When people first think of Korea, one of the first things that come to mind is the divide, tension, and relationship between the North and the South, or…..BTS. However, it is almost common knowledge that with this divide comes two completely different variations of the Korean language. Within these variations of the North and South Korean language, are the many dialects that are also utilized between the two nations as well. The dialect that I have chosen to focus on is the Jeju Island dialect of South Korea and how this dialect is perceived in comparison to other dialects spoken in Korea.
As the name implies, Jeju Island is an island located far south off of the mainland of South Korea. Most of it’s residents speak in their native dialect that is Jeju Korean and are the only people of their kind to speak this dialect. This is because the island is an exclusive location all on it’s own away from the mainland of both North and South Korea. The only people who would happen to speak this dialect are the natives or, perhaps, foreigners who have moved there and became accustomed to the dialect. It goes without saying that this dialect is mainly and most commonly used on Jeju Island. However, If residents decide to relocate off of the island, this dialect can rarely and sparsely be used elsewhere in the most southern parts of South Korea and as a second manner of speech at best. This is because both North and South Korea already have their own standardized version of the Korean language that is recommended to be used, although it is not enforced.
Because of this, it can easily be assumed that this dialect is the most distinct and distinguishable dialect compared to the others of South Korea solely because of it’s location. Because it is isolated and located off of the mainland, furthest from Seoul, news of language change and “correction” can play a vital role along with no supervision of adhering to the South Korean standard. According to the article by Lisa Jeon, she states, “the Jeju dialect is often referred to as the most divergent dialect in Korea, and many people in the mainland claim it as unintelligible” (22). This is because of the lexical and grammatical variations that are considerably different from their mainland counterparts.
The social factor that is associated with this is the extreme isolation of Jeju Island in comparison to the rest of South Korea. In fact, in the article by Lisa Jeon, she states, “the mainland respondents often commented that Jeju was a nice vacation destination but not a place where educated Koreans would live and work” (40). This statement alone gives deep insight as to how mainland Koreans perceive the dialect and people of Jeju Island. Because of the views towards the dialect and the habitat of Jeju Island, mainland Koreans think that the inhabitants of Jeju Island are below them in terms of intellect and feel that they are too educated, or, “overqualified” to live there. From that perspective, it can be assumed that the people of Jeju Island are simple, old-fashioned, laid-back, or even “country” in a way that it provides an escape for the “busy, educated, tech-savvy, forward-thinking” working Koreans. Therefore, Jeju Islanders are perceived as the lowest of the socioeconomic class.
To conclude, it is easy for other people to judge and perceive you based off of how you present yourself. All the way down to what you wear, what you like, where you live, and how you talk. And because these things all happen to be different from the other person, it becomes easy to discriminate and assume what is right and what is wrong for whatever reason. However, the steps to preventing such prejudice and discrimination is rather simple. It’s called understanding. And one should at least try to get to know a specific background, culture, or way of life before blindly making accusations because you are not used to it or do not like it. Perhaps there is reason behind it, and once you understand that reason, you can accept it, respect it, or even contribute to it. If not, at least you can then understand enough as to make a conscious decision as to why instead of blindly hate and not participate.
Jeon, Lisa; Patricia Cukor-Avila. “”One country, one language”?: mapping perceptions of dialects in South Korea.” Dialectologia: revista electrònica [en línia], 2015,, Núm. 14 , p. 17-46. https://www.raco.cat/index.php/Dialectologia/article/view/293349/381871
- I only have one source. Is that okay, or do I need more? I honestly don’t know where I was during this part of class…
- Should/Can I reorganize this in any way so that it flows better?