McCune-Reischauer romanization is one of the two most widely used Korean language romanization systems. A modified version of McCune-Reischauer was the official romanization system in South Korea until 2000, when it was replaced by the Revised Romanization of Korean system. A variant of McCune-Reischauer is still used as the official system in North Korea.
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McCune-Reischauer fails to distinguish between voiced and voiceless consonants when the apostrophe is removed. In Korean, ? is pronounced as B, almost identical to English B as in Bus, but McCune-Reischauer assigns ? as p (unaspirated p), which forces people to pronounce bus as pus when there is no apostrophe. Likewise, ?,? and ? has been assigned as k, t and ch (unaspirated k,t and ch respectively) instead of g, d and j. This romanization forced people to pronounce gold, Donald and James as kold, Tonald and Chames when apostrophe was omitted, especially on the internet. In order to correct this problem, National Academy of the Korean Language developed the Revised Romanization of Korean in 2000.
Under the McCune-Reischauer system, aspirated consonants like p', k', and t' are distinguished by apostrophe from unaspirated ones, which may be falsely understood as a separator between syllables (as in -> twich'agi, which consists of the syllables twi, ch'a and gi). The apostrophe is also used to mark transcriptions of (n'g) as opposed to ? (ng): -> chan'g?m vs. -> chang?m), so these diverse applications of apostrophe made people confused once omitted. Also, the breve (?) is used to differentiate vowels in Korean. So if the apostrophe and breve are omitted, as on the internet, this made it impossible to differentiate between aspirated consonants k',t',p' and ch' and unaspirated consonants k,t,p and ch, separator between syllables, transcriptions of (n'g) to ? (ng) and vowels ? and ?, and ? and ?.
An omission of apostrophe in internet and breve (?) in keyboard was the primary reason the South Korean government adopted a revised system of romanization in 2000. However, critics of the revised system claim it fails to represent ? and ? in a way that is easily recognizable and misrepresents the way that the unaspirated consonants are actually pronounced. However, the counterargument for this assertion is that it is impossible to find perfectly matching pairs of letters between the two different writing systems, English and Korean, and priority should be given to revised system of romanization created by the help of many Korean linguists at the National Academy of the Korean Language over a five-year period than the McCune-Reischauer system created by two foreigners with the help of three Korean linguists over a two-year period during the Japanese colonial era.
Meanwhile, despite official adoption of the new system in South Korea, North Korea uses a version of McCune-Reischauer, which does not accurately represent the phonetic characteristics of the Korean language.
This is a simplified guide for the McCune-Reischauer system. It is often used for the transliteration of names but does not convert every word properly, as several Korean letters are pronounced differently depending on their position.
|Initial consonant of the next syllable|
For ?, ?, ?, and ?, the letters g, d, b, or j are used if voiced, k, t, p, or ch otherwise. Pronunciations such as those take precedence over the rules in the table above.
In North Korea's variant of McCune-Reischauer, aspirated consonants are not represented by an apostrophe but are instead by adding an "h". For example, is written as Phy?ngs?ng. The original system would have it written as P'y?ngs?ng.
However, the consonant ? is transcribed as "ch", and not "chh", while ? is transcribed as "j". For example, is spelled "Juche", and not "Chuch'e", as it would be transcribed using the original system.
The North Korean variant renders names of people with each syllable capitalized and no hyphenation between syllables of given names: e.g. "Kim Il Sung" for Kim Il-sung. Native Korean names, however, are written without syllabic division.
A variant of McCune-Reischauer was in official use in South Korea from 1984 to 2000. The following are the differences between the original McCune-Reischauer and the South Korean variant:
The following table illustrates the differences above.
|Word||McCune-Reischauer||South Korean variant||Meaning|
|?||hoesaës?||hoesa-es?||at a company|
|ch'agoë||ch'ago-e||in a garage|
|chikhalsi||chik'alshi||directly governed city|
|mothada||mot'ada||to be poor at|
The Kontsevich system, based on the earlier Kholodovich system, is used for transliterating Korean into the Cyrillic script. Like McCune-Reischauer romanization it attempts to represent the pronunciation of a word, rather than provide letter-to-letter correspondence.