The Divide between North and South Korean Players in the Unified Ice Hockey Team: Language

10 days before the Winter Olympic commenced in PyeonChang, South Korea, the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team had its first joint practice. The 38th Parallel had kept the players separated from either side of the Demilitarized Zone until this day, and now they had to overcome the last barrier: one of their languages.

North and South Korean women's ice hockey athletes talk during their training session in Jincheon National Training Centre in Jincheon

Players from North and South Korean women’s ice hockey teams talk during a training session at Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, South Korea, on Sunday. | REUTERS

It turns out the biggest language barrier was due to the different system of adapting English ice hockey terms: South Korean team modified their sounds to fit Korean phonology, but North Korean team created new words partially through translation.

[In South Korea] Skating is called “seu-ke-ee-ting” and a “t-push” — a defensive technique by a goalie — is “tee-pu-sh.”

But the North created its own Korean-language words for each move, calling skating “apuro-jee-chee-gee,” while a t-push is a “moonjeegee-eedong,” literally meaning “a move by a gatekeeper.”

Source: Two Koreas’ Olympic ice hockey team faces unexpected challenge: language | The Japan Times

In order to bridge the gap, a list of approximately 70 ice hockey terms, different in North Korean and South Korean, was disseminated to players and coaches.

I once wrote about this difference in a proposal for my MA thesis research on English loanwords in Korean.

This research can potentially serve as a basis for bridging discrepancy between North and South Korean languages, since they have been diverging ever since their division in 1948: a big part of language divergence is treatment of loanwords in each language where North strictly restrain use of loanwords and South is more open to adopting them. For example, pama meori in South Korean for ‘permed hair’ with the English loanword pama versus bokeum meori in North Korean with native Korean word bokeum for ‘fried’.

Experts say nearly half of vocabulary words used in daily conversation in the North and the South are different, and the gap is bigger in professional work places: about 66%. Although the unified team became one despite of the language difference as one of the players testified below, it will still pose a big challenge in the potentially unified country, Corea.

“It was kind of a mess at first because of the different speaking styles and accents, but once I realized their genuineness, we were able to communicate emotionally,”


Korean’s women hockey team captain Ko Hye-in holds a jersey signed by all 35 members of the team. | HanKyoReh

Source: Unified Korean women’s hockey team says a tearful goodbye | HanKyoReh


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