When I type in 韓国 in Google, I find South Korea. But when I use Google Translate, I find just Korea. I recently read a Japanese news article where they refer 韓国 as South Korea (I think).

So what is the right way to write "South Korea", and what will "Korea as a whole" be?

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    As a side note, the Korean Peninsula is 朝鮮半島, 半島 being peninsula.
    – Yosh
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 16:00
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    Note that Google Translate is not a dictionary, but a machine learning + human suggestion, and the result may change (ref: my answer on Anime.SE). If we refer to Jisho instead, it says "South Korea; Republic of Korea" and "Korean Empire (1897-1910)"
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 2:59
  • Re: Google translate, also note that in significant parts of the English speaking world, "Korea"--absent any additional clarification--will already be assumed to mean South Korea. "Korea" and "Korea as a whole" are not necessarily the same thing. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 7:28
  • More comments than answers: 1) it's worth noting that sometimes English-speakers say "Korea" when referring to South Korea, but not to North Korea. 2) some linguists apparently hesitate to use 韓国語 to refer to the Korean language, because it sounds as if they're talking about the language of South Korea.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 9:56
  • This question and answer are interesting. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/25411/… Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 11:44

3 Answers 3


The origin of the word "Korea" is 高麗(こうらい), which was a nation that existed from 918 to 1392. In that era, North Korea and South Korea were one country.

Now, we commonly call South Korea 韓国 and North Korea 北朝鮮(きたちょうせん). The English name of South Korea is Republic of Korea and that of North Korea is Democratic People's Republic of Korea.


I am Japanese.

Generally, Japanese people use...

韓国{かんこく}(kan koku) is South Korea.

北朝鮮{きたちょうせん}(kita tyousen) is North Korea.

大韓民国{だいかんみんこく}(dai kan min koku) is the South Korea's official name.
韓国{かんこく}(kan koku) is an abbreviation of 大韓民国{だいかんみんこく}(dai kan min koku).

北朝鮮{きたちょうせん}(kita tyousen) means North(北{きた}) Korea(朝鮮{ちょうせん}).
The North Korea's official name is 朝鮮民主主義人民共和国{ちょうせんみんしゅしゅぎじんみんきょうわこく}(tyousen minsyusyugi jinmin kyouwakoku).

Other term

朝鮮{ちょうせん}(tyousen), Korea
朝鮮半島{ちょうせんはんとう}(tyousen hantou), Korean Peninsula
朝鮮戦争{ちょうせんせんそう}(tyousen sensou), Korean war

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    @Fireheart251 A more complete understanding can be had from learning about the Korean War and the Japanese involvement in Korea during and before WW2. (specifically, from the periods of 1910-1945). Looking into this topic will give a good insight as to why Korea is divided and why the names are as they are, both in Japanese and Korean.
    – psosuna
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 23:05

There's some interesting history to why Korea is called by two different names depending on which Korea you're referring to.

As some other answers have mentioned already, each Korea is referred to by different names.

Apologies for the spacing, emphasis isn't playing nicely with me today.

North Korea:

北{きた}朝鮮{ちょうせん} (Short for: 朝鮮{ちょうせん} 民主主義人民共和国{みんしゅしゅぎじんみんきょうわこく})

North Korea (Short for: Democratic People's Republic of Korea)

This name is derived from the 조선 (朝鮮, Joseon) dynasty (the first one, often referred to as Gojoseon).

South Korea:

韓国{かんこく} (Short for: 大{だい} 韓{かん} 民{みん} 国{こく})

South Korea (Short for: Republic of Korea)

This name is derived from 한국 (韓國, Hanguk) name that South Korean people call themselves (people of "Han", or, the Han dynasty that defeated the Gojoseon dynasty that resulted in the 삼한 (三韓, Samhan), the three kingdoms of ancient Korea)

Unified Korea:


This name comes from the 고려 (高麗, Goryeo) name that Koreans gave their unified nation during the Common era of Korea.

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