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A look at examples of linguistic gap in 2 Koreas

March 13, 2015 GMT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After 70 years of separation, people in North and South Korea speak in increasingly different ways. South Koreans have incorporated many English words and phrases into their language while isolated communist North Korea has eliminated words with foreign origins and created homegrown substitutes. Experts say about a third of everyday words used in the two Koreas are different.

Here are some examples:

— South Koreans use the English loan word “juice” but North Koreans say “danmul,” or “sweet water.”

— South Koreans watch a “musical” but North Koreans see a “gamuiyagi,” or “music and dance story.”


— “Suryong” is the revered title for North’s founding leader and his son, but in the South it’s a historical term referring to a medieval regional or faction leader.

— The sea creatures that South Koreans call “cuttlefish” are known in North Korea by the word South Koreans use for “octopus.”

— The term “elderly person” is considered neutral in the North, but pejorative in the South.

— South Koreans wash their hair with “shampoo” but North Koreans use “meorimulbinu,” or “hair water soap.”

— The word “dongmu” is used in North Korea to refer to a revolutionary colleague, but South Koreans seldom use the term.

— A “dosirak” is South Korean word for a lunch box while North Koreans call it “gwakbab.”

— South Koreans use the English loan phrase “skin lotion” but it’s “salgyeolmul,” or “skin water” in the North.

— North and South Korea have different spelling and pronunciation rules for the first syllable of some Korean words, so the common family name is “Lee” in the South but “Ri” in the North.

— South Koreans often end their conversations with phrases like “Let’s have lunch someday” or “Let’s go out for drinks soon,” but North Korean defectors who have just arrived often take those as literal invitations and expect a follow-up phone call to arrange the appointment.