[KS] The Romanization Discussion

Yuh Ji-Yeon j-yuh at northwestern.edu
Sat Jul 2 22:24:38 EDT 2005

Dear colleagues,

Just one comment regarding romanization: while I agree that systems are 
necessary and useful, and it seems to make so much sense to say that we 
have multiple  systems because we have multiple needs, I wonder if it is 
necessary to make people stick to a system for romanizing their names. I 
for one would prefer to allow people to choose for themselves. After all, a 
name is one's presentation in text and can take on loads of significance. 
People  generally want a name that looks good (as they perceive it), and 
the official romanization may not provide the desired result.

Of course one can argue that one's romanized name isn't really one's name, 
merely the romanization of it and that therefore peole should stick to 
romanization systems, but that's not a persuasive argument when faced with 
the fact that the romanized name is for all intents and purposes the name 
that the world outside the relatively small circle of Korean speakers will 
know. A name, in the end, can be a very personal thing, even a mode of 
self-expression, and so people ought to be left alone to romanize their 
names as they please. Of course, governments don't like that much and SK is 
no different -- hence the fairly standard romanizations on SK passports. 
The young generation in SK has little choice, so it's primarily the older 
generations whose romanized names display idiosyncracies. And by the way, 
lots of Koreans themselves complain about the way their name looks when 

As for foreigners judging "random" romanizations of Korean names to be 
chaotic and then extending that judgment to Korea itself .... do people 
still indulge themselves in such silly and parochial prejudice? And even if 
they do, that shouldn't deter Koreans from romanizing their names any way 
they wish.


Yuh, Ji-Yeon
Associate Professor of History
Director of Asian American Studies
Northwestern University
Harris 202
1881 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208 USA
j-yuh at northwestern.edu
fax: 1-847-467-1393
[The Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea---<www.asck.org> ]

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