Foreign Words Dominate Titles of Korean TV Shows

It is a widely accepted fact that a certain amount of foreign words and expressions is part and parcel of the broadcast industry. But are foreign languages inevitable in the titles of TV programs as well? Out of the 20 most popular programs aired by major broadcasters last week, six had foreign titles.

The use of foreign words is becoming more common. Data from the National Institute of the Korean Language (NIKL) show that 42.2 percent of TV programs had foreign titles until the early 1990s, but this rose to 54.2 percent by the late 1990s and to 60.2 percent since 2000. As foreign words increasingly replace Korean words, there are fears of a form of linguistic social stratification. In other words, people may come to believe that the use of foreign words is a status symbol.

When it comes to children's programs, 57 percent used foreign words in their titles, slightly lower than the entire average, but many children's programs were imported from overseas. Program titles using words of unknown origin can cause confusion in children's concept of language. "In reality, many programs for children are either copied from American or Japanese programs or re-edited so that their titles end up using foreign words too," said one staffer at a broadcaster.

"Even a program that aims to promote Korean culture has the English title 'Love in Asia.'" One writer who worked for state-run KBS said, "These days, we get criticized for being out of touch when we come up with Korean titles for programs."

Experts say adherence to existing broadcast regulations could improve the situation. Article 6, Clause 9 of the Broadcast Law stipulates that programs must contribute to the dissemination and refinement of the standard Korean language. There are also regulations that say caution must be taken in using foreign words.

NIKL recommended that broadcasters approach the language issue with the public interest in mind. A solution could lie in strengthening regulations and compiling a set of standards on the use of foreign words in programs.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 13, 2009 07:28 KST