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Korean Language Facts

Spoken in: Korea
Region: East Asia

Korean is spoken by more than 72 million people living on the Korean peninsula. Although it differs slightly in spelling, alphabet, and vocabulary between the two regions, Korean is the official language of both South Korea and North Korea. Outside of the Korean peninsula, there are about two million people in China who speak Korean as their first language, another two million in the United States, 700,000 in Japan, and 500,000 in the Russian regions of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The Korean language has five major dialects in South Korea and one in North Korea. Despite the geographical and socio-political dialect differences, Korean is relatively homogeneous, being mutually understandable among speakers from different areas.

Total speakers: 78 million

Official language of: North Korea and South Korea

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- South Korea (47,000,000)
- North Korea (20,000,000)
- China (1,920,597)
- United States (800,000)
- Japan (670,000)
- Uzbekistan (183,000)
- Russia (107,000)
- Kazakhstan (103,000)
- Saudi Arabia (66,000)
- Canada (29,000)
- Kyrgyzstan (18,000)
- Germany (14,000)
- Tajikistan (13,000)
- Paraguay (6,000)
- Singapore (5,200)
- Turkmenistan (3,493)
- Bahrain (?)
- Brunei (?)
- Guam (?)
- Mauritania (?)
- Mongolia (?)
- Panama (?)
- Philippines (?)
- Thailand (?)

- Total (80,000,000)

Classification: Language Isolate

Originally written using "Hanja" (Chinese characters), Korean is now mainly spelled in "Hangul", the Korean alphabet. "Hangul" consists of 24 letters - 14 consonants and 10 vowels - that are written in blocks of 2 to 5 characters. Unlike the Chinese writing system (including Japanese "Kanji"), "Hangul" is not an ideographic system. The shapes of the individual "Hangul" letters were designed to model the physical morphology of the tongue, palate and teeth. Up to five letters join to form a syllabic unit.

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