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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Note on romanization

Felt like I could write a note on the principles of Romanization of Korean I use in this blog.

I write Place names with the current system in use in the Republic of Korea, notwithstanding my personal opinion of the system, because it is the official use: Busan, Inchon, Gyeonggi-do etc. are official names of those places. In case I ever need to write a DPRK place name, I won't use the Southern system.

Personal names I write either in the preferred form of the person in question, in case it's well known and I'm aware of it, or in a McCune-Reischauer romanized form. I might the name in both ways, if I need to have the pronunciation made clear or if I'm not sure of the person's own preference. As the practice for the form of the personal name is never consistent in South Korea, I feel free to be consistent in writing a hyphen between the syllables and write the second syllable with a small letter (Moo-hyun, Jung-il etc.).

For Nouns and sentences I will stick with the McCune-Reischauer system of Romanizing Korean, to which I've been accultured and accustomed, and it continues to be in use in humanities and social sciences. I find it preferable over the old system in writing Korean-language terms or longer sentences in Korean, and for me words are more recognizable written that way. I just can't see for example "credit bill" (어음) written eoeum instead of ôûm.(When doing research in Korea and making hasty notes on people's talk, the fastest and the most recognizable way to write the Korean words and sentences was to have them in a Romanized form.)
The Mc-R system has the vowels 어 and 으 written with an overturned moon-shaped diacritical mark over o and u; for the convenience I just take ^ from the keyboard to make ô and û. (Don't know about others, but this kind of keyboard in use in Sweden and Finland has this option at hand without any extra adjustments.)
I'll of course have Korean and Chinese characters every now and then: for clarity, when I haven't taken the trouble to translate a quoted passage, or just to make an impression...

The age of the Google is nevertheless having its impact; I often find myself thinking that perhaps the Korean terms should also be in a googlable form. People won't be searching for Korean terms with the McCune-Reischuerian ô's and û's.
A few links:
The Revised Romanization of Korean
McCune-Reischauer system of Korean romanization
McCune-Reischauer Romanization table

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