Folk Speech of the Gangwon Province


South Korea is home to multiple provinces/regions and rich in their respective dialects. Outside of the country, there are dialects formed by Korean populations in central Asia, China, Japan and the United States. Standard Korean, a ‘modern Seoul dialect used by educated people’ (a definition that remains controversial), is used throughout official capacities and broadcast television. Sometimes children will take on the dialects of their parents, or be influenced by their area of residence or language of study to speak a unique idiolect. This entry focuses on the dialect of the Gangwon province as the informant has first-hand experience with the dialect.

Informant Information

The informant is my mother. She lived in Gangwon province all her early life and is familiar with the dialect as well as its differences to standard Korean. When asked about the dialect of the province as a whole, I was told that “most people [there] don’t speak dialects anymore”, and that the province had to be treated as “two separate regions” because of that; the “western region” Yeongseo (영서) and the “eastern region” Yeongdong (영동). The western region historically had a lot of interaction with the capital, so the dialect mostly resembles the Seoul dialect “although some words are spoken with a different intonation”, as seen from the difference between the words for older brother in the two dialects (형/성, hyung/sung). Speakers from the Yeongdong area tend to sound “more different” than their Yeongseo counterparts made evident by the difference in the standard/dialect words for tail (꼬리/꼬랭이, ggori/ggoraengi).


As a form of folk speech, the dialect of Gangwon province is in a tenuous spot, since non-Seoul dialects tend to be looked down upon and lack the official support to maintain its folk group: the speakers. Another factor in the decrease of folk speech across Korea (and not just the province) is that “increased movement between the province and the capital” and the government’s lack of support for dialects results in a decrease in Gangwon’s youth populations speaking the local dialect. The informant’s dialect is a significant example for its uncertainty: with its identity becoming less clear as its speakers adjust to life in the capital, will it survive or die out? While the answer is currently unclear, more disdain towards Korean dialects may result in these forms of folk speech being gone for good.