I am now in Seoul. The city is much more tourist-friendly than when I first visited it solo over ten years ago. There is English on most signs in Seoul now. And there are Chinese characters too. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the Chinese characters are supposed to be Chinese, or Japanese Kanji or their own Hanja. Sometimes the characters don’t look quite right if they are meant to be Chinese.

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There is something very wrong in the first picture, at least it is not in line with the common understanding as far as I know. I am not sure if it is intentional. Is the term 正体字 (not 正體字) used to refer to simplified characters at all?

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The 昇 in the picture above is wrong as far as I know. And I was quite speechless when I saw the sign 乳母車貸與. It couldn’t be right, right? But I subsequently concluded that, as the Korean is 유모차 대어 (yumocha daeyeo), that should be Hanja. Someone also told me later that 昇降機 is the Hanja for 승강기, which according to Wiktionary is used as well as 엘리베이터 to refer to elevator.

It is probably that when the characters are meant to be Chinese, they will be in the simplified form and will be accompanied by Japanese. Otherwise the characters are Hanja.

I took the following picture at an exhibition featuring some Chinese artists at the Seoul Museum of Art. What I found interesting in the picture is how Chinese names are expressed in Korean.


I had assumed that a Chinese name would be expressed in its Korean equivalent, such as 李 as 이. But according to the picture it seems I was wrong. Here 李 in the name of the artist 李暐 has become 리 (which of course is still the standard in North Korea). And the most intriguing are the names 繆曉春 (미아오시아오춘 / and 張小濤 (잔시아오타오 / The iao and ao have become very clumsy syllables.

I wondered if the translation was based on the names in Hanyu Pinyin rather than the names in Chinese characters.  And someone told me that nowadays (modern South) Korean transliterates Chinese names from Pinyin rather than using Sino-Korean 音訓 eumhun, and it is standard for all non-historical figures.

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One Response to Seoul

  1. one family says:

    So far as I know (told by some aged Korean, Most of them can read, speak and write Chinese. however, the language adopt much of Chinese factors, the format, structure and meaning is not as the same as Chinese.

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