Romanization of Korean Names

First, I would like to give you an idea of how Korean names are structured.

  • Korean family names (a.k.a. last name, surname) are consisted of either one or two syllables.  Only eight percent of all South Koreans have two-syllable family names.
  • Korean given names are consisted of more than one syllable.  The majority are two-syllable names.  You will occasionally find names with just one syllable, but rarely will you discover names with three or more syllables.


And, below is how people’s names will be Romanized in this website as well as my facebook page and Twitter account.

  • The family name will be written before the person’s given name.  Names are officially read and written in Korea under this particular order.  It always seemed odd to me that last name’s would be placed after the first name to make it convenient for Western culture, yet political leaders or top entepreneurs have their names called in the orginal way (e. g. Chung Mong-joon, Kim Dae-jung, Lee Kun-hee, Lee Myung-bak, etc.).  So, other than maintaining consistency, I would like to write the names as how they are really done here.  Right before the 2012 London Olympics, the Korean government implemented a rule for athlete names to be printed this way on the back of the uniform.
  • Given names will be Romanized according to the rules regulated by the National Institute of the Korean Language.  This rule was officially introduced to the public through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) on July 4, 2000.
  • However, family names will be transliterated according to how they are commonly done (e. g. Choi instead of Choe, Kim instead of Gim, Lee instead of IPark instead of Pak, etc.).   These have been carved into the minds of the global community that going with the Romanized version would create somewhat of a chaos.  Currently, I am working on a full list of Korean family names, and how they are transliterated.  I will share it here once it is completed.
  • It is not required to use a hyphen in a given name.  However, I will use a hyphen in this website for the following reasons:
    • Have the reader acknowledge that the two syllables are, in fact, a single name.
    • Keeps the reader from assuming the second syllable to be a middle name (e.g. some would assume “Seon” would be the middle name in “Park Sun Kyoung” or “Kyoung” if written as “Sun Kyoung Park”.)  MIDDLE NAMES DO NOT EXIST IN KOREAN NAMES.
    • Prevents the reader from confusing which syllable would be the family name;
    • Keeps the reader from confusing how the syllables of the given name are broken down.  (e.g. some would read “Park Seonkyeong” as “PARK-SUNK-YOUNG“.)
  • Therefore, if the player’s given name is consisted of two syllables, a hyphen (-) shall be placed in between.  In this case, the first letter of the second syllable will be written in lower case.  However, I will NOT use a hyphen on two-syllable last names.
  • EXCEPTION: If a player had participated in an international competition (World Baseball Classic, Olympics, Asian Games, Asian Championship, and World Cup), I will go by the transliteration that is on the official roster.  This is because the name on an international competition roster is most likely to be the name on the player’s passport.


Need I remind you that the pronunciation of certain Korean letters do not exist in Western languages, which makes the Romanization very misleading.  However, the Romanization of Hangul has nothing to do with pronunciation.  It is more about having a unified way of converting Hangul into Roman letters.

What makes it more confusing for the Westerners is that the Korean government does not force its people to apply the Romanization in their names.  Generally, a Korean acknowledges his/her name in alphabet when it is time to create a passport.  Those who have created one after 2000 will have their names Romanized according to the rules.  However, they may switch it to their preference by submitting a document that explains why you wish to transliterate it in a different way.

Those who created it before 2000 usually Romanized their names based on suggestions by a government officer who was in charge of your passport or someone who knew English more than they did.  Koreans will normally base a transliteration of a word on how English natives would pronounce it.  The problem is not many have a clear idea how phonetics work in the English-speaking part of the world.

In any case, this is a person’s name we are talking about, and I believe it should respected on how the person wishes to have it written.  If you do have a question on how a name is really pronounced, please leave a comment on the post which has that name.




One response to “Romanization of Korean Names

  1. Pingback: Romanization of KBO League Coaches and Players – Position Players | Baseball in Korea·

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