[KS] A new proposal on the Romanization Korean Surnames

Ruediger Frank ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at
Thu Jul 4 05:46:02 EDT 2013

Dear Prof. Lee and all,
what has been troubling me for years about the whole debate is the seemlingly underlying assumption that romanization is something used in interaction with foreigners, and that "foreigner" naturally means being anglophone. On a bad day, I would even suspect some kind of implicit racist ranking of foreigners (English speakers: important, Hindi: who cares). However, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers) tells me that native speakers of English comprise a mere 4.8% of world population, on par with Spanish. Mandarin leads with 12.4%, Arabic comes in fourth (3.2%), followed by other languages in the range of 1-2.x% such as Hindi, Bengali, Portugese, Russian, Japanese, German. It does not seem to bother anyone that "Jong" will be pronounced "yong" in German, and perhaps "khong" in Spanish or "shong" in French (and "yonk" in some parts of Austria). 
In my humble opinion, a system makes little sense as there simply is no one-size-fits-all solution. The idea to let individuals make their own choice is thus a smart idea, as they know best what kind of foreigners they will most likely encounter in their lifes. 
I am sure this will be a hot topic for discussion at the upcoming AKSE 2013 conference in Vienna which starts on Saturday (http://akse2013.univie.ac.at/). Those of you who are attending: we look forward to seeing you soon! Those who could not make it: we will miss you!
Best regards,
Rudiger Frank

on Donnerstag, 4. Juli 2013 at 08:46 you wrote:

On the Romanization of Korean Surnames 
Sang-Oak Lee 
(Seoul National University)
The current official system of Romanization adopted by the Ministry of Culture in 2000 states that "surnames are not required to follow the new system." This has created a situation in which long used popular forms, the current Ministry of Culture (MC or RR) system, and the McCune-Reischauer (MR) system are all being used for surnames based on individual preference. The situation has created considerable confusion and the Korean government has asked the ‘SNU team’ to gather opinions and conduct research on the issue with the aim of creating a reasonable system for Romanizing Korean surnames. The issue is particularly important for Koreans who live and work overseas and who work extensively in international fields. Further discussion in Koreanstudies-request will help us a great deal in developing a rationale proposal that could gain quite wide acceptance.
A questionnaire was used to survey the opinions of members of the general public as well as participants in the ICKL Workshop. Examination of the specific content of each question on the survey entitled “Degrees of Preference and Dispreference for the Romanization of Korean Surnames” reveals that the first group of items on the questionnaire were meant to confirm the degrees of preference of the general public regarding the 27 most prevalent Korean surnames. The method employed was to present a Romanized form of each surname as an example, and to determine the form considered most appropriate according to the preferences of the subjects, yet due to length considerations the content of these first question 27 questions has been omitted here. 
An attempt will now be made to organize the results of the questionnaire concerning Romanized forms. The points to be focused on in this presentation and analysis of the survey are: (1) the degrees of preference about the style of Romanization of sounds such as the onset consonants ‘ㄱ’ and ‘ㅈ,’ the medial vowels ‘ㅓ’ and ‘ㅜ,’ and liquids; (2) the degrees of preference about four proposals; (3) the styles of Romanization already known to Korean and international subjects; (4) the intention of international subjects to use a new method of Romanization; (5) the avoidance of negative word nuance; (6) opinions in support of or against the use of diacritics; and (7) the purposes, standards (etc.) of Korean Romanization.   
The degrees of preference regarding an initial ‘ㄱ’ sound indicated approximately 54% approval for the Romanized form ‘K’ and 46% for ‘G,’ confirming a somewhat higher degree of preference for the former. For an initial ‘ㅈ’ sound the degrees of preference stood at 79% for ‘J’ and 21% for ‘Ch.’ However, in the case of the surname ‘조’ the degree of preference for ‘Ch’ was relatively higher, with the spelling ‘Cho’ rated at 46% as opposed to 54% for ‘Jo.’ This is considered to be due to the strong influence of spelling conventions for the case of the surname ‘조,’ and excluding this particular surname, the total degree of preference for an initial ‘ㅈ’ sound came out at about 85% in favor of ‘J.’  
For the medial vowel ‘ㅓ’ the results of the survey indicated a higher degree of preference for the Romanized form ‘eo,’ which received approximately 62% approval in comparison to ‘u’ at 38%. For the medial vowel ‘ㅜ’ the form ‘oo’ was rated higher than ‘u,’ with degrees of preference of about 55% and 45%, respectively. However, if we separate the survey results of Korean participants from those of foreign participants and examine them once again, it is revealed that the proportions of preference for the Romanized form of the medial vowel ‘ㅜ’ are divided according to nationality, with Korean participants choosing ‘oo’ over ‘u’ at a ratio of 61:39 in contrast to the ratio of 39:61 for foreigners.  
Out of all the surnames included in the survey, some of the surnames (노, 유, 이, 임, etc.) involved the representation of liquid sounds, but because the preferences regarding the Romanization of these liquid sounds differed greatly according to particular surnames, the results must be analyzed separately for different names. To begin with, the degree of preference for representing the surname ‘노’ with a liquid consonant (e.g. Ro, Roh) was quite low at 14%, while that for the surname ‘유’ was even lower, with the Romanized form ‘Ryu’ receiving a mere 3% approval rating. In contrast, the degrees of preference for representing the initial sounds of the surnames ‘이’ and ‘임’ with a liquid consonant were high, with the preference for ‘Lee’ indicated as 70% and that for ‘Lim’ at 46%. These results are analyzed as being due to the influence of spelling conventions.
Regarding the proposed plan to avoid Romanized forms of Korean surnames which share the same orthographic representation as English words with negative meanings (e.g. Bang, Gang), responses indicating opinions of approval took up about 68% of the total. Looking only at the responses of Korean participants, approval for the proposal to avoid these forms rises to roughly 72%. For the surnames ‘노’ and ‘신’ which are connected to this problem, the Romanized forms ‘No’ and ‘Sin’ received preference ratings of 37% and 36% respectively, figures which are high in comparison to the 32% of responses which indicated that avoidance of these orthographic representations is unnecessary. Accordingly, these results can be analyzed as reflecting that the degrees of preference reported above have no connection to opinions regarding the problem of spelling avoidance.
Approximately 72% of participants indicated opposition to the use of diacritics (e.g. breves, apostrophes). Furthermore, regarding the degrees of preference for the four different forms of Romanization, the 2001 proposal of the National Institute of the Korean Language (presented as Proposal #1 on the survey) received approval from about 39% of the surveyed participants, a higher degree of support than for any of the other proposals. This proposal allows for the use of popular forms for some surnames (e.g. Kim, Lee) along with the systematically prescribed forms (e.g. Gim, Yi), and if these points are reflected in the results of the above survey, we can come to the conclusion that the recommended proposal will discourage the use of diacritics while encouraging the appropriate use of popularized Romanized forms for some Korean surnames.
For the survey question regarding the four different forms of Romanization, the most preferred proposal by foreign participants (at 33%) was Proposal #4, which grafts together the MR (McCune-Reischauer) and MC (Ministry of Culture) proposals. However, when asked whether they would consider it acceptable if the Korean government chose a new and somewhat unstructured system of Romanization, based on popular forms and differing from the four presented proposals, it was revealed that only about 54% of foreign participants expressed an intention to use such a system. If this result is taken into account, it can be determined that the recommended proposal for the Romanization of Korean surnames can become widely applied both domestically and internationally only if it espouses a form of Romanization which is both systematic and appropriately in harmony with the existing form of orthographic representation. 
When asked which forms of Romanized Korean they were already familiar with, 54% of Korean and foreign participants indicated that they were not familiar with any specific form, while the remaining participants indicated the highest degrees of recognition for the MC, MR and MY (Martin-Yale) proposals, in that order. Despite the relatively short history of the existing proposal, which was established in the year 2000, the fact that it received the highest degree of recognition (at 29%) suggests that the government’s policy has had a correspondingly large degree of influence. 
Although this question did not appear on the survey administered to foreign participants, when Korean participants were asked about the purpose and standards upon which their opinions regarding the Romanization of Korean names were based, the most popular response was ‘passport issuance’ at 40%, followed by ‘school instruction’ at 35%. Since these are both connected to activities within the public sphere, it can be taken as a basis for concluding that the government’s policy to propagate a system of Romanization has had a powerful influence. However, it is impossible to say in reality that the government has displayed strong control over the situation based solely on the spread of their system for Romanizing Korean surnames. This is because, as the points referred to below indicate, surnames exist in a domain which is intimately connected to the characteristics and identity of individuals. Thus, if a method of Romanization for surnames is to be established, it cannot be concluded in advance that this method of orthographic representation can be smoothly and easily propagated merely according to the will of the government.
The following proposal has been prepared based on the above survey. It is hoped that this proposal will pass through a public hearing and be officially announced by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The Romanization of Surnames (Recommended Proposal)
In the Romanization method which has been in effect since the year 2000, the following stipulations regarding the principles for the Romanization of names should be inserted after the section entitled ‘Item 4 (2) The Romanization of surnames will be set separately.’ 
(A) The characters ‘ㄱ’ and ‘ㅂ’ will be represented as ‘K’ and ‘B,’ respectively (with the sole exception of Park/박, for which ‘P’ can be used), and the names ‘이’ and ‘조’ can be standardized as ‘Lee’ and ‘Jo.’ The vowels ‘ㅓ’ and ‘우’ can be partially represented as ‘u’ and ‘oo,’ respectively, and popularized forms such as Noh, Lim, Shin, Shim, Ah, Oh, Woo, Woon, Choi will be permitted. [Refer to the Surname Inventory below for details.]
(B) Other allowed proposals will be shown parenthetically, with the selected proposal listed first as the main form, and secondarily in parentheses the form represented according to the system of Romanization used prior to the year 2000 (or another representation), so that the relationship between the existing proposal and the popularized representation can be seen. For example: 노무석 No Mu-seok (No Mu-sǒk) or Noh Mu-seok (Ro Moo-suk). 
(C) Sound changes that occur in Korean pronunciation will not be reflected in the Romanized forms. For example, even though the actual Korean pronunciation of the name ‘박명일’ can be represented more accurately as ‘Bang Myeong-il,’ the unchanged popularized form of the surname ‘Park’ will be used. Incidentally, a rule has already been previously established to prevent the mispronunciation of the name ‘명일’ as ‘Myeon-gil’ instead of ‘Myeong-il’ by means of an inserted hyphen.
(D) With the exception of the cases presented above, any problems that may arise regarding the Romanization of surnames will be settled according to the current system of Romanization.
김 KIM   노 RO or NO   문 MOON or MUN   박PARK
이(李) LEE    이(異) YI      임(林) LIM   임(任)  IM
정 JUNG or JEONG  조 JO  초 CHO 

이상억 Sang-Oak Lee/www.sangoak.com
Prof. Emeritus, Dep't of Korean
College of Humanities, Seoul Nat'l Univ.
Seoul 151-745, Korea

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