The Four Sounds of Korean Vowel ㅢ

Let’s examine the sound of the Korean diphthong ㅢ. It is a combination of the ㅡ (eu) sound and the ㅣ (ee) sound. Here are examples of words with 의 as an initial syllable.

의자 chair
의사 doctor
의상 attire

The round alphabet is soundless. It is just there to fill the void. These ㅢ in these words are pronounced as it is. But when 의 is attached to a noun to express ownership, the sound changes to ㅔ or ㅖ.

지민의 친구 (지민에 친구)
Jimin’s friend

정국의 목소리 (정국에 목소리)
Jungkook’s voice

태형의 고향 (태형에 고향)
Taehyung’s hometown

의 acts like the apostrophe s in English. The names 지민, 정국, and 태형 all end in a consonant so 의 is pronounced like ㅔ. But when the names end in a vowel, it sounds like ㅖ.

마나의 언니 (미나예 언니)
Mina’s sister

사나의 오빠 (사나예 오빠)
Sana’s big brother

모모의 남친 (모모예 남친)
Momo’s boyfriend

We do not say 지민-eui, or 미나-eui. There are names in Korean that has ㅢ in them such as 재희, and 태희. The ㅢ in them is not pronounced like ㅢ, ㅔ, or ㅖ, but rather ㅣ. We say 재히 and 태히. Other names like 의영 and 의동 takes the original ㅢ sound.