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Korean writing systems
Mixed script
Korean transliteration

The Revised Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system. The new system eliminates diacritics in favour of digraphs and adheres more closely to Korean phonology than to a suggestive rendition of Korean phonetics for non-native speakers.

The Revised Romanization limits itself to only the English alphabet (apart from limited, often optional use of the hyphen). It was developed by the National Academy of the Korean Language from 1995 and was released to the public on July 7, 2000, by South Korea's Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Proclamation No. 2000-8. The proclamation cites the following reasons for the new system:[1]

  • It is convenient to type on computers since it uses only Latin letters and symbols, doing away with the apostrophes and breves that plague McCune-Reischauer.
  • It promotes consistent romanization by native Korean speakers by better transcribing important language characteristics.
  • It reduces the confusion caused by frequent omission of apostrophes and diacritics.
  • It rationalizes the Korean language with the plain ASCII text of internet domain names.



Revised Romanization of Korean
Hangul 국어의 로마자 표기법
Hanja 國語의 로마字 表記法
Revised Romanization gugeoui romaja pyogibeop
McCune–Reischauer kugŏŭi romacha p'yogipŏp

Notable features of the Revised Romanization system are:

  • 어 and 으 are written as digraphs with two vowel letters: eo and eu, respectively (replacing the ŏ and ŭ of the McCune-Reischauer system).
    • However, ㅝ is written as wo and ㅢ is written as ui.
  • Unlike McCune-Reischauer, aspirated consonants (ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅊ) have no apostrophe: k, t, p, ch. Their unaspirated counterparts (ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ) are written with letters that are voiced in English: g, d, b, j. However, all consonants that are pronounced as unreleased stops (which basically means all except ㄴ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅇ that are not followed by a vowel or semivowel) are written as k, t, p, with no regard to their morphophonemic value: 벽 → byeok, 밖 → bak, 부엌 → bueok (But: 벽에 → byeoge, 밖에 → bakke, 부엌에 → bueoke)
  • ㅅ is always written as s before vowels and semivowels; there is no sh except when transliterating.
  • ㄹ is r before a vowel or a semivowel, and l everywhere else: 리을 → rieul, 철원 → Cheorwon, 울릉도 → Ulleungdo, 발해 → Balhae. Just like in McCune-Reischauer, ㄴ is written l whenever pronounced as a lateral rather than a nasal consonant: 전라북도 → Jeollabuk-do

In addition, it contains special provisions for regular phonological rules that makes exceptions to transliteration (see Korean language#Phonology).

Other rules and recommendations include:

  • A hyphen may optionally disambiguate syllables: 가을 → ga-eul (fall; autumn) versus 개울 → gae-ul (stream). However, few official publications make use of this provision, since actual instances of ambiguity among names are rare.
    • A hyphen must be used in linguistic transliterations, where it denotes syllable-initial ㅇ (except at the beginning of a word): 없었습니다 → eobs-eoss-seubnida, 외국어 → oegug-eo, 애오개 → Ae-ogae
  • It is permitted to hyphenate syllables in the given name, following common practice. Certain phonological changes, ordinarily indicated in other contexts, are ignored in names, to better disambiguate between names: 강홍립 → Gang Hongrip or Gang Hong-rip, 한복남 → Han Boknam or Han Bok-nam
  • Administrative units (such as the do) are hyphenated from the placename proper: 강원도 → Gangwon-do
    • One may omit terms “such as 시, 군, 읍”: 평창군 → Pyeongchang-gun or Pyeongchang, 평창읍 → Pyeongchang-eup or Pyeongchang.
  • However, names for geographic features and artificial structures are not hyphenated: 설악산 → Seoraksan, 해인사 → Haeinsa
  • Capitalize proper nouns.


Similarly to several European languages that have undergone spelling simplifications (such as Portuguese or Swedish), the Revised Romanization is not expected to be adopted as the official romanization of Korean family names. For example, the common family name, Lee (이), would be I in both the Revised Romanization and McCune-Reischauer. Given names and commercial names are encouraged to change, but it is not required. All Korean textbooks were required to comply with the new system by February 28, 2002. English-language newspapers in South Korea initially resisted the new system, citing its flaws, though all later gave in to government pressure. The Korea Times was the last major English newspaper, which switched in May 2006 to the Revised Romanization.

North Korea continues to use a version of the McCune-Reischauer system of Romanization, which was in official use in South Korea from 1984 to 2000.

Transcription rules


Vowel letters

a eo o u eu i ae
e oe wi ya yeo yo yu
yae ye wa wae wo we ui

Consonant letters

g, k kk k d, t tt t b, p pp p
j jj ch s ss h n m ng r, l

The revised romanization transcribes certain phonetic changes that occur with combinations of the final consonant of one character and the initial consonant of the next:

initial →
final ↓ g n d r m b s j ch k t p h
k g kg ngn kd ngn ngm kb ks kj kch k-k kt kp kh, k
n n n-g nn nd ll, nn nm nb ns nj nch nk nt np nh
t d, j tg nn td nn nm tb ts tj tch tk t-t tp th, t, ch
l r lg ll, nn ld ll lm lb ls lj lch lk lt lp lh
m m mg mn md mn mm mb ms mj mch mk mt mp mh
p b pg mn pd mn mm pb ps pj pch pk pt p-p ph, p
ng ng- ngg ngn ngd ngn ngm ngb ngs ngj ngch ngk ngt ngp ngh


Despite governmental promotion, the revised system met with considerable opposition among foreign residents in South Korea, many of whom felt the revised system contained serious flaws and felt that the government failed to consult with them beforehand, they being the primary users of Romanized Korean inside South Korea.

Critics of the Revised Romanization System say that the one-to-one correspondence of Korean characters to Roman letters (e.g., usually representing ㄱ as g) that is the hallmark of the new system is overly simplistic and fails to represent sound changes that occur naturally when the position of a consonant changes[citation needed] (e.g., at the beginning of a word, ㄱ is pronounced closer to an unaspirated k, rather than as a straight g). A frequent complaint of many foreign residents and visitors to South Korea is that both Romanization systems hinder accurate and comprehensible rendering of Korean pronunciation.

Critics also complain that digraphs such as eo and eu, denoting sounds that differ from conventional European use, confuse those unfamiliar with the language. In English, for instance, eo as found in geography, Leonardo, or neon represents a sequence of two vowels, not the Korean monophthong. Due to this confusion, South Korea's capital, for example, is commonly mispronounced as `Sae-ool' in Germany. Defenders of the system cite English words such as surgeon as evidence of the appropriateness of the combination, even though the sound is not an exact match. Other supporters point out that it is a system intended to transliterate into the Roman alphabet, not English. However, other languages with a large inventory of distinct vowel phonemes similar to Korean (such as Turkish, Hungarian, or Swedish) resort to diacritics, with the exception of English, with its notoriously cumbersome orthography. German, for example, usually writes ae, oe, and ue as ä, ö, and ü, with the umlaut originating as a tiny "e" written above the vowel, and only uses digraphs when umlauts are unavailable, or in certain names (such as Goethe). Also, a digraph, namely eu, is used to represent a very short vowel that is often used as an epenthetic vowel for borrowings from English and other languages, leading to situations where the cluster str-, for example, ends up being written as seuteur-.

One motivation for the digraph "eo" appears to be an analogy with the conventional romanization "Seoul" of the South Korean capital. This romanization derives from an old French romanization Séoul in which the two syllables of this name denote "" and "oul, reflecting French orthography. The revised romanization instead treats this as a combination of "seo" and "ul", since u normally renders the second vowel (in accord with North European orthography).

The Ministry of Culture & Tourism says that the change was necessary because the McCune-Reischauer system did not adequately reflect important characteristics of the Korean language, making it difficult for native Korean speakers to use. For example, "The difference between some voiced and non-voiced sounds are in Korean little more than allophones, but [the] old system transcribed these as entirely different phonemes."[1]

This difficulty contributed to confusion and inconsistency in the Romanizing of Korean. The old system differentiated between voiced and non-voiced consonants, making it very difficult for Koreans to understand and contributing to spellings such as "Kumkang" and "Hankuk" for "금강" and "한국" instead of "Kŭmgang" and "Han'guk," as would have been correct according to the old system. There were contradictions as well. "대구" was written "Taegu," but 동대구, the name of Daegu's largest passenger train terminal, was Romanized "Tongdaegu." And because "ㄷ, ㅂ, and ㅈ" have to be written in a way that a distinction is maintained between "ㅌ, ㅍ, and ㅊ," people rarely wrote "ㄷ, ㅂ, and ㅈ" as "t, p, and ch," even when they were conscious of the fact that this was not correct according to the old system, since they would not want to have words confused with the "t', p', and ch' " that often had the apostrophe omitted. The result was that "ㄷ, ㅂ, and ㅈ" were written "t, p, and ch" on road signs but as "d, b, and j" almost everywhere else, such as personal names and the names of companies and schools.

Ministry of Culture & Tourism, The Revised Romanization of Korean

This, however, does not explain why the already existing Yale Romanization was not adopted by the Korean government instead.

Despite criticism by foreigners accustomed to using McCune Reischauer, often people who do not know Korean, many foreign residents and scholars have found the new system simple and logical. While all Romanization schema may be akin to learning a new language, the NGR (New Government Romanization) is applied much more easily after short study. In the past the majority of non-Korean fluent users of Romanization did not understand the purpose of diacritics, hence often omitting them and confusing everyone else.

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Proper noun

Revised Romanization of Korean

  1. A Romanization standard for Korean.

Usage notes

This is the preferred Romanization for Korean words in the English Wiktionary.


  • Dutch: Herziene Koreaanse Romanisatie f.
  • French: Romanisation révisée du coréen f.
  • German: Revidierte Romanisierung f.
  • Indonesian: Alihaksara Korea yang Disempurnakan
  • Korean: 국어의 로마자 표기법 (gugeoui romaja pyogibeop)
  • Norwegian: Revidert romanisering av koreansk
  • Russian: Новая романизация корейского языка (Nóvaja romanizátsija koréjskovo jazyká) f.
  • Spanish: Romanización revisada del coreano f.

Simple English

The Revised romanization of hangul is convenient to type on computers because it uses only Latin letters and symbols, and does not use the special marks that were a problem in the original McCune-Reischauer system.

=Vowel letters


a eo o u eu i ae
e oe wi ya yeo yo yu
yae ye wa wae wo we ui


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