Korean Consonants and How to Pronounce them Correctly

Vowels and consonants are the 2 key factors to correctly pronouncing in a foreign language. It’s especially so for languages very different from English, such as Korean. In the previous article, we talked about Korean vowels. Today, let’s see how to pronounce Korean consonants like a native.

After reading this article, you will learn to memorize Korean consonants and master their pronunciation skills!  If you wish to learn more Korean systematically, use LingoDeer.

Let’s get started!

Korean Consonants

What are Korean Consonants?

The Korean alphabet “한글 (hangul)” was created in the 15th century by King Sejong Daewang (세종 대왕) of the Joseon Dynasty.Korean is a syllabic script that can be divided into vowels (모음 mo-eum) and consonants (자음 ja-eum), with 모 meaning mother and 자 meaning son.

In Korean, consonants cannot be pronounced alone and must be used in combination with vowels, therefore, vowels and consonants have an inseparable relationship like mother and son. There are 21 vowels and 19 consonants, among which vowels can be divided into 10 basic vowels and 11 compound vowels; consonants can be divided into plain, aspirated, and tense. 


Basic Korean Consonants

First are the 14 basic consonants:

ㄱ g/k  
ㅈ j/ch  
ㄴ n      
ㄷ d/t   
ㅋ k      
ㄹ r/l    
ㅌ t        
ㅁ m    
ㅍ p      
ㅂ b/p  
ㅎ h      
ㅅ s(/t)
ㅇ (ng)

There is a correct stroke order for writing Korean consonants. It is important to follow this to not only improve your Korean letter writing skills, but also to produce beautiful and correct calligraphy. You can use the LingoDeer app to practice strokes easily.

Korean word gi stroke order
Practice Korean stroke order with LingoDeer app


Korean Consonant Pronunciation

One of the characteristics of consonants is that the airflow through the mouth is obstructed when pronouncing them, and they are pronounced in short bursts, while vowels can go on forever. 

Because the actual pronunciation of a consonant is just a short moment, we may confuse several consonants with similar pronunciations, so a vowel is usually added after the consonant to distinguish the different pronunciations. 

Of these 14 basic consonants, “ㄱ ㄴ ㅁ ㅅ ㅇ” is an important factor in forming the other consonants. These five basic consonants are inspired by the shape of the oral cavity.

“ㄱ” is the shape of the tongue blocking the back of the throat.

“ㄴ” is the tongue touching the roof of the mouth.

“ㅁ” is the shape of the lips.

“ㅅ” is the shape of the teeth

“ㅇ” is the shape of the throat.

Korean Consonants and How to Pronounce them Correctly

Next, based on these five consonants, the remaining basic consonants are formed, except for “ㄹ”: 

Korean Consonant Romanization Name of the letter
g/k 기역(Khiyeok)
n 니은(Nieun)
d/t 디귿(Thigeut)
r/l 리을(Rieul)
m 미음(Mieun)
b/p 비읍(Phieup)
s/t 시옷(Shiot)
ㅇ  ng 이응(Ieung)
j/ch 지읒(Chhieut)
ch/(t) 치읓(Chh’ieut)
k 키읔(Kh’ieuk)
t 티읕(Thieut)
p 피읖(Phileup)
h 히읗(Hieut)


Korean Double Consonants 

Korean Consonant Romanization Name of the letter
kk 쌍기역(ssanggiyeok)
tt 쌍디귿(ssangdigeut)
pp 쌍비읍(ssangbieub)
ss 쌍시옷(ssangsiot)
jj 쌍지읒(ssangjieut)

Here are some simple tips for you to pronounce these consonants like a Korean native:

ㄱ vs ㅋ vs ㄲ

ㄱ is pronounced like “g” in “game”

ㅋ is pronounced like “kə” in “korea” 

ㄲ is pronounced like “gg” in “sky”

ㄷ vs ㅌ vs ㄸ

ㄷ is pronounced like “d” in “dinner”

ㅌ is pronounced like “t” in “table”

ㄸ is pronounced like “dd” in “store”

ㅂ vs ㅍ vs ㅃ

ㅂ is pronounced like “b” in “basket”

ㅍ is pronounced like “p” in “power”

ㅃ is pronounced like “bb” in “spa”

You can also click on the video below to hear how they are pronounced by a native speaker!

How to Memorize Korean Consonants Easily

To better memorize these Korean consonants, you can learn them in the following order.

(1) Plain consonants:ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ

(2) Tense consonants:ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ

(3) Aspirated consonants: ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅊ

The above three rows are written down one by one. The pattern is that the first line has two pronunciations – a slight blast at the beginning of the word and a loss of the blast in the middle of the word; the second line loses the blast whenever it is pronounced; and the third line has a strong blast whenever it is pronounced.


(5)ㅁ(m), ㄴ(n), ㅇ (not pronounced at the beginning of the word, pronounced ng at the end of the word)

(6)ㄹ(r/l) is a rather special consonant that changes its pronunciation with the vowel:

1. When ㄹ is pronounced as the alveolar flash /r/:

  • When located at the beginning of a word. Ex: 라디오 (ra-di-o)
  • When located between vowels. Ex: 사랑 (sa-rang)

2. When ㄹ is pronounced as a curly-tongued approximant /l/:

  • When located at the end of a word.  Ex: 아들 (a-deul), 월 (weol)
  • When ㄹ is followed by another consonant or another ㄹ. Ex: 딸기 (ddal-gi), 힘들다 (him-deul-da),
  • When ㄹ appears before or after ㄴ, both ㄹ and ㄴ are pronounced as /l/. Ex: 한류 (hal-lyu), 신랑 (sil-lang)

3. When ㄹ is pronounced with a nasal /n/:

  • When ㄹ appears after any consonant other than ㄴ. Ex: 생리 (saeng-ni), 국립 (gung-nip)
  • When ㄹ appears before or after ㄴ, both ㄹ and ㄴ are pronounced as /l/. Ex: 한류 (hal-lyu), 신랑 (sil-lang)

How do Korean Consonants Work?

Korean letters are written in syllabic blocks. Each syllabic block has to include at least one consonant and one vowel. A syllable can have as many as three parts: the onset and coda are made up of consonants, and the core is usually made up of vowels.

Korean Consonants

First, a Korean syllable starts with a consonant, written to the left or above the syllable block; then a vowel (the core of the syllable), written to the right or at the bottom of the syllable. Up to this point a syllable can already be formed, but for syllables with three parts, an additional vowel or consonant can be added and written on the right side or bottom of the syllable block (representing the final sound of the syllable).

I will explain this to you in the following diagram:

Korean consonant syllabic blocks

There are 9 syllabic blocks in total, want to get the full diagram? Download LingoDeer app or go to our website to learn Korean with comprehensive courses!


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