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Friday, March 05, 2004

(Korean language) Making a new Chinese character name for Seoul

There's a "Committee on the name of Seoul in Chinese" (서울의 중국어 신표기 소위원회), which is planning a new Chinese name for Seoul. (Yes, that's Koreans designing a new term for the Chinese language.) Chosun Ilbo has an interview of the committee chairman, a professor in Chinese at Yonsei. Chinese use the old Chosôn (Joseon) era official word 漢城, Hancheng in Chinese pronunciation (Hansông in Korean), which is said to cause problems in exchange between ROK and China because the word is so different from the Korean Seoul. It is told that "Seoul National University" (서울대학교/서울大學敎) has been written 漢城大學敎 in address, using the Chinese word for Seoul, which has caused the mail to go to Hanseong University elsewhere in Seoul. Seeing also the other examples of the possibility of confusion between "Seoul" and "Hansông" (漢城), it definitely seems to make sense to have the Chinese term for Seoul changed.
It's interesting that the professor himself admits that it's also the question of "national pride" (minjokjôk chajonsim); the han-character is the "Chinese" han, used to designate the Han Chinese. And also the sông(seong)-character (城) is said to denote the capital of a vassal state.
Ok, it's fine if scholars and Seoul officials come up with a new Chinese-character designation for Seoul, resembling the Korean word. It's not uncommon for Chinese to use Chinese characters for non-East Asian concepts - that's the case with most of the foreign nations and capitals and all, so why not for Seoul. The problem is that there is an old Chinese language term for the city, and I much doubt that the Chinese want to take advise from Korea on this. Good luck.
(Now that I think, the older 南朝鮮 has become 韓國 in PRC, and I guess "Korean language" is more often 韓國語 after ROK than 朝鮮語 after DPRK, so perhaps this project of changing 韓城 to something else has prospects.)

See a post from July 20, 2004 for the final two nominees (首尔/首爾 and 首午尔/首午爾) for the Chinese name of Seoul.

Update 2.
See a post from January 2005 about the selection of 首尔/首爾 (Shŏuĕr/Shou3Er3).

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