[KS] Romanization tendencies in the West

T.N. Park tnpark at mac.com
Wed Mar 6 00:55:10 EST 2002

William Brown wrote:
> With all due respect, I think Mr. McCann is not right. Certainly the duely
> elected government of Korea is entilted to represent "Korea" on an issue such
> as what kind of romanization system that country should have. To suggest they
> don't have such authority is highly  prejudicial and disrepectful. To suggest
> that the unlected despotic  regime in Pyongyang has some kind of say in what
> system the Republic of Korea uses makes no sense whatsoever.

The Korean governmental organisation that decided upon these new rules is no
more elected than is the regime in Pyongyang. The new system was promulgated
in a way reminiscent of past military regimes in Seoul, and its usage has
been enforced in ways that are anachronistically undemocratic. For example,
our small company, registered with a govt-run organisation that promotes
foreign investment, has a Korean name whose Romanisation reflects the M-R
system. In a phone call from a government watchdog group, a veiled threat
was made of a possible government audit if we did not go along with their
encouragement to change the name of our company to reflect the "new" system.

Other organisations we know of -- some big and some small -- have been
similarly threatened with loss of future contracts or audits if they
continued to use the Olympic system in materials they produce, even though
these materials are not for government-related work. The Korean government
has a slew of people working at scouring the 'Net for "incorrect" spelling
on web sites around the world, writing to their creators and informing them
of their inaccuracy.

The Korean government is not the only user of such a system, nor is the
country of Korea. They no more have a right to impose such a system on me,
than I do of imposing M-R on linguists who prefer/need the Yale system.

In the end, consistency should reign, tempered by localised need. The
government's insistence notwithstanding, the Romanisation-requiring group of
foreign visitors to Korea, not to mention the majority of Koreans who would
employ a Romanisation system, needs a far better system than their "new"
(i.e., old) World Cup system.

It's a shame that tens of millions of dollars would be spent on such a

I also dare say that this is a sad reflection on Korean Studies in general.
In my studies at Yonsei University, Korean professors who hold some lectures
in English and some in Korean, tell me there are reams of topics they simply
cannot discuss in the Korean lectures because of the reaction of Korean
students who have been fed the government line regarding certain historical
events and figures, lest their jeopardise their jobs. simply put, it is not
wise to let the government dictate what those in Korean studies can and
cannot do, including what Romanisation system to use.


Korean taxpayer

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