September 15, 2009 13:20
"I thought all Koreans students were really rich. They all lived in addresses with names like 'castle' or 'palace,'" says an American who has been teaching English at a university in Seoul for seven years. "Tra-Palace," "Lotte Castle" or "Royal County" were some of them. "I finally asked my students and discovered that they were brand names of apartments."
There has been some concern over the increasing use of foreign words in everyday life, and the names of apartment complexes are no exception. Last year, 43.9 percent of Koreans were living in apartments, more than the 42.9 percent of the population living in houses. According to Real Estate 114, out of seven new apartment complexes across the country that started selling a total of 2,907 units from September, only one had a Korean name. The foreign brand names included "Hill State," "I PARK" and "Well County."
The preference for foreign names became prevalent after 2000. In early 2000, Samsung was the first to begin selling apartments under the name "Raemian." This led to other broken English names by the builder, including the premium "Tower Palace" and "Tra-Palace." Then property developers like Daelim, Kumho and Lotte featured apartments under names like "Acrovista," "Richensia" and "Castle." Studies showed that by 2005, 47.8 percent of new apartments had foreign brand names. Apartment brand names using Hangeul or the Korean alphabet, which were popular during the construction of satellite cities around Seoul in the 1990s, were no longer favored.
Many of the foreign names of apartments are codes that cannot be understood without explanations. LG's "Xi" line of apartments made popular in ads featuring actress Lee Young-ae, Kumho's "Richensia" and "Enigmaville" in Cheongdam-dong are the result of combining several different words or a mysterious mixture of different letters.
The widespread use of foreign-sounding names for apartments could lead to a widening rift between the rich and poor, because they are mostly used for expensive apartments. Among the 100 most expensive apartments sold during the first half of last year, 74 had foreign names. Among the expensive apartments, only a handful had Korean names. Those were in the affluent Apgujeong and Ichon-dong areas that were built before 2000.
In contrast, many low-cost, rental apartments had names using Korean words or mixtures of Korean and foreign words. The only apartment complex that had a Korean name out of the seven new complexes was a rental complex outside Seoul. In 2001, when the boom in foreign names began, 12 out of 17 rental apartment complexes had names that were either Korean or mixed with foreign words.
"The preference for foreign names is a typical advertising gimmick to flatter consumers," said Chae Wan, a professor of Korean Language and Literature at Dongduk Women's University. "Eloquent-sounding foreign names are used to get potential buyers to feel like they should know such words, since they are well educated," Chae wrote in a thesis. Another advertising expert said, "Most English words have been used, so builders are having to turn to German, French and even create new words." The expert added, "Nowadays, it's awkward to use Korean names."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com