Korean Sign Language

Korean Sign Language
Native to South Korea
Japanese Sign
  • Korean Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kvk
Glottolog kore1273[1]

Korean Sign Language or KSL (Korean: 한국 수화 언어 韓國手話言語 Hanguk Suhwa Eoneo or 한국 수어 韓國手語 Hanguk Sueo) is the deaf sign language of Korea. It is often referred to simply as 수화 手話 suhwa, which means signing in general.

KSL is currently used in South Korea.


The beginnings of KSL date from 1889.[2] The first primary school for deaf children, opened in 1908, used KSL.


Although the origins of KSL predate the colonial period, the sign language developed some features in common with Japanese Sign Language (JSL) grammar.[2] KSL is considered part of the Japanese Sign Language family.[3]


According the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, there were 252,779 people with hearing impairment and 18,275 people with language disorders in South Korea as of late 2014.[4] Recent estimated figures for the number of deaf people in South Korea range from 180,000 to 300,000.[5]

Official status

The Korean Sign Language Law (한국수화언어법 韓國手話言語法 Hanguk Suhwa Eoneo Beop), which was adopted on 3 February 2016 and came into force on 4 August 2016, established Korean Sign Language as an official language for the deaf in South Korea equal in status with Korean. The law also stipulates that the national and local governments are required to provide translation services in Korean Sign Language to deaf individuals who need them.[6]

Functional markers

KSL, like other sign languages, incorporates non-manual markers with lexical, syntactic, discourse, and affective functions. These include brow raising and furrowing, frowning, head shaking and nodding, and leaning and shifting the torso.[7]

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Korean Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. 1 2 Fischer, Susan et al. (2010). "Variation in East Asian Sign Language Structures" in Sign Languages, p. 501., p. 501, at Google Books
  3. Fischer, p. 499., p. 499, at Google Books
  4. Cited in "「한국수화언어법」 국회 통과로 27만여 농인 언어권 보장", the press release for the Korean Sign Language Law from the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 4 January 2016
  5. http://aasl.aacore.jp/wiki/South_Korea
  6. The original text of the legislation in Korean can be viewed here: http://www.law.go.kr/%EB%B2%95%EB%A0%B9/%ED%95%9C%EA%B5%AD%EC%88%98%ED%99%94%EC%96%B8%EC%96%B4%EB%B2%95/(13978,20160203)
  7. Fischer, p. 507., p. 507, at Google Books


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