[KS] dropping McCune-Reischauer for 20th/21st c. personal names

Ji-Yeon Yuh j-yuh at northwestern.edu
Thu Dec 13 17:52:36 EST 2001


I hate to join a romanization discussion, but I agree with Gari Ledyard 
that civility and respect are paramount. And I think that his handling of 
romanization in the Ki-Moon Lee /Yi Kimun case is quite appropriate and can 
serve as a model. But for other types of cases,  why not use the preferrred 
romanization for names whenever possible, even for those people who are not 
well-known. This should particularly be so for people who are currently 
alive. I say this because a name is more than a bunch of letters and more 
than just a noun. As a proper noun referring to a specific person, doesn't 
a name deserve respectful handling? Names also have legal ramifications in 
particular contexts. If the romanization of my name on my driver's license 
does not match that on my passport and other legal documents, then that's a 
problem. For international travel, romanized names on air tickets should 
match that on passports. And so forth. So it's not clear that we scholars 
should have full leeway to do as we wish when it comes to romanizing names. 
This is why I think that, as much as possible, we should use the 
romanization used by that person for his/her name. If M-R or some other 
system is also deemed necessary, then put that in parentheses after the 
name or in a footnote or in some other appropriate format. And of course, 
in cases where we can't determine what the preferred romanization is, then 
just use M-R or whatever system one is using. The idea is to be respectful, 
considerate and practical.

On another note, I appreciate very much what Frank has to say about the 
romanizing of names of ethnic Koreans who may or may not be 
citizens/residents of one of the two Koreas. Although some may find it 
confusing and disorganized, may I suggest that the different romanization 
schemes used in the U.S. versus various European countries and so forth are 
important vestiges or markers of the transnational experiences of ethnic 
Koreans. In some cases, the romanizations reflect "romanizing" a Korean 
name into French or German or Spanish and then using that as the basis for 
romanizing again into English. For me, these different romanization schemes 
for names are rich with history and meaning and say a great deal about 
cultural encounters, notions of the aesthetic, and representations.

Also, perhaps one can interpret the individualistic manner of romanizing 
personal names to be a kind of rebellion among ethnic Koreans, a refusal to 
be pinned downed. Far-fetched and fanciful, perhaps, but names in all their 
forms do have resonance among a people with a recent and bitter history of 
forced re-naming of self under colonial duress.

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