The Two Sounds of I-EUNG (ㅇ)


Let’s talk about this round alphabet in Korean called 이응. It sounds like NG in English words king, sing, and wing. It is normally placed at the bottom of a syllable because there are no Korean words that begin with an NG sound. Here are some examples.

river
room
prize
chapter
ball
bread

So why in the world does the name 이응 has an 이응 at the beginning of the two syllables? Not all Korean words or syllable begin with a consonant, some begin with a vowel just like the following.

o-i means cucumber
u-yu means milk
a-i means child

YU () may begin with Y which is a consonant, but it is a vowel in Korean. When we write them in Hangeul, they look like this.

ㅗ ㅣ
ㅜ ㅠ
ㅏ ㅣ

Don’t they look incomplete? First of all, the rule states that a Korean syllable should at least have two characters but they are single vowels. Second, a syllable should always be written with a consonant first before a vowel even if that word begins with a vowel sound. It means that something has to be put on top or beside the vowels above to fill that void. That is when we need the help of 이응. Let’s add 이응 to the words.

오이
우유
아이

In conclusion, 이응 sounds like NG as a bottom consonant and soundless as an initial consonant. Here are two-syllable words that have 이응.

사랑 love
빙상 iceberg
희망 hope
오늘 today
우산 umbrella
양파 onion