I would imagine it is hard for a non-Korean speaker to understand when an actor or actress is using a dialect in the drama. As I was watching “Woman of Dignity” with my English speaker friend last week, I learned that she did not understand the difference actress Kim Seon-ah was making with her speech in the drama until it was pointed out by another character.
In the drama, actress Kim Seon-ah uses the Chung-cheong dialect to portray a mask of nave, country bumpkin. However, she uses standard Korean when she’s not pretending. As she frequently change around her dialect usage, the tone of the scene also changes. So, it was a bit weird for me when I realized that my friend did not get that change until later on in the show, though I understand why it would be hard to tell the difference.
There are 6 different dialects in South Korea. Starting from the standard Korean used in Gyeong-gi (including Seoul), there are Gang-won, Chung-cheong, Gyeong-sang, Jeol-la and Jeju dialect according to the different areas. Each dialect has a vivid personality to the language, so it is quite challenging for these actors and actresses to master the dialects. Many times, they are highly criticized for their unnatural usage of dialects. When the dialects are not spoken well, it distracts the viewers as it sounds quite cringy, and it gives an unprofessional image to the actor.
However, there are few actors and actresses who were complimented for their perfect usage of dialects. These stars below have put a tremendous effort into learning the dialect when they were given a role and deserves recognition for their hard work!
In the “Answer Me” series, actor Sung Dong-il spoke a perfect usage of Jeol-la dialect even though he is born and raised in Incheon, which is in Gyeong-gi area.
In the latest movie, “Battleship Island”, she used the Jeol-la dialect to complete the quality of the movie. She is born and raised in Seoul, so when she was given this role, she put a lot of hours practicing her lines with a teacher.
In a variety show, “I Live Alone”, we watched Namgoong Min getting the dialect lessons from his fellow actor and a friend, Lee Si-eon. He is also born and raised in Seoul but used the Gyeong-sang dialect very well in the drama, “Falsify”.
Actor Jeong Sang-hoon is a main member of the show, “SNL Korea” and he uses a lot of different dialects in various skits within the show.
I mean, what can he not do? In the drama, “Very Good Times”, he appeared as the younger version of actor Lee Seo-jin and used the Gyeong-sang dialect. He is also born and raised in Seoul.
Another Seoul born standard speaker used a high quality Gyeong-sang dialect in the movie, “Fatal Intuition”.
The “Answer Me” series is full of different dialects, and “Answer Me 1994” is the most various one out of the 3 series. Since all the students are from different part of South Korea, they each speak different dialects. Baro used the slow-paced Chung-cheong dialect even though he is from Jeol-la area.
In the drama, “Remember”, actor Park Sung-woong used a great quality of Gyeong-sang dialect though he is originally from Chung-cheong area.
In the drama, “Angel Eyes”, his character was a Korean American who use Chung-cheong dialect, but he is originally from Jeol-la area.
In the drama, “Dream High”, his character was a country bumpkin who uses Gyeong-sang dialect and his dialect was so well-spoken, many people mistook him for a Gyeong-sang local. However, he is born and raised in Seoul.