The Hangeul system was officially adopted by the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in July 2000 to replace the older McCune-Reischauer System of Korean romanization. It was developed over a five-year period by the National Academy of the Korean Language.

Why the Change Took Place

Basically, because McCune-Reischauer was a pain to use accurately on computers. Most people were leaving out the breves on vowels and the apostrophes following hard consonants, which killed important phonetic distinctions between Korean words, especially personal names.

McCune-Reischauer had also been devised by two scholars of Japanese, and it was therefore based on a Japanese transliteration of Korean. Because of this, many Korean words sound quite different in McCune-Reischauer than they would in Korean.

What Has Changed

Four consonants have been changed. K becomes G, T becomes D, P becomes B, and CH becomes J. However, if the consonant was originally followed by an apostrophe, the apostrophe is removed and the consonant stays the same. Also, if K, T, or P show up at the end of a word, they stay the same.

The breved vowels "ŏ" and "ŭ" are now "eo" and "eu" respectively.

"Sh" is replaced by "S" wherever it occurs.

The Transition

Many names probably won't be converted to the new system for a long time. "Park" and "Lee," two of the most common family names in Korea, would become "Bak" and "I" under the Hangeul system. Samsung and Hyundai would become "Samseong" and "Hyeondae." The Korean government is not requiring established personal and business names to be changed, but is pushing new businesses and parents to use names consistent with the Hangeul system.

However, many place names have officially changed, and all romanized signs in Korea must be updated by 2005 to reflect the new spellings. Update your maps now:

For more information, see the NAKL website at: http://www.korean.go.kr/eng/index.html

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.