While rereading a question and answer I posted here I started thinking about how one would refer to Koreans as an ethnic whole rather than as the currently separate political countries they are.

I generally know that 韓国人 can be used to refer to the people of South Korea and 北朝鮮人 can be used to refer to the people of North Korea. But, what would one call Korean people all together in a way that isn't clumsy such as 韓国人と北朝鮮人?

Are there political implications to using the de facto term of 朝鮮人 to mean Korean regardless of which country they come from? Is there a more neutral way to express this, possibly 高麗人, or is that not in use?

1 Answer 1


One approach to similar questions that can sometimes work, is to find the English entry at Wikipedia, and see where it links through to in the left-hand sidebar list of languages. For this case, the English article is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koreans and the corresponding Japanese article is at https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/朝鮮民族.

Further googling appears to corroborate this usage, with 朝鮮民族 yielding 512K googits (including "は" in the search hits to filter specifically for Jpaanese) vs. only 146K for 韓民族 (the strict direct kanji version of the corresponding Korean term, 한민족 Han minjok).

  • Interesting. 民族 as a term for everyday use in the same vein as using 人 for describing people when speaking colloquially feels stiff, almost academic, though. One thing of note, too, is that the Wikipedia page you linked (the English variant) lists 朝鮮民族 as distinctively North Korean and 韓民族 as distinctively South Korean, which makes sense as each align with their respective images of themselves. Still, I'm at a loss for encompassing vocabulary...
    – psosuna
    Sep 17, 2018 at 21:43
  • I wondered at that as well, but then I note that the Korean peninsula is called the 朝鮮半島, and I also noted the disparate weighting of google hits in preference for 朝鮮民族. This might be distantly parallel to the way that the "main" language in the US is called "English" even though it's not England. Sep 17, 2018 at 22:11
  • I mean, sure. But, English in the US despite not England still makes sense -- The name of the language doesn't change because the location where it is spoken has changed. The dialect, however, marks the difference: AmE versus BrE, for example. At any rate, I think I'll have to settle for 朝鮮人 and 朝鮮民族, respectively, when referring to the people of the Korean Peninsula as a whole.
    – psosuna
    Sep 17, 2018 at 22:18
  • 1
    @psosuna, my analogy was intended to illustrate one mechanism by which the ethnic group as a whole might be called 朝鮮民族, even though the southern grouping eschews the term 朝鮮 in self-designated labels. To reuse your phrasing, the name of the ethnic grouping doesn't [necessarily] change depending on the location where [some of] the people live. :) Sep 17, 2018 at 22:59
  • Yes, that's the precept under which I decided on that. :) That being said, I started wondering this out of wanting to not inflame one side or the other.
    – psosuna
    Sep 18, 2018 at 16:57

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