English translations of Korean names

Last week I read a book called Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands (the edition for Asia). A colleague recommended it to me a few years ago when I first started looking after PR in a few countries in Asia. Overall I found it really interesting, and I would definitely pull it out again if I ever travel to any of the countries included in it.

One tip included has already come in handy:

Note that Korean family names can be transliterated into English in several ways; in English, the surname might be Rhee, Yi, Li, or Lee.

This week I was searching an internal database at work for two reporters in Korea. I found both in the system each with five different spellings of their name. The family names were “Rew” or “Ryu”; and “Yun” or “Yoon” and there were also alternative spellings of their given and/or generational names.

It seems silly now, but I probably wouldn’t have realised they were all the same person before.


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