The Romanization of Korean Names

hi, i have a question about the romanization of korean.

for han hyo joo, on wikipedia it lists:
revised romanization: han hyoju
mccune-reischauer: han hyo-ju

hmm, that is not so different. consider also ji jin hee.
revised romanization: ji jin-heui
mccune-reischauer: chi chin-hŭi

specifically, what is the romanization that is often seen, the form han hyo joo and ji jin hee?


Thanks for the question. I’ll take this opportunity to try to tackle the complicated and confusing world of romanizing Korean names. Over the years there have been several systems created to romanize Hangul, but since 2000 the Revised Romanization system became the official system taking over from McCune-Reischauer. BUT still, names and place names don’t always follow the new (or old) rules, so I’ve been trying to work out the best way to spell names too. For example, I’ve used the spelling “Jang Hee Bin” in my blog but elsewhere I’ve also seen her name spelt “Jang Hui-bin” or “Chang Huibin”. Where to use capital letters and when to hyphenate or not to hyphenate are more problems. On Wikipedia Ji Jin Hee is written as Ji Jin-hee and Ji Jin Hee.I know this is only a minor difference but still….(sigh)

Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong, Dong Yi, MBC

As you’ve pointed out, Ji Jin Hee should technically be written as Ji jin-heui in Revised Romanization and I can’t find any rule in any romanization system (see this chart) that suggests that 희 should be written as Hee! The same is true for Han Hyo-joo which would be Han Hyo-ju in Revised Romanization.

According to my Korean friend, the general rule is that names should be written according to the owner’s preference. So I suppose we have to go to the actor’s official website or an actors database to find out the official spelling of their name. According to his official website Ji Jin Hee is the correct spelling for his name. On her photo gallery the Dong  Yi actress spells her name as Han Hyo Joo.

There does seem to be a trend in names to use double letters rather than following the official rules, such as in Bae Soo-bin, Choi Ji-woo, Gong Yoo, Bae Yong-joon…. The famous chaebol company Daewoo also used the double o. Perhaps there’s an aesthetic reason behind the double letters. I personally like the look of the double letters. And I have to say that one of my favourite sounding words has to be ‘woo’. In fact, if I was going to change my name, I would definitely change it to something Woo!

Some irregular spellings of romanized names have become common practice. For example, if we follow the Revised Romanized system, the surname 김 should be written as Gim but it is usually written as Kim. Similarly another common surname 박 should be Bak but is often written as Park, and 이 should be I or Yi but is commonly Lee. But generally speaking it’s up to the owner of the name to decide how they will spell it. But if we can’t find this out then we can use the Revised Romanization of Korean.

Bae Soo-bin as Cha Cheon-soo, Dong Yi, MBC

1 Comment

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One response to “The Romanization of Korean Names

  1. jimmy

    much thanks for the reply! it never occurred to me that the romanization of the names was often using no system at all, and just up to the discretion of the person.
    from wikipedia, the yale romanization is interesting: how it is used by linguists because of the added structure which is shown.

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