Revised Romanization Gains Global Support

      May 16, 2011 13:09

      The UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names will adopt the Korean standard for Romanizing place names here, so that for example the country's second-largest city will be spelled "Busan," not "Pusan."

      According to Chang Dong-hee of the Northeast Asian History Foundation, the U.S. and British representatives of the group met with Korean representatives in Vienna, Austria between May 2 and 6 and said they decided to adopt the Korean standard.

      Since 1937, the McCune-Reischauer form of Romanization with its rash of accents and apostrophes has been used internationally to spell Korean geographical names. But in 2000, the Korean government adopted the system known as Revised Romanization.

      "The decision by the two countries signifies a huge stride in the process of standardizing the Romanization of Korean place names," Chang said.

      But there is still a significant amount of chaos, perhaps a natural consequence of using the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet to render the 40-letter Hangeul alphabet. English-language signs for place names were changed using Revised Romanization in 2000, but in many cases around the world the MR format is still widely used. And even in Korea there is still discord as to which format should be used, suggesting that the road toward some rational solution will be long and stony.

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