Official Language: North Korea, South Korea
Home Speakers: China, Japan, Thailand
Korean is spoken by at least 75 million people throughout the world, over 40 million in South Korea and over 20 million in North Korea. There are also about 2 million speakers in China, 700,000 in Japan, and 600,000 in the United States. It is to be classified as an isolated language. Scholars' opinions differ as to whether or not Korean is related to Japanese. It is possibly distantly related to Altaic. Korean's grammatical structure is most similar to Japanese, however. It is certainly not related to Chinese, although it has borrowed many Chinese words and has used the Chinese characters, together with the Korean alphabet, for many centuries. The Korean alphabet (Hangul script), invented in the years 1443-46, is the only true alphabet native to the Far East. Modern Standard Korean is based on a dialect spoken in Seoul. Korean grammar has a system of honorifics-endings and internal word markings that reflect established social relationships.
Reprinted from www.unhchr.ch/udhr/