[KS] [Editorial]Unified Rominization
adam_eve at henny-savenije.pe.kr
Sun Sep 15 23:56:05 EDT 2002
North Korean delegates to the U.N. Conference on the Standardization of
Geographical Names in Berlin recently suggested that the two Koreas discuss
ways to unify their systems for Romanizing Korean words. The proposal is
more than welcome. Very properly, the North Koreans pointed out that they
faced many difficulties in Romanizing the names of South Korean people and
places because the South has too frequently changed its system for
transliterating Korean words into the Roman alphabet.
It is good that the concerned authorities in Seoul are positively
responding to the proposal. Foreign Ministry officials have acknowledged
that they informed other relevant government agencies of the North's
proposal for joint consultation to seek a "unified standard system." All
concerned government offices are urged to coordinate swiftly and
efficiently to prepare for inter-Korean negotiations on this vital issue.
The sooner the two Koreas begin to talk, the better it definitely would be.
It is a pity that the South Korean government has been wasting huge amounts
of taxpayers' money since it adopted a new Romanization system two years
ago. Not only many billions of won from the coffers of central and local
governments have been squandered, but tremendous confusion has occurred as
well. Road and traffic signs across the country were hurriedly replaced
before the World Cup soccer finals, leading foreign residents and visitors
to suffer unnecessary inconvenience amid the mishmash of Romanized names
following both old and new systems.
An even greater pity is that few knowledgeable people support the new
system based on conversion between letters but not sounds. The government
adopted the system devised by a group of nationalistic Korean linguists,
turning a deaf ear to strong opposition from concerned specialists and
long-time foreign residents. It is unthinkable that this absurd system will
acquire international endorsement in Korean studies, publication,
cartography or private commercial transactions anytime soon.
As a daily user of Romanized Korean names and words, we earnestly
recommended in this page that the government shelve the new system and
speak with North Korea to establish a unified system for both sides. The
intransigent policymakers at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism should
take full blame for the fabulous chaos around the country brought on by
different versions of Romanized names - such as Busan and Pusan, Daejeon
and Taejon, Joseon and Choson, and even the North Korean mountain Geumgang
Romanization of all languages is fundamentally an international task that
is intended to serve foreigners who do not speak or read the local tongue.
The two Koreas would do well to discuss necessary modifications to the
system that the North has consistently used over the years and that the
South Korean government has replaced with an inferior substitute. While not
without drawbacks, McCune-Reischauer has seen the widest use among the
international community for over a century.
By unifying their Romanization systems, the divided Koreas would be able to
make a significant stride toward cultural unity.
(If they are going to implement McCune Reischauer again the new system
would have been the shortest living one)
Henny (Lee Hae Kang)
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