The Korean language is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. Most of its native-speakers live on the Korean peninsula. There are also major Korean-speaking communities in the bordering regions of China, on the Japanese islands, and even within the former Soviet Union.
Relatively large Korean communities can also be found in the USA and the UK. Other communities are found in Singapore, Thailand, Guam, and Paraguay.
The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people, which makes it the 15th language in the world by the number of native speakers.
In the 2010s, Korean has gained popularity among foreign language learners, largely due to the spread of K-Pop and Korean culture. On Duolingo (a language learning app) alone there are over 200,000 students. However, the total number of people who speak Korean as a second language is currently unknown.
There are a few peculiarities that can make learning Korean rather difficult. Grammar, syntax, and word order are very different from English and many European languages. Verbs coming at the end with conjugations (there are a lot of verb ending forms in Korean), particles instead of prepositions can be tricky to understand.
Korean also has a lot of complicated pronunciation rules and one and the same word if pronounced differently can have very different meanings.
Another area causing difficulty may be the honorifics – different forms are used in Korean to show different levels of politeness.
Korean is not a tonal language like Chinese or Vietnamese. In these languages, tonal inflection can change the meaning of words. In Korean, the form and meaning of root words remain essentially unchanged regardless of the tone of speech. There is also little variation in accent and pitch.
The general answer is yes. Korean speakers understand Japanese to a small extent. Many language learners find learning one language after the other relatively easy.
There are similarities in word order, word endings, and counters. There is some shared vocabulary: usually Chinese loanwords borrowed by both languages.
These languages are not related, they belong to different language groups. However, during the course of history, Korean absorbed a lot of Classical Chinese vocabulary. Around 60% of modern Korean vocabulary derives from Classical Chinese.
However, this is the only similarity. The two languages have very different grammatical systems using different logic. They also differ greatly phonologically as well.
The origins of the Korean language are quite obscure. Modern Korean descends from Middle Korean, which in turn descends from Old Korean, which descends from the Proto-Koreanic language which is generally suggested to have its linguistic homeland somewhere in Manchuria.
"Proto-Koreanic" is not a well-defined term, referring to the language spoken in prehistoric Korea during the Bronze and Iron ages. There is evidence suggests that Korean and Japanese belong to the Altaic language family, which also includes Turkish and Mongolian. Many scholars believe that the language emerged from a single cultural source.
Chinese, although it belongs to a completely different language family, influenced Korean greatly throughout history, which is reflected in a large number of Chinese loanwords in Korean.
The modern Korean writing system, hangul, was devised in 1443.