7 Korean Dialects and What Sets Them Apart

Like types of chocolate, the Korean language comes in a variety of somewhat similar yet still distinct flavors. As you become more familiar with basic Korean and fundamental Korean pronunciation, it’s also important to pick up the nuances among Korean dialects (known as 방언 or 사투리 ). 

Whether you’re watching a K-drama or traveling to the country, you’re bound to hear a format of Korean that may sound quite different from what you’re used to. So here’s a quick, general rundown on seven different Korean dialects.


1. 경기 방언 (Gyeonggi Dialect)


Also known as the “Seoul dialect” ( 서울말 ) the Gyeonggi dialect is considered the most standardized, common-use way of speaking. It’s the closest to 표준어 , the Korean language in its “official” form.

This dialect is spoken all throughout South Korea, especially in the northwest where the Gyeonggi province (which includes Seoul and Incheon cities) resides. It’s the norm for public speech, announcements and news as well.

Speakers of this dialect may not consider it to have any standout features—to most, it just sounds like “normal Korean.” There are, however, a few minor quirks that non-Gyeonggi natives may pick out:

  • Adding consonants (especially ㄹ) when not present, creating a bit of a “slurring” effect

르다 (different) → 르다

르다 (skinny) →  르다

럽다 (dirty) → 럽다

(adult) →

(uncle) →

고 싶다 (I want to eat) → 구 싶다

Listen to the dialogue in this video for a sample of this dialect:

2. 강원 방언 (Gangwon Dialect)


South Korea’s Gangwon region lies to the northeast, and across the DMZ, the northern half of the territory (also known as Gangwon, or Kangwon) lies within North Korea. In both, the Gangwon dialect is the hallmark speaking style.

In truth, the Gangwon dialect isn’t very different from the Gyeonggi dialect. Some may notice that it sounds slightly slower and drawn out in comparison. The intonation is also slightly “bouncier,” so the speaker may sound as if they’re inquisitive even when they’re not asking questions.

어디 가나? (Where are you going?) → 어디 가?

진짜? (Really?) → 진짜?

갈까? (Should we go?) → 갈끼?

있지 (It is / It’s here) →

Here’s a video showing the Gangwon dialect in action:

3. 경상 방언 (Gyeongsang Dialect)


The predominant dialect of Gyeongsang province, which is located in the south of the peninsula. It includes cities such as Busan and Daegu. This is my (and many other Korean people’s) personal favorite dialect. It’s so distinctive from the others, you can’t help but perceive it as endearing in some way. 

This dialect is known for being fast and dynamic, almost lyrical in its tones. Some may even perceive it as aggressive and rude. There are slight variations in the speaking style between northern and southern Gyeongsang natives, but the overarching features remain the same.

Here are some specific standout features:

너의 아버지 뭐 하시니? (What is your father doing?) → 느그 아부지 뭐 하시?

  • Addition or substitution of syllables (including ~ , ~ and ~ ) at the end of sentences and questions

밥 먹었니? (Did you eat?) → 밥 뭇?

피곤하니? (Are you tired?) → 나? 

  • Sentences that end with ~ are switched with ~ 데이

시끄럽다 (It’s noisy) → 시끄럽데이

  • Not pronouncing certain consonants ( ) and vowels, and swapping them with “easier to pronounce” letters

(rice) →

의사 (doctor) → 이사

I still remember one of my earlier encounters with a Gyeongsang native in a past trip to South Korea. With how quickly and forcefully they spoke, I genuinely thought they were looking for a fight, but I wasn’t certain because they were smiling brightly at me the whole time. Talk about verbal whiplash.

Take a look at this clip featuring the Gyeongsang dialect:

4. 전라도 방언 (Jeollado Dialect)


The Jeollado region is in the southwest region of South Korea. Its cities include Gwangju and Jeonju.

To many, the Jeollado dialect is considered relatively fast-paced, although not as bullet-quick as the standard Seoul dialect. It’s not as dynamic and forceful as the Gyeongsang dialect, but the Jeolla dialect can still make its speakers come off as enthusiastic and exaggerated. Some may even think it sounds funny or whimsical.

Standout features include:

  • Stronger emphasis on vowel sounds. This can also mean some “consonant cutting” and vowel swaps (ex. pronounced as )

있잖아 (You know/It’s here) →

의사 (doctor) →

교회 (church) →

  • Extra unnecessary syllables (notably, or a similar sound) at the end of sentences or questions

밥 먹으라니까 (I said to eat rice/food) → 밥 먹으랑께잉

재미있지? (It’s fun, right?) → 재미지네잉?

내가 아까 거기를 가는데 (I went there before) → 내가 아까 거그를 가는

그랬어요 (That’s right) → 그랬어라

According to my Gyeonggi-native parents, this dialect is one that’s very easy to pick out. The biggest tell is in the quirky vowel play. 

Just listen to this video featuring BTS member J-Hope, for example:

5. 충청 방언 (Chungcheong Dialect)


The Chungcheong region lies within the center of South Korea. It includes the cities of Asan and Daejeon.

Overall, the Chungcheong dialect is the closest in similarity to the Gyeonggi (or standard) Korean dialect. This makes sense, since the region lies right beside the Gyeonggi province. 

Perhaps its biggest distinction is the speaking speed. The Chungcheong dialect is known to be slower-paced, almost drawl-like. This gives it a kind of modest and easygoing persona, and Chungcheong dialect speakers are commonly perceived to give off a friendlier vibe.

  • “Choppy” words or phrases

하세요 (please do) →

맞아요 (That’s correct) → 어유

뭐야? (What’s that?) → ?

I have a family member from the Chungcheong region. I can’t recall a conversation with them that didn’t feel cheerful or relaxed, regardless of what we were talking about. I did have to stifle a few giggles whenever they would make an inquiry to me with a drawn-out, bewildered “뭐여?”

You can hear more examples of the Chungcheong dialect in this video:

6. 제주 방언 (Jeju Dialect)


This dialect is spoken in the lovely Jeju Island, home of lush citrus fruits and a popular vacation spot for many Koreans. However, with how unique it is, it’s arguable if the Jeju dialect could really be classified as just that.

Historically, the island had been isolated from mainland Korea for a good number of years. Due to this, its culture and language sports some notable differences. Notably, Jeju Korean seems to have a strong residual influence from Mongolian and Japanese that modern standard Korean doesn’t.

While grammatically, the Jeju dialect is essentially the same as standard Korean, its vocabulary most certainly is not. The difference in vocabulary is significant enough that the Jeju dialect is often not even intelligible to mainland Korean natives.

When I went to Jeju Island for the first time, I overheard a group of people speaking rapid-fire in the Jeju dialect and I, not immediately realizing it was actually Korean, thought that they were tourists. That really is how distinct it is!

It wouldn’t really be enough to create a bullet point list of any specific differences. Just listen to this clip and you’ll see why.

7. 문화어 (North Korean Dialect)


Overall, this dialect is not very different from standard South Korean. In terms of pronunciation and grammar, the standard North Korean dialect isn’t too distinct. My own grandmother was from North Korea, and growing up, I never really noticed anything unique about her speech in those specific aspects. 

Of course, as with any language dialect, the deeper you go within the region, the more unique the speech can become in intonation.

The biggest difference is in the vocabulary. South Koreans use many foreign loanwords and Konglish (Korean-English). However, due to the country’s isolation, the Korean spoken in North Korea contains less foreign words. This is a prominent lingual struggle spot for many North Korean defectors who come to South Korea.

Some noticeable distinctions also include these:

  • For Sino-Korean words (Korean originated from Chinese language), the initial consonants of and are still retained as originally imported. This is not the case in South Korea, which has substituted the consonants depending on the vowel after it

South Korean last name (Lee / Yi) is in North Korea

  • Addition of ~ or ~ for casual/informal speech

밥 먹었니? (Did you eat?) → 밥 먹?

Here’s a video illustrating the differences between the standard North Korean and South Korean dialects:


Remember that this is just a generalized overview of Korean dialects! Of course, to really experience and appreciate each of these dialects, you should work toward full Korean immersion.

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