An Empirical Study of Tokenization Strategies for Various Korean NLP Tasks

Kyubyong Park1, Joohong Lee2, Seongbo Jang3, Dawoon Jung4
1Kakao Brain, 2Scatter Lab, 3Pohang University of Science and Technology, 4ScatterLab


Typically, tokenization is the very first step in most text processing works. As a token serves as an atomic unit that embeds the contextual information of text, how to define a token plays a decisive role in the performance of a model.

Even though Byte Pair Encoding (BPE) has been considered the de facto standard tokenization method due to its simplicity and universality, it still remains unclear whether BPE works best across all languages and tasks. In this paper, we test several tokenization strategies in order to answer our primary research question, that is, "What is the best tokenization strategy for Korean NLP tasks?"

Experimental results demonstrate that a hybrid approach of morphological segmentation followed by BPE works best in Korean to/from English machine translation and natural language understanding tasks such as KorNLI, KorSTS, NSMC, and PAWS-X. As an exception, for KorQuAD, the Korean extension of SQuAD, BPE segmentation turns out to be the most effective.

Our code and pre-trained models are publicly available at