REPORT ON THE CURRENT STATUS OF
UNITED NATIONS ROMANIZATION SYSTEMS FOR GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES
Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 4.0, September 2013
No romanization system for Korean has been approved at the United Nations conferences on the standardization of geographical names, although systems for the romanization of Korean have been presented at several sessions of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). Experts at the sessions have repeatedly expressed their wish that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea should continue their efforts in aspiring to agree on a single international system for the romanization of Korean geographical names.
In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea there is a national system adopted in 1992 and presented to the 17th session of UNGEGN in 1994, updated version was published in 2002 and 2012.1
In the Republic of Korea the Ministry of Culture and Tourism adopted in July 2000 a new system of romanization for Korean2 which superseded another system approved in 1984. A new document was submitted in 2006 to confirm the new system of romanization for Korean.3 The system has been implemented in the Republic of Korea.
The most widely used international system is that of McCune-Reischauer (1939), which was adopted by the BGN and the PCGN in 1945 but is now used by those organizations only for the romanization of names in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (for names in the Republic of Korea the BGN and the PCGN now use that country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism system).4
A transliteration system that was provisionally agreed upon by the ISO experts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, is given in ISO TR 11941:1996 (a provisional technical report, not enforced as a standard).5
In linguistics also the so-called Yale system of romanization is widely accepted.6
Korean uses an alphabetic script in which the characters are grouped graphically together into complex syllable blocks. So, the geographical name P’anmunjŏm is written 판문점, not ㅍㅏㄴㅁㅜㄴㅈㅓㅁ.
The following table gives a comparison of all the main romanization systems. The character sequence has been taken from ISO TR 11941, there are variations to this in national usage. Romanization equivalents in the columns are as follows: 1 – ISO TR 11941, 2 – national system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (1992), 3 – national system of the Republic of Korea (2000), 4 – McCune-Reischauer system (1939), 5 – Yale system of romanization.
|16||ㅇ||’A, -B, ngC||-, ngE||-, ngE||-, ngE||-, ngE|
|18||ㄹ||l, rD||r||r, lG||r, n, l||l|
There are complicated rules based on pronunciation that determine the conversion of Korean syllables into Roman and the romanizations given in the table reflect only the most typical values. Most changes concern consonants which are often assimilated when used in combinations. The rules differ in the various romanization systems and for reasons of economy these are not reproduced in this report.
Notes to ISO TR 11941: 1996