Approximately 80 million people speak Korean, the majority of whom are Korean, as of 2020. Korean is an East Asian language. The Korean language is both the official and national language of North Korea and South Korea (both of which were historically known as Korea), with somewhat different standardised official versions used in each republic. China's Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County have both recognised it as a minority language in the country's Jilin Province. Additionally, it is spoken in certain areas of Sakhalin Island as well as Russia and Central Asia.
Generally speaking, modern linguists consider Korean to be an isolating language, with no clear connection to other languages such as Japanese; however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean and the Jeju language (spoken in the Jeju Province) make up the Koreanic language family. It has been hypothesised that Korean originated somewhere in the Manchurian region.
A system devised in the 15th century specifically for this purpose, Hangul is used to write modern Korean. A total of 24 fundamental letters and 27 complicated letters are used in modern Hangul. In the beginning, Korean was mostly a spoken language since written records were kept in Classical Chinese, which is not mutually intelligible with either the historical or current Korean languages, even in their spoken forms. Even in South Korea, Hanja, which are Chinese letters that have been translated to the Korean language, are only employed to a very limited degree. Both have acquired regional accents as a result of the 80-year separation..