into account the language features from both countries. In the meantime, Korean is increasingly being taught in universities abroad, providing more people with the opportunity to learn about North Korea and the unique language spoken within its borders.

Language Accessibility

Language accessibility for those living in North Korea is limited. Although the official language is Korean, a hybrid variant of Chinese and Korean is more commonly used. North Koreans also use specialized “newspeak” to express their adherence to their leadership. Accessibility to foreign languages is limited, with only Chinese being taught as a foreign language. This limits the ability of North Koreans to communicate with the outside world and further isolates the country.

Reform of North Korean Language

In recent years, efforts have been made in North Korea to reform the language. There is a push towards standardization of language in publications and media, as well as the introduction of new terms. These terms are based on the ideology of the North Korean government and used as a way to ensure compliance. This can also make it difficult for outsiders to understand the language of North Korea and make it harder for North Koreans to understand the language spoken outside the country.

Censorship and Communication

North Korean language is highly censored and regulated. The government is known to heavily control what the citizens say and how the language is used. This is to sway the beliefs of the people and ensure there is no room for dissent or criticism of the ruling party. This makes communication with overseas North Koreans and external media difficult since language is used as a tool of regulation and control.

Religious Language

The primary religion practiced in North Korea is Juche, a concept based on self-reliance. North Koreans have developed their own language to express their devotion to their beliefs and ideology, known as the “Juche Language”. The language is widely used in everyday conversations and serves as the foundation of North Korea’s religious faith. It is less widely known outside the country and is used to express religious concepts, thoughts, and emotions.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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