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.
The system was created in 1937 by George M. McCune and Edwin O. Reischauer. With a few exceptions, it attempts not to transliterate Korean hangul but to represent the phonetic pronunciation. McCune-Reischauer is widely used outside Korea.
Korean has phonologically no distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants, but it phonetically distinguishes them. 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).
Such common omissions were the primary reason the South Korean government adopted a revised system of romanization in 2000. Critics of the revised system claim it fails to represent ? and ? in a way that is easily recognizable. Also, it misrepresents the way that the unaspirated consonants are actually pronounced.
Meanwhile, despite official adoption of the new system in South Korea, many in the Korean Studies community, both inside and outside South Korea, as well as international geographic and cartographic conventions, generally continue to use either the McCune-Reischauer or the Yale system. Also, North Korea uses a version of McCune-Reischauer.
Even within South Korea, usage of the new system is less than universal, like the variant of McCune-Reischauer that was the official Romanization system between 1984/1988 and 2000.
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: e.g. is spelled "Kim Hanby?l".
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.