[KS] The third comments on the Romanization of Korean surnames by Sang-Oak Lee
acmuller at l.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Wed Jul 10 21:49:38 EDT 2013
Sangoak Lee wrote:
> *7 Jul 2013, Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 121, Issue 15, Prof.
> Boudewijn Walraven*
> Recommendation rather than prescription would be my preference.
> *[/Korean government is in between these two but many people ask to
> prescribe it to avoid any rejection of entry among the same family
> members in the foreign airport because of different romaninzation/.] *
Yes, but leaving aside the issue of whether Koreans should be able
to write their names as they like (which to me is so obvious, it
needs no discussion), there still needs to be a clear orthographic
principle as to how names should be transcribed when no preference
has previously been expressed.
Once again, that's the reason I raised this query to begin with, but
somehow it keeps getting dragged into the area of the latitude
Koreans should have when rendering their own names. To me, that is
somewhat of a non-issue, since it seems obvious that Koreans should
be able to romanize their own names as they like.
My concern arises when a first-tier Korean journal (such as Korean
Studies) which is supposed to adhere to RR, authorizes the
romanization of the name of a 15th century historical figure named
이 as "Yi". "Yi" is the well-established MR form of romanization,
and 이씨 is clearly no longer around to indicate his preference.
Thus, what would be expressed in MR as "Yi Sŏnggye", should be
rendered in RR as "I Seonggye".
It seems to me that in these third-person, objective cases where the
historical personage has never indicated his or her own preference,
then publications that declare themselves to be adhering to RR
should either (1) adhere to it, or (2) offer a clear explanation in
their style sheets, explaining why they do not adhere to it.
At the same time, scholars in Korea who work on the national
standards committees (mainly people at SNU and AKS, as far as I can
tell) should endeavor to make these rules more explicit, so that
people who want to adopt the system can follow the rules precisely.
The argument that says "a romanization system is always a work in
progress" doesn't work for me. Look at the clear articulation of
rules for Pinyin laid out in the appendix of DeFrancis' "ABC
Chinese-English Dictionary." Something like this needs to be done
for RR. If it has been done, then Korean publications that claim to
adhere to it should really do so.
In the end, of course, it is usually the case that foreigners end up
becoming much more knowledgeable about the application of the
romanization system than the locals. I run into very few Japanese
who really understand Hepburn--even elite scholars. The same with
Pinyin for most Chinese. I recently had a go-around with some people
at the National Institute Korean Language regarding the hyphenation
rules that they had published, and it was clear to me that the
persons with whom I was in contact had little understanding of the
actual application of the rules at all.
So I'm not asking for any big changes here. Just, if Korea-sponsored
publications are going to use RR, or claim to use RR, they should
really study it properly and use it. And if there are rules that
need to be bent, then these should be documented, and taken up for
discussion at the kinds of committees Sang-Oak Lee is involved with.
A. Charles Muller
University of Tokyo
Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, Faculty of Letters
Center for Evolving Humanities
7-3-1 Hongō, Bunkyō-ku
Tokyo 113-8654, Japan
Web Site: Resources for East Asian Language and Thought
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