[KS] Re: Perfect Hangul?

otfried at cs.ust.hk otfried at cs.ust.hk
Wed Dec 1 08:44:18 EST 1999

Didier Barbas wrote:

 > Seeing Ceng as your family name does lead me to think you're
 > biased, but not because of /eo/...

I usually don't argue with people who don't even have the politeness
to spell my name right, but let me straighten this out anyway.

I would find it rather saddening if the value of my small contribution
to this discussion dependend on the colour of my skin, or, for that
matter, on my last name. If it helps you, I'm caucasian, so much so
that small children gather around and stare at me when I go to a
swimming pool in Korea.

It has been argued here that foreigners should be consulted about the
new romanization scheme.  Well, I'm a foreigner in Korea, and I
presented my humble opininion.

 > We foreigners are the final users. A good system -- whatever it is
 > -- is one that WE can use!

Hmm. Who has been calling Koreans "nationalistic" a short while ago?

 > Close enough, Ross: it's unfriendly to foreigners who don't speak Korean
 > (99.99%?). Jongro, as I said before, is I think a good example.

The proposed system renders M-R Chongno as Jongno.  The second has far
better chances of being pronounced understandably by, say, Americans
(who are very likely to pronounce the first as Ch'ongno.)

In addition, the proposed system has two improvements over M-R to make
it easier for foreigners:

M-R Hu^i-gap becomes Hi-gap
M-R Hye-yo^n becomes He-yeon

Personally, I also like the ability to distinguish M-R Suk-yo^ng from
M-R Su-kyo^ng by writing Sukyeong versus Sugyeong, as in informal
writing one usually doesn't take care to separate syllables. Obviously
this is not something that `innocent foreigners' are going to
appreciate :-)

 > Er... if I got it right, Koreans transcribe Koreans names and others for the
 > purpose to make it readable/understandable to... FOREIGNERS. Voilà! The
 > end-users are foreigners, whoever the scribe is. 

When I enter my Korean address in a hotel registration form in the
West, I couldn't care less whether the clerk can read or understand
(whatever that means) it, as long as they can enter it into their

When's the last time you've tried to convince a US immigration officer
to enter a breve into her computer system?  Just today I failed
getting a bank clerk enter my German birthtown's name right in a
Dutch(!) computer system.

 > Try Yale. Works fine.

Hmm. Just a short while ago EO and EU were being flamed on this list
for being cryptic and incomprehensible to unaware foreigners.  I
wonder how this innocent foreigner is going to deal with Yale (which
is a perfectly good system that I use a lot myself---I only wished my
Korean friends could read it).

 > >If scholars can't even agree on a system among themselves, why do
 > >they expect Koreans to look to them for the answer?
 > Fortunately dentists and loggers don't agree on a single set of tools.
 > Linguists have needs of their own. Leave them (us) alone. Outside us freaks,
 > scholars do agree on M-R.

And, likewise, ordinary Koreans travelling overseas don't have the
same needs as scholars writing essays on Korean philosophy.  Who
should be leaving whom alone?

 > Actually, most of the documents made for visiting foreigners (short or long
 > term), use M-R.

I count the KNTO as a government institution.

Otfried Cheong


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