Korean Translation Services


Korean Consonants

This table shows the consonants in the Korean writing system.  Readers who found this page through a search engine are recommended to first read our main article on the Korean writing system, which explains how to assemble the characters into syllable clusters.



Character Sound Click
for
Examples
/g/ Similar to the English /g/ sound, as in “go”
/n/ Same as the English /n/ sound, as in “no”
/d/ Similar to the English /d/ sound, as in “day”
/r/ or /l/ As the first sound of a syllable, this consonant is distantly related to the /r/ sound, as in “radio”, as pronounced by speakers of some European languages who produce the sound in the front part of the mouth rather than back.  This Korean consonant begins with the tip of the tongue lightly tapping the ridge behind the upper front teeth.  The tongue touches the ridge just once and immediately retracts to the resting position on the floor of the mouth and no longer contributes to the shaping of the sound.  You should not pre-position your tongue on the roof of the mouth before sound production begins.  if you do, the sound becomes English /l/, which is different from this Korean consonant as the first sound of a syllable.

At the last position of a syllabic cluster, it is similar to the English /l/, as in “tell”.
/m/ Same as the English /m/sound, as in “me”
/b/ Similar to the English /b/sound, as in “boy”
/s*/ Distantly related to but different from the English /s/ sound.  As soon as you begin to make the /s/ sound (which is by nature unvoiced in Korean as in English), you should immediately use your voice (produce whatever vowel that follows).  Any discernible duration of air moving out without your vocal cord vibrating will make the sound an English /s/ and Koreans will not recognize it as this consonant.  There exists in Korean a near-equivalent of the English /s/ sound, which is shown below as a separate entry ().  If this character (the current entry) is at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, it is pronounced as /d/ (as in “day”).
/ng/ If this character occurs at the first position of a syllabic cluster, it is placed there merely as a space filler and represents no sound.  At the last position of a syllabic cluster, it represents the /ng/ sound, as in the English word “king”.
/j/ Similar to the English /j/sound, as in “just”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “day”).
/ch/ Same as the English /ch/sound, as in “change”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “day”).
/k/ Same as the English /k/sound, as in “king”
/t/ Same as the English /t/sound, as in “take”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “day”).
/p/ Same as the English /p/sound, as in “pick”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /b/ (as in “boy”).
/h/ Same as the English /h/sound, as in “have”.  If this character occurs at the last position of a syllabic cluster, whether followed by a vowel or not, it is often not pronounced.
/k*/ Same as the French /q/ sound, as in the French word “quoi”.
/d*/ Same as the French /t/ sound, as in the French word “toi”.
/p*/ Similar to the French /p/ sound, as in the French word “pas”.
/s/ Similar to the English /s/sound, as in “see”.   If occurring at the last position of a syllabic cluster not followed by a vowel, this character is pronounced as /d/ (as in “day”).
/ts/ Same as the German z character, as in the German word “Zeit”.   Same as the /ts/ sound in some English words, e.g., as in “Pizza”.   This character should not be pronounced as /z/ as in “zoo”.
/n/
&
/j/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /n/ and hidden /j/.  Only the first sound, /n/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /j/, is produced only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  
/n/
&
/h/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /n/ and hidden /h/.  Only the first sound, /n/, is pronounced.   The hidden /h/ is not pronounced even when the next sound is a vowel; however, if followed by certain consonants, it modifies the color of the consonant.
/l/
&
/g/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of potential /l/ and potential /g/.  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of potential /l/ and potential /g/.  Depending on what comes after this combination, the speaker pronounces the first sound only, the second sound only, or both sounds.
/l/
&
/m/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of potential /l/ and potential /m/.  Depending on what comes after this combination, the speaker pronounces the first sound only, the second sound only, or both sounds.
/l/
&
/b/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of potential /l/ and potential /b/.  Depending on what comes after this combination, the speaker pronounces the first sound only, the second sound only, or both sounds.
/l/
&
/h/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /h/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The hidden /h/ is not pronounced even when the next sound is a vowel; however, if followed by certain consonants, it modifies the color of the consonant.
/b/
&
/s/
Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /b/ and hidden /s/.  Only the first sound, /b/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /s/, is produced (as /s/ not as /d/) only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  
/g/
&
/s/
Extremely rare (used only in 3 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /g/ and hidden /s/.  Only the first sound, /g/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /s/, is produced (as /s/ not as /d/) only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  
/l/
&
/s/
Extremely rare (used only in 2 - 3 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /s/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /s/, is produced (as /s/ not as /d/) only if what follows happens to be a vowel and only by some speakers.  
/l/
&
/t/
Extremely rare (used only in 2 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /t/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /t/, is produced only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  
/l/
&
/p/
Extremely rare (used only in 2 Korean words).  Occurs only at the last position of a syllabic cluster.   A combination of active /l/ and hidden /p/.  Only the first sound, /l/, is pronounced.   The second sound, /p/, is produced only if what follows happens to be a vowel.  
In addition to the descriptions given here, there are additional “rules” or observed phenomena regarding contextual variations of the consonants.  The additional considerations are, however, much subtler and can be safely ignored by first-time learners of the Korean language.