Korean is the official language of South and North Korea, where it is spoken by about 70 million people. In addition, there are another two million Korean speakers in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China, 700,000 in Japan, and smaller numbers in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. About 600,000 Koreans live in the United States. Korea is a peninsula in East Asia. Seoul is the capital of South Korea, and Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea.
The Gojoseon were the first people to be called Korean. They lived in the northeastern part of ancient Manchuria. According to the Samguk and other Korean medieval-era records, the Gojoseon kingdom was founded in 2333 B.C. Gojoseon eventually consolidated in lower Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula. Modern historians generally believe the Gojoseon civilization peeked between the 4th and 7th centuries B.C.
Korean is not known to be related to any other language, although its grammatical structure is somewhat similar to Japanese. More than half of Korean’s vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese. Korean used Chinese characters for writing long before the invention of the Korean alphabet, and eventually combined the two alphabets together to form a sort of conglomerate. After World War ll, however, North Korea officially stopped using Chinese Characters in its writing. In contrast, students in South Korean secondary School today are required to learn 1,800 Chinese characters.
The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, is the only true alphabet native to the Far East. It is actually very unique in that it is non-linear, and is expressed such that the letters of each syllable are grouped into clusters. Korean has several dialects called mal, saturi, or bang-eon. Standard Korean as spoken in South Korea is called pyojuneo or pyojunmal. It is based on the dialect spoken in and around Seoul. Standard Korean as spoken in North Korea, however, is based on the dialect spoken in and around Pyongyang. That being said, all dialects of Korean are similar, and speakers from all parts of South and North Korea can easily understand one another much the same way that English speakers from Great Britain, The United States, Australia and South Africa can understand one another.
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