[KS] Korean Korean names etc
anthony at ccs.sogang.ac.kr
Wed Mar 12 19:40:10 EST 2003
The children of the late Kim Young-Moo are called Boram and Daum and they got their names (in a
deliberate but not entirely individual break with tradition) twenty or more years ago. I have
seen a few other such Korean names among our students but not many. The custom of asking
grandfathers to make names might be responsible for this, but there is also the difficulty of
finding good Korean names in 2 syllables ... If it were not for the power of nationalistic
conventionality, I would expect to see more western names being given nowadays.
In general, I would say there are more Chinese characters in a certain kind of official letters
and texts now than twenty years ago, because computers make it so easy and they are thought to
add solemnity, I suppose. It sometimes makes life difficult, especially when the secretaries
choose the wrong character.
Where editions of poetry published a few years back used Chinese characters freely without
transcribing them, I doubt if any are now being published / reprinted without the Hangeul.
Middle and high school students still have to learn the basic list but with little attempt at
deeper reading and university students -- at least those majoring in Korean -- still have (I
believe) to take a compulsory course in older Korean literature with characters.
There used (10-15 years back) to be complaints about different professors in the same
discipline using different sets of characters to translate the names of contempory
international instsitutions or modern academic concepts; I wonder if they still try to
translate them or simply write the english name?
The main difficulty with Korean Chinese words is the way so many are identical when written in
Hangeul or spoken; lots of causes for confusion... and no obvious native Korean equivalents
(the French have a special committee to create authentic French words for things arriving from
English (like "surfing the Web with a mouse").
Sogang University, Seoul
PS Since I am writing, can I add for the benefit of those outside of Korea that the novellist
Lee Mun-gu died last month and the poet Cho Byong-Hwa a few days ago.
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