[KS] "World Cup system" positives

T.N. Park tnpark at mac.com
Sun Mar 3 01:54:42 EST 2002

Paikkim at aol.com wrote:

> I agree wholeheartedly with Prof. David McCann's comment.
> The comments on the question of romanization has so far run heavily against
> the new system proposed by the S. Korean government. I wonder if anyone is
> for the new system. It would be enlightening to hear from those who are for
> the new system, especially if a few of the scholars who helped to formulate
> the new scheme could step up to the plate explain why they are for it.Granted
> that most of us are used to the M-R system, still for myself, bi for rain, pi
> for blood as well as eo and eu instead of the diacrtical marks seem
> improvements on certain aspects of the old system

Although I have gone on record as being in favor of the Olympic system (the
M-R version utilized by the government prior to the new system, aka the
World Cup system), I do think the positives need to be addressed.

First, some of their intentions were good. They wanted to make a system that
could be rendered without the use of any key strokes more difficult than a
shift-key. Their claims that the difficulty of adding breves and apostrophes
tended for them to be not widely used by the layperson are somewhat valid,
but the claim that this led to widespread confusion tended toward
exaggeration. Among Korean place names, the only confusion caused by the
absence of the breve would be between Shinch'ôn [신천] and Shinch'on [신촌].
The confusion may come with transcription of everyday words and phrases, but
such words are typically accompanied by Hangul text as well, thus ending the

The English language is full of borrowed words like résumé, café, vis-à-vis,
El Niño, etc., that do not present an insurmountable difficulty in typing
them, nor lead to confusion if their diacritical marks are missing.

It seems to me that Korea's clout as the most-wired country in the world
could have been used to encourage Microsoft and Apple to make the breves
more consistently and easily accessible. That would have been far cheaper
than spending US$20 million on road signs. And certainly this type of
solution has been used effectively at lobbying for changes in the use of the
name "Sea of Japan."

Second, the encouragement by the new system to get users to romanise given
names as one word (e.g., Daejung) instead of two (Dae Jung) is, in my
opinion, an improvement, though this is not necessarily opposed to M-R, and
it is also one of the least followed aspects of the new system.

I might also add that those who had the new system implemented also made a
sincere effort to add Chinese characters to the new road signs (excuse me
for continuously focusing on the road signs, but it is one of the main
arenas in which the Romanisation issue is played out). This, too, is to
their credit.

Still opposition to the "World Cup system" exists for many reasons. The
important issue of consistency is very important, from cartography to Korean
studies scholarship. The simple fact that the 'eo' and 'eu' sounds
(especially the former) do not really come close to the Korean sounds they
are supposed to make, is another. While the ease of virtually always
transcribing ㅂ as b is convenient, the simple fact remains that ㅂ in an
initial sound does not sound like a 'b' (the sound of Hangul characters are
too complex for a one-to-one correspondence to work), making the new system
a failure for those poor souls who need it for oral communication. The new
system was touted by those who developed it as being an improvement over the
new system in terms of ease-of-use for those unfamiliar with the Korean
language, but hands-on experience shows the opposite is true.

The Korean government homepage (kois.go.kr) used to have an explanation of
the superiority of the World Cup system over the Olympic system, but it
contained a number of specious arguments based on examples that are easily
refuted (e.g., the writing of bus as 'pôsû'). What it comes down to is that
it is a system that fails to do what it purports to do, it is a waste of
resources that could be better spent improving usage of the previous system
which is based on a world standard, and it was steathily brought into
existence with little regard for the actual users, and for reasons that
bordered on xenophobia.


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