I’ve been doing so much on signage lately that I’ve been neglecting the issue of romanization. (Remember romanization?) Here’s something just in from South Korea, a country that rivals Taiwan in making a national pastime of screwing around with its romanization system.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Presidential Council on National Competitiveness on Wednesday discussed plans to make the Korean language more accessible worldwide, including working out a Romanization standard for family names, compiling a new Hangul dictionary with about 1 million entries, and building a Hangul cultural center.
The government will come up with standard Romanization for family names this year that will become mandatory for people when they apply for new passports and for government offices that use both Hangul and English on official documents such as birth records and residence registration cards.
In Taiwan, people can choose among romanization systems for the name on their passport. Employing romanization for Hoklo, Hakka, or a language of one of Taiwan’s official tribes is also permitted.
An earlier Romanization project for family names was suspended in 2000 due to controversy over exceptions. The new standard will cost a huge amount of money as the Romanized names of businesses, schools and individuals as well as road signs will have to be changed.
A new Hangul dictionary is to be compiled by 2012, adding a large number of words to the last official dictionary published in 1999, which has about 500,000 entries, and adding easy sample sentences.
Experts have said that the younger generation have trouble understanding the conventional dictionary, as there are too many difficult Chinese characters in explanations and definitions.
The government also plans to compile a multilingual web dictionary comprising about 20 different foreign language sections — such as Vietnamese-Hangul and Thai-Hangul — to help foreigners and Korean nationals overseas.
A Hangul cultural center, to be built at a cost of W35.2 billion [US$27.5 million] by 2012, is to give visitors hands-on experience of the Korean language.
source: Standard Romanization for Korean Names Planned, Chosun Ilbo, June 25, 2009
Photo of street signs in Namyangju, Gyeonggi-do (Namyangju, Ky?nggi-do) courtesy of Robert Badger.