Hangang River

Some time ago I posted about whether it is better to write Gyeongbokgung, Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace. Ultimately, there’s no best solution. The literal transliteration of 경복궁 is Gyeongbokgung, but that does not provide foreigners with the important information that it’s a palace. Probably the best solution is to write Gyeongbok Palace, but in my experience, very few people do, along with Nam Mountain, but compare the very common Han River. Gyeongbokgung Palace is, strictly speaking, tautologous (also known as ‘repeating the same thing twice), but it has the advantage of including the full Korean name plus the fact that it’s a palace.

The Korea Herald has an article about the guide book published by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the National Institute of Korean Language for the use of those who are producing foreign-language signs and promoting Korea abroad. It recommends the use of, for example, Hangang River. 

It refers to the “translation” of Korean words. But the translation of 한강 is Great River. The transliteration is Hangang. I don’t know if there’s an official word for 한강 > Hangang River, but I will use the word rendering.  

The article links to the institute’s website, but it’s all in Korean, so I can’t give you any more information from it. 

At some time, my wife expressed great surprise when I told her that Namsan means “South Mountain”. She claimed that it is just the name of the mountain and doesn’t mean anything. But in any other context, Nam means south: Hamhae (the South Sea) is south of the peninsula, and Chungcheongnam-do, Gyeongsangnam-do and Jeollanam-do are south of Chungcheongbuk-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do and Jeollabuk-do respectively (and are sometimes rendered as South Chungcheong/Chungcheong South etc). Further, Namsan Seoul (I guess I should be writing Namsan Mountain Seoul) just happens to be south of Seoul, Namsan Gyeongju just happens to be south of Gyeongju and Bukansan Seoul just happens to be north of Seoul. Coincidence? I think not.


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