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Do they speak English in South Korea?


South Korea is an East Asian country known for its rich culture, history, and modern technology. As a global business hub, many people wonder whether English is commonly spoken in the country. In this article, we will explore the language landscape of South Korea and answer the question “Do they speak English in South Korea?”

The official language of South Korea

The official language of South Korea is Korean, which has two main dialects: Seoul and Gyeongsang. The Korean language has a complex grammar system, and it can be challenging for non-native speakers to learn. However, most Koreans learn English in school as a second language.

English education in South Korea

English education is mandatory in South Korean schools starting from elementary school. Students are required to take English classes until they graduate from high school. Many parents also send their children to private English academies or hire private tutors to improve their English skills.

English proficiency in South Korea

Despite the mandatory English education, the English proficiency level in South Korea is not high compared to other countries. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, South Korea ranked 27th out of 100 countries in 2020. This indicates that while many Koreans have studied English in school, not everyone has achieved fluency.

English-speaking population in South Korea

The number of English speakers in South Korea is increasing due to globalization and international business. However, the percentage of native English speakers is relatively low. Most English speakers in South Korea are either Korean nationals who have learned English as a second language or foreigners who have moved to the country.

Business and tourism in South Korea

As a global business hub and a popular tourist destination, English is widely used in South Korea’s major cities such as Seoul and Busan. Many businesses have English-speaking staff, and signs and menus in tourist areas are often available in English.

English language media in South Korea

There are several English-language media outlets in South Korea, including newspapers, magazines, and TV channels. These provide English-speaking residents and tourists with local news, entertainment, and cultural information.

Challenges for non-English speakers

While English is commonly used in some areas of South Korea, non-English speakers may face challenges in other parts of the country. In rural areas or smaller cities, it may be difficult to find English-speaking locals or businesses. Additionally, many Koreans may not be comfortable speaking English even if they have learned it in school.

Language exchange programs

Many Koreans are eager to practice their English skills with native speakers. Language exchange programs are popular among both Koreans and foreigners living in South Korea. These programs allow participants to improve their language skills while learning about each other’s cultures.


In conclusion, while Korean is the official language of South Korea, English is commonly spoken in major cities and tourist areas. However, not everyone has achieved fluency in English despite mandatory education. Non-English speakers may face challenges in some parts of the country, but language exchange programs can provide opportunities for cultural exchange and language learning.


– “Korean Language.” Asia Society.
– “South Korea.” EF EPI.
– “South Korea.” Lonely Planet.
– “10 Best Korean Language Exchange Programs in Seoul.” FluentU Korean.

What percentage of South Korea speaks English?

The majority of people who learn a second language choose English (87%), while Japanese is the second most popular (26.7%) and Chinese comes in third (19.6%). This data was reported on November 27, 2017.

Can you live in Korea if you only speak English?

In short, it is possible to live as an expat in Korea without knowing the language, but it can be challenging and you may encounter situations where communication is difficult.

Is South Korea tourist friendly?

Is South Korea a safe place to visit? Absolutely! Visitors are often impressed by the tidy streets, welcoming atmosphere and overall low crime rate, particularly towards foreigners.

Is South Korea easy for English speakers?

I consider Korean to be one of the most challenging languages I’ve learned, even though its writing system is relatively easy to pick up. Compared to French or German, it’s more difficult for English speakers to become fluent in Korean (with a difficulty rating of 4 out of 5), but still easier than mastering Chinese or Arabic.

Can English people live in South Korea?

Foreign residents who wish to remain in South Korea are required to apply for an Alien Registration Certificate from the Korean Office of Immigration. Once approved, expats will receive a registration card that is valid for a period of one year.

Is English required in Korea?

Koreans place a high value on learning English, with even young children as young as four years old being introduced to the language through the primary school curriculum.

English as a job requirement in South Korea

English proficiency is becoming increasingly important in South Korea’s job market. Many companies require their employees to have strong English skills, especially in industries such as technology, finance, and international trade. Fluency in English can also lead to higher-paying jobs or career advancement opportunities.

English-speaking expat community in South Korea

South Korea has a large expat community, and many of them speak English as their first language. This community includes foreign professionals, students, and English teachers. Expats often gather at English-speaking events, such as language exchange meetups, to connect with others and share their experiences living in South Korea.

Future of English in South Korea

As globalization continues to shape the world, the importance of English in South Korea is likely to increase. The government has made efforts to improve English education and encourage more Koreans to learn the language. Additionally, the rise of international business and tourism in South Korea has created a demand for English speakers. It remains to be seen how the language landscape will evolve in South Korea in the coming years.

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