English loan words in Korean

There has recently been mention and discussion on news and linguistics websites of a project involving academics from the Republic of Korea (South) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North) to compile a joint dictionary, motivated by concern that Korean is diverging into two languages. Language Log has a good overview and discussion. One issue is that South Koreans have gleefully adopted English words, and fully assimilated some of them (whether the official regulatory body, the National Institute of the Korean Language, likes it or not – probably not), whereas the Northern government has assiduously rejected foreign influence, not only current-day English but also Chinese words adopted over a thousand years. (Chinese words play a similar role in Korea as Greek, Latin and French words do in English – they are are learned and/or polite words.)

In the South, English loan words are common. Whenever I read Korean text, my eye is drawn to them, which makes learning the Korean words harder. One very common product in South Korea and in the Korean community in Australia is ‘Maxim 모카골드 마이드 커피 믹스’ (Maxim mocha gold mild coffee mix), which contains six ‘English’ words in a row. (I type inverted commas because ‘Maxim’, ‘mocha’ and ‘coffee’ have, in turn, been adopted into English from other languages.) I also remember seeing on an advertising sign in Seoul something like ‘Golden buffet restaurant wedding hall reception centre’ (in Korean script) (note the loan words into English in that lot!). English words used in Korean connote modernisation and internationalism – there are perfectly good Korean words for ‘wedding’ and ‘restaurant’, but ‘결혼’ and ‘식당’ are used to refer to traditional-style ceremonies and food, and the English words (in Korean script) to modern ones.


One thought on “English loan words in Korean

  1. Pingback: Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

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