Sunday, March 04, 2018

Ave, Charles!

Charles describes his recent Olympic adventure. At one point, he writes:

According to the Korean government romanization system (and the McCune-Reischauer system as well, in fact), the single vowel “u” is used to represent this sound. Why change this to “oo”? Did they think people were somehow going to mispronounce “Suho” or “Jinbu” (which was spelled “Jinboo,” by the way)? I might understand this if they wanted to use a single “u” for Pyungchang, as “eo” doesn’t look anything like the sound it represents, but as everyone knows, they did not do this. If you’re wondering why I’m getting so worked up about this very minor thing, it is because my Korean name is “Suho,” and I certainly don’t spell it “Sooho.” So I’m going to spell the tiger’s name “Suhorang,” and that’s that. Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

I sympathize and have done this myself re: the spelling of Noh Mu-hyeon's name. I hate "Moo-hyeon" because the "Moo" spelling sucks the dignity out of the name. See my old post on the varying dignity of letters. Meanwhile, give Charles's post a read.


Charles said...

I thought you might pick up on that bit.

Also, I must have told you about the time I wrote about Noh Mu-hyeon and was actually emailed by a Korean government employee who asked me to change the spelling to the official "Roh." Good times.

Kevin Kim said...

So did you "Roh"-l over and comply?

Charles said...

I bristled at the idea at first and sent back a polite but pointed email in Korean. When said employee discovered that I could speak (or at least read/write) Korean, she sent back an email to apologize. She said that she didn't want to be doing this, but this was her job (I wonder who she pissed off). She even asked me how she should broach the subject with foreigners.

After I got this email I felt kind of bad for her, so I told her that I would change the spelling, but I emphasized that I was doing this out of the goodness of my heart, and not because I necessarily felt compelled to do so. I also told her that if she absolutely had to send out these emails to foreigners, she should frame it as something people might be interested in knowing--an interesting tidbit, if you will--but in no way should the email even hint at implying a suggestion that they should change the spelling. I made it clear that this was not ideal and probably would not accomplish much, but it would allow her to do her job (hopefully) without pissing people off too much. After all, isn't that what we all want?

I have no idea how this went. I didn't go so far as to draft an email for her. She did thank me for the help, though. She seemed like a nice person stuck in a pretty crappy situation. And, in the end, it doesn't really matter that much to me how I spell 노무현's name. I figured if a quick spelling change could make someone's day marginally better, eh, why not?

Now, if the Olympic people contact me and ask me to change "Suho" to "Sooho," I'm going to tell them to go shove it. I do have my limits.

Kevin Kim said...

You may recall that, years ago, I got into a tiff with a Korean woman who appeared in the comment thread of one of the posts on my original Kevin's Walk blog. As with you, the issue was the spelling of Noh Mu-hyeon, but in my case, she was insisting on "Moo," not "Mu." She then bizarrely averred that this wasn't that big of a deal, so I demanded to know why she'd even bothered to insist on a certain spelling. Things just got stupider from there.

Now that a lot of time has passed, I can admit that the woman may have had something of a point: if ol' Uncle Moo-hyun preferred to spell his name as "Moo-hyun" or "Moo hyun" without the hyphen or whatever, well, it's his name. Same goes for the very bizarrely spelled Kim Yu-na, whose name should really be "Yeona" or "Yeon-a," if I'm not mistaken. With her strange romanization, I'm inclined to spell and pronounce her name as "유나." But it's Yu-na's name, and she has the right to romanize it as wrongly as she wants.

Ah—Wikipedia has this to say about Kim's weird spelling:


The correct transliteration of her name, 김연아, would be "Kim Yeon-a". However, when Kim applied for her passport, she intended to write her name as "Yun-a", but the official miswrote her name as "Yu-na", which is written as "유나" rather than "연아". From the 2010–2011 season, her name was registered as "Yuna Kim" at her International Skating Union profile, and she has requested media to be referred to in English using western name order as "Yuna Kim" instead of "Kim Yu-na".


I say: "Yun-a" is still a little weird, and "Yuna Kim" still sounds like "유나" to me.