Satoori- How to Speak Korean Like a Local

Satoori: How to Speak Korean Like a Local

How to Speak Korean Like a Local

Learning Korean from a textbook is quite different than learning Korean from everyday life. A lot of this has to do with the common slang and dialects that are present in the language.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to speak Korean like a local!

First, we’ll explain the meaning of satoori. Next, we’ll give a background on the different types of Korean dialects. Finally, we’ll give you some Korean words and phrases you can put to use. Use these words to impress your friends, or to help you communicate on your next trip to Korea.

Let’s get to it. 시작!

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What is the meaning of satoori?

Satoori (사투리) is the Korean word for ‘regional dialect’. It’s a set of words, phrases, grammar, pronunciation patterns that are unique to a specific region of Korea.

What is a Korean satoori accent?

A satoori accent is the particular way a person speaks Korean. For example, some satoori accents are slower and more drawn out. Other satoori accents may have different intonations from the standard dialect.


The Main Dialects of Korea

The standard Korean dialect is what you’ll learn if you take a Korean course or learn from a book. It is also the dialect found in Seoul and Gyeonggi.

The reason satoori (dialects) developed is because Korea is a mountainous country. Before transportation methods developed, it made it challenging to get from region to region. As a result, those separate regions were fairly isolated. Since they didn’t have the influence of neighboring areas, of people started to develop strong regional dialects (사투리).

The main dialect categories of Korean are:

  1. Seoul & Gyeonggi dialect
  2. Ganngwon dialect
  3. Chungcheon dialect
  4. Gyeongsang dialect
  5. Jeolla dialect
  6. Jeju dialect

Regions of Korea

How to Learn Satoori

The best way to learn satoori is from a native of that province. If you’re not in Korea already, or aren’t planning a trip to the different province, not to worry!

Below, we’ll give you an overview of how the satoori regions are different. Then, we’ll give you some common phrases and words you can use to practice your satoori.


Korean Standard Dialect vs. Korean Satoori

Regional Korean satoori (사투리) is very different from regular Korean (표준어). As satoori is often spoken, and used between people who are intimate with each other. Many of the examples in this article are written in 반말 (informal Korean), so be careful when using them with people who you are not close to or with people who are older than you.

This article covers the main Korean dialects that you are likely to hear. There will be small variations even within those regions, but this is usually how Koreans group them.

Standard dialect is usually the easiest to learn when you’re first starting to study Korean. However, adding in some satoori makes it a lot more fun! Not only that, but it will help you when you travel to the various parts of Korea.

As an added bonus, you can surprise your Korean friends with your knowledge of the local dialects. This will be especially fun if you can speak the same satoori of the region your friend is from. You’ll sound like an old hometown pal!


1. Seoul & Gyeonggi Satoori

Downtown Seoul

This is the standard Korean dialect that you’ll learn in a Korean textbook or university course. It’s also what you’ll typically hear on news reports or during speeches.

Since this is the standard form of Korean, most of the dialects will compared to this. You’ll sometimes hear it referred to as 서울말 or 표준어.

If you want to learn some standard Korean, here is a fantastic page for Korean phrases!


2. Gangwon Satoori

Gangwon satoori

Gangwon is the province that is east of Seoul and goes all the way to the sea. It’s famous for 한우 (Korean beef), snowboarding in the winter, and its beaches in the summer. It isn’t a very densely populated area of Korea, so the satoori isn’t as distinct or popular as some of the other areas of Korea.

Here are some example Gangwon satoori words so you can see how they compare to the standard Korean dialect:

Standard Dialect Gangwon Satoori Meaning
아버지 아부지 father
어머니 어머이 mother
어른 으른 adult
곡식 곡석 grain or cereal
고기 괴기 meat


3. Chungcheong Satoori

Rowing Championships Opening Ceremony in Chungcheong, Korea

Rowing Championships Opening Ceremony in Chungcheong, Korea
Photo: Republic of Korea

Chungcheong consists of 충청남도 (South Chungcheong) and 충청북도 (North Chungcheong) provinces.  Two of the famous cities in the area are Daejeon and Cheonan.

Fun fact: North Chungcheong is the only province in Korea that doesn’t have a coastline!

Many Koreans think that the Chungcheong accent is one of the kindest-sounding. That is because it sounds slower and not as strong as some of the other dialects.

One notable difference is the ending vowels. Often times, you’ll notice:

  • ㅗ changes to ㅜ
  • ㅛ changes to ㅠ

For example, someone might say ‘안녕하세유’ instead of ‘안녕하세요’.

Here are a few example Chungcheong satoori vocabulary words:

Standard Dialect Chungcheong Satoori Meaning
모양 모냥 shape or form
젓가락 저범 chopstick
아궁이 고쿠락 furnace or firelace
일어나다 인나다 to wake up

4. Gyeongsang Satoori

Busan South Korea Skyline

Gyeongsang consists of a north region (경상북도) and south region (경상남도), just like the Chungcheong and Jeolla regions. Gyeongsang is home to many famous cities in Korea, such as Busan, Daegu, Ulsan, Changwon, and Gyeongju.

Gyeongsang is physically on the opposite site of the country in relation to Seoul. Similarly, the differences in dialect between Gyeongsang satoori and the standard Korean dialect are also quite signifiant.

The people in this area speak with a strong and aggressive accent. The highs and lows in speech are much more significant than standard Korean. In this area, men are often thought of as more masculine and 무뚝뚝하다 (curt). Females with this accent are considered cute.

Here are three things to note about Gyeongsang satoori:

  1. Many people using this dialect use ㅓ instead of ㅡ. Therefore, they’d say 엄식 instead of 음식 (food)
  2. In compound vowels, the first vowel is often dropped. For example, 도서관 (library) would be pronounced as 도서간.
  3. When ㅆ is the first consonant in a word, it’s pronounced as ㅅ. Therefore, 씨앗 (seed) is 시앗.

Since Busan is the largest city in the Gyeongsang province, we’ll often be referring to Busan satoori in this section.

Lots of great Korean films are set in Busan, such as 친구, 해운대, and the recent Korean box-office hit 국제시장. Busan is also a great place to visit whilst in Korea so learning a bit of the local dialect, or satoori, could be very useful.

Here is an example of Busan Satoori spoken by Robert Holley, who, due to his accent, has appeared on many Korean TV programs such as the popular ‘90’s comedy 남자셋, 여자셋.

Let’s look at three example Busan satoori phrases:

1.  오이소, 보이소, 사이소

2. 밥묵읏나?

3. 맞나?

Below, we’ll explain them in greater detail.

1. Busan Satoori: 오이소, 보이소, 사이소 = 오세요, 보세요, 사세요요

Jagalchi Market in Busan South Korea

Jagalchi fish market is one of Busan’s main attractions for tourists. On the sign welcoming people to this huge market, you will see the words ‘오이소, 보이소, 사이소’, meaning ‘come, see, buy’. In Busan satoori, the imperative form of a verb is made by adding –이소 rather than the standard –세요. For example 가세요 becomes 가이소 in Busan dialect. This feature of the dialect is proudly shown on the sign at Jagalchi Market’s entrance.

2. Busan Satoori: 밥묵읏나? = 밥먹었어?

The Korean expression ‘밥 먹었어?’ literally translates as ‘Did you eat?’ but its meaning is more like ‘How are you?’. It is sometimes spoken as ‘밥 먹었니?’ which means the same thing. In Busan satoori, to say this expression, you should say ‘밥 묵읏나?’ or just ‘밥 문나’.

In Busan satoori, yes/no questions usually end with an ‘아’ sound whereas ‘wh’ word questions such as 머 하노 (뭐 하니 / 뭐 해 in standard Korean) end in an ‘오’ sound (the Seoul dialect makes no distinction between these different question types). The verb 먹다 in Busan satoori is 묵다. The way verbs are used is slightly different in Busan satoori, for example the 받침 (bottom consonant) isn’t always removed in irregular verbs and adjectives such as 낫다 or 덥다.

3. Busan Satoori: 맞나? = 정말?

Instead of ‘정말?’ / ‘그래요?’, people in Busan usually say ‘맞나?’ There are lots of unique words in the Busan dialect such as ‘찌짐’ which means 전 (as in 파전), ‘단디하다’ (단단히 하다) which means ‘조심하다’, and ‘디질래?’ Which means ‘죽을래?’ You can find a list of Busan dialect words by category here.

Here is a list of some example Busan satoori vocabulary words and expressions so you can compare:

Standard Dialect Busan Satoori Meaning
뭐야? 뭐고? What is it?
왜 그래? 와이라노 What's wrong?
이리와 이리온나 Come here.
김치 짐치 kimchi
두부 조포 tofu


5. Jeolla Satoori

Jeolla Satoori

North Jeolla (전라북도) and South Jeolla (전라남도) are the two areas that make up the Jeolla provinces. Gwangju and Jeonju are two of the largest and most well-known cities in the area. Make sure you get some bibimbap if you pass through Jeonju!

Jeonju Bibimbap

Jeonju Bibimbap
Photo: Joamm Tall

Like Busan satoori, the imperative form is different in Jeolla satoori, with ‘라우’ or ‘지라우’ being used instead of ‘세요’. Also, the vowel sounds are slightly different, ‘어’ becomes ‘으’ and ‘여’ becomes ‘예’, so words like ‘먹다’ or ‘없다’ become ‘믁다’ and ‘읎다’.

To ask questions or make suggestions, an ‘잉’ sound sometimes appears, so ‘Have you eaten?’ would be pronounced ‘밥 믁어잉?’ in Jeolla province. The province also has its own unique words such as ‘시방’ which means ‘now’.

Here are some sample Jeolla satoori words:

Standard Dialect Jeolla Satoori Meaning
새우 새비 shrimp
모기 모구 mosquito
가새 가위 scissors
어제 인자 yesterday
지름 기름 (cooking) oil

6. Jeju Satoori

Songsan Ilchulbong Jeju South Korea


Being an island, Jeju’s dialect is even more different than the other Korean dialects. The Jeju dialect is grammatically Korean. However some of the vocabulary words are so different than even native mainland Koreans can’t understand them!

Part of the reason for this is that is has been isolated for so long that it was able to maintain some of the ancient Korean words. It has also imported words from countries such as Mongolia, China, and Japan. Some of its more unique words are related to Mongolian from the time that it was ruled by Mongolia. It even includes a vowel that can’t be found in regular Korean.

To say ‘welcome’, you can say ‘혼저옵세예’, for ‘thank you’, you can say ‘고맙수다’, and for ‘nice to meet you’, you can say ‘반갑수다’ or ‘반갑시오’, although this is also sometimes used to say ‘hello’ on Jeju island. A well-known word in Jeju dialect is ‘하르방’ meaning ‘grandfather’, not to be confused with ‘한라봉’, Jeju’s native tangerines.

Here are some example Jeju satoori vocabulary words:

Standard Dialect Jeju Satoori Meaning
강아지 강생이 puppy
고양기 고냉이 cat
감자 지실 potato
고구마 감저 sweet potato
잔디 태역 grass or lawn

Reasons to Study Satoori

Here are a few reasons why people like to study satoori. See if any of these apply to you!

  1. Be able to understand Korean movies, music, and dramas better
  2. Talk with people comfortably when you travel throughout Korea
  3. Impress your Korean friends
  4. Chat with the in-laws


Dialects have many hundreds, if not thousands, of unique words and phrases so it isn’t possible to teach you how to speak Busan dialect as well as Robert Holley in just one article. If you are interested in learning more about a particular dialect, then the best way to do that is by actively searching out people from that region for language exchanges.

Which dialect would you most like to learn and why?

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