Today at the bank I was served by a Ms Bum (범). The name plaque on one side of her desk was written in hangeul, but her business card, in a holder on the other side, had her name in hangeul and English. Two prominent Korean politicians had the name Lee Bum-Suk (이범석): the first prime minister (1948-1950) and a later foreign minister (1982-1983). Wikipedia notes that this name ‘became a source of mirth to Anglophones’. I remember reading something written by an English journalist in the 1980s.

The issue is the transliteration of the hangeul letter ㅓ (approximately /ɒ/). There are three major Romanisation systems for hangeul. Revised Romanisation transliterates it eo (Beom-seok), McCune-Reischauer ŏ (Bŏm-Sŏk) and Yale inexplicably as e. Another common transliteration is ou; no common system uses u.

One of my current students has a name which is relevant here, but I’m not going to talk about individual current students. Maybe I’ll add the name when s/he graduates or I leave the university.


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