[KS] Romanisation

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Sat Apr 25 10:11:56 EDT 2009

Dear All:

I am not too sure that it will really be 
necessary to deprive Werner of his academic title 
and to bluntly indicate that he (as a linguist 
and a specialist in middle Korean and retired 
head of a Korean Studies department) "cannot 
possibly have been famiiliar [sic] with the great 
inadequacies/inaccuracies of the Wade-Giles" 
(Will Pore). But then, if it helps a good cause, 
why not go with Lenin.

My own point is: Is there any point to this 
discussion now? Has anything changed since 2000? 
If so, what?

   - Technical / software issues:  no change, all 
three, Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating 
systems had already introduced Unicode fonts at 
that time that include all the necessary fonts 
for transcription of Korean according to 
McCune-Reischauer (and Hepburn for Japanese). You 
can also see here in our mailing list that some 
people use these in postings (if they have a 
newer email program). There are very simple 
shortcuts to type these characters. On a Mac with 
U.S. English keyboard, for example, you type  ALT 
+ b, then o  to get the brève-o -- not sure what 
the key combinations are under Windows.

   - Quality of both transcription (resp. 
transliteration) systems: obviously no changes 
since 2000, there were no revisions, or were 

   - Institutions using either system: obviously 
South Korean institutions are not using 
McCune-Reischauer anymore. How about outside 
Korea? As far as I can see most museums with 
Korean collections have long changed to the new 
SK government system -- e.g. the British Museum, 
the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Berlin 
Dahlem East Asian Art Museum, and others. The 
reason for this change is most obvious: they all 
get funding from South Korea, for exhibitions, 
for example. Academia like almost everything else 
follows the money, isn't it? The big libraries, 
on the other hand, such as the Library of 
Congress or Harvard U Library, are still using 
McCune-Reischauer. Many leading libraries with 
Korean collections now also list Korean books in 
Korean script (see e.g. HOLLIS 

Are there any librarians on this list? Are there 
any plans to either shift to the new government 
system OR to have both transcriptions displayed 
for each record? (Technically, that should be no 
Government institutions? How about these? As far 
as I see they have changed to the new system, for 
practical reasons. "Kwangju" can't be found on 
any new map anymore.

In short, as far as I see the mess is now bigger 
than it was around 2000 -- as it could well be 
predicted then, but there are no basic changes.

Is the general Korean public really using the new 
system? To me it seems most people follow their 
nose and not any system. Personal names, for 
example, probably the most essential case in 
point, show up in all varieties:
   Sol Kyung-gu
   Sol Kyung-Gu
   Sol Kyunggu

And, same question as in 2000: How long will 
South Korea use this system? 10 years, 20 years? 
I am in good health, I go with McCune-Reischauer.


Frank Hoffmann

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