Korean writing – learn the consonants

There are 14 consonants in Korean – 5 basic shapes, then a further 8 made by adding strokes to the initial 5 and one that doesn’t fit the pattern due to some of the intermediate characters falling out of use since they were invented by King Sejong.


The written form was inspired by the five elements and the position of the lips and tongue when making certain sounds.

Without further ado, here are the 5 base consonants together with the position of the vocal apparatus for making those sounds.

k gnms cng

The 5 basic consonants have strokes added to create further sounds, as below:


Plus a final consonant which represents a sound between r and l. The 2 other sounds (on the right) are no longer in use.


Test yourself – can you read all of the consonant sounds now?


consonant names

The letter names are also shown above – this may be useful later in your Korean learning journey if you need to sell something out or have something spelled out for you. First I will focus on getting comfortable reading the consonants and their combinations, but I will keep the letter names here as a handy reference.

When reading consonants they are usually combined with the vowel sound – ah to practice reading. Click through the slideshow below to practice reading all of the consonant sounds in combination with the vowel -a.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a dictionary the consonants are found in the order in the image above or the slideshow below. The teacher from Yonsei University recommended remembering the order, if possible, as it will help you to use a Korean dictionary later on.

alphabetical order

How are you doing? Getting the hang of the consonants?

It might seem like a lot to take in now but I just keep telling myself that it is much easier than learning thousands of characters for Japanese and Chinese. After studying both these languages hangeul appeals to me in its simplicity and logic. It feels good to already be able to start sounding out words and piecing together my own words after just a few lessons.

Ready for a challenge? Click through the slideshow below to try reading 30 words written using the consonants and vowels we have learned so far.

Pause it and take your time or try to read it before it moves on to the next picture. Good luck!

How many can you read?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now you have learned the 10 vowels and 14 consonants that makes up all written Korean.

Practice putting them together to hear the sound they make by clicking here.

In the next post I will look at how to combine these vowels and consonants to make words, then we’ll get started with some basic conversational Korean.


(Fighting – ‘Hwaiting!’ Phrase commonly used to cheer someone on in Korean, just like ‘Ganbatte!’ in Japanese and ‘Jia you!’ in Chinese)

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