Korean movie titles in English

I’ve noticed this before, but watching and listening to a number of Youtube videos about Korean movies made me think about the way Korean movie titles are rendered in English. I can think of four general strategies. 

The first is when a Korean title is retained in English, because there’s no translation: 실미도 (sil-mi-do, Silmido) (a place) and 옥자 (og-ja, Okja) (the name of a giant pig). It might be possible to ‘translate’ the first as Suicide squad and the second as My giant pig. Note that 해운대 (hae-un-dae, Haeundae) (a place) is titled Tidal wave in English.

The second is when a Korean title is translated into English either exactly, 기생충 (gi-saeng-chung) > Parasite, or approximately 건축학개론 (geon-chuk-hak gae-ron, introduction to architecture) > Architecture 101 (though at least one Youtube video calls it Introduction to architecture).

The third is when an English title is completely different from the Korean: 괴물 (gwoe-mul, monster) became The host, possibly because of the US movie Monster just three years before, and note that the US movie The host came after the Korean one. Sometimes, multiple, unrelated movies share a title. 

The last, the most puzzling to me, is when a movie’s Korean title is a transliteration of English:  올드보이 (ol-deu-bo-i) and 아이 캔 스피크 (a-i kaen seu-pi-keu). Maybe Oldboy has a connotation of grittiness that 늙은 소년 just doesn’t, and whole point of I can speak is her learning to speak English. In these cases, the English title is the same, just written in the English alphabet.


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