Language hurdles plague two Koreas after years of division

North and South Korea speak the same language based on the Hangeul alphabet, but after decades of division, only about 70 percent of words are mutually understood, according to some experts.

The North’s cultural and political isolation has also meant North Koreans have adopted fewer English words.

This became obvious when the players from North and South Korea combined for a joint ice hockey team during the Olympics.

“The only two words we shared were ‘skates’ and ‘puck’,” said Kim Jung-min, spokesman for the Korea Ice Hockey Association. “We had to coordinate before all training started, and we printed out the list of different terms between the two and stuck them on the athletes’ lockers.”

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