North Korean English

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Remarkable video from the DPRK:

"Kim Jong Un meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo & releases 3 U.S. prisoners [English]"

The English voice-over may be heard during the first three minutes, shortly after which it fades out until the last minute of the video.

I'm especially intrigued by what I think is my first opportunity to hear North Korean style English. It is so different from the South Korean English that I hear so much of practically every day.

The North Korean English I'm hearing here sounds pursed and crimped, in contrast to South Korean English which seems more open and expansive. That said, with a bit of effort, I can understand almost every word the English narrator speaks.


  1. Laura Morland said,

    May 10, 2018 @ 6:04 pm

    Interesting that the North Korean narrator pronounces the name "Pompeo" much better than did the translator.

    As well, the translator's pronunciation of the work "Secretary" sounds closer to Australian than either British or American English.

    The background music is over the top! It reminds me of WWII newsreels. And I find the excitement in the voice of the North Korean narrator to be quite fetching — and a stark contrast from the rather robotic voice of the translator.

    Thanks for the clip!

  2. Steven Marzuola said,

    May 11, 2018 @ 12:56 am

    Was this shown to the North Korean public?

  3. Ross King said,

    May 11, 2018 @ 2:37 am

    I'm not sure how representative this is of any 'North Korean English'. Rather, she sounds like she must be a high-level announcer-cum-interpreter who received a lot of her training in China (her English sounds like that of a lot of PRC Chinese I have encountered). I've heard plenty of other North Koreans speaking English, and they didn't sound like here. (By the same token, they rarely sound as Americanized as South Koreans, except of course for the South Koreans who learned their English in NZ, Australia, or the Phillippines.)

  4. Andrew said,

    May 11, 2018 @ 3:21 am

    I suspect the speaker of the original Korean is the legendary Ri Chun-hee, who is 'notable for her characteristic emotional and sometimes vitriolic tone, described as "passionate", "vaguely menacing", and "aggressive"' (Wikipedia).

  5. 번하드 said,

    May 11, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

    @Andrew: I think it sounds just like her, unless they managed to educate an accurate sound-alike, a possibility not to be discarded.

    The interpreter sounds very flat, nearly robotic, to me. Never heard such a style from South Korea, with the possible exception of the TTS system of some electronic dictionary.
    Random observations: Mike Pompeo seems to have chosen an overlong necktie, for whatever this may signify in Diplomatese.
    And I'm a bit puzzled about the purpose of that fuzzy censorship rectangle in the upper right.

  6. David Morris said,

    May 12, 2018 @ 3:10 am

    @ Andrew and 번하드: Wikipedia also reports – "When she retired, she told Chinese state-owned media that she would be working behind the scenes and training a new generation of broadcasters."

  7. 번하드 said,

    May 12, 2018 @ 5:36 am

    @David Morris: Oh, cool. Is there a voice forensicist in this theater?
    With the right kind of vocal education you can do amazing things.
    Do they practise the 판소리(pansori,, the art of 18th century radio play even before radio was there) in North Korea, too? With that kind of vocal practice you can sing nearly anything.

  8. Stephen Goranson said,

    May 12, 2018 @ 6:01 am

    Hmm. the fellow on the right looks a little like Kissinger.

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