Thursday, November 11, 2010

What the ... name game?!?!?

According to the Terrible Times a Korea-US friendship group plans on giving Obama a Korean name when he comes to Seoul. They have decided to give him the Korean name Oh Han-Ma. What the kimchi?!?!?

Why the hell would someone not Korean WANT a Korean name? It is bad enough that I had to try and convince most students to give me their REAL name instead of an English name. (As I mentioned in a previous post there are some Koreans who I would advise to take a Western name in the West. Such as someone named BumSuk. But for the most part we should learn their real names.) Has Obama actually agreed to this? After reading the article I don't think he has.

According to the article the name means "our hope that the Korean and U.S. leaders will exert their efforts to strengthen Korea-U.S. solid alliance made during the Korean War, to iron out the negotiation of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) and to reactivate the sagging world economy by actively galloping like horses at the bilateral summit on the sideline of G20 summit." Wow ... THAT is a mouthful and then some. It means all that when translated to English? Maybe they should have said it "represents" that instead of "means" that?

Oh wait it TRANSLATES to "O meaning nation, Han means Korea and Ma is a horse." So He is no longer B.H. Obama. now he is Korea Horse Nation. What the kimchi?!?!?

I remember in my second or third year in Korea a couple of my co-workers decided I HAD to have a Korean name since I was oh so Korean. that means I could use chopsticks, eat kimchi, and drink soju. They named me something that translated to "likes the cold". Yes, I can't remember what name they gave me, nor could they a few days later. THAT is how important a made up name is as opposed to your REAL name.


  1. It's just bullshit heads of state have to put up with. They gave Hillary Clinton a Korean name too. He'll do it because the doesn't want to look like a dick, and he wants to sell Fords in Korea.

    You have a point about Korean names though. What if Ban Ki Moon, went around telling everybody to call him Ethan Sunshine, and greeted everyone he saw with a high five and a wassup man.

  2. I hope that all of the assembled leaders do gallop around like horses...that would make for some interesting footage.

    Oh...and Obama had best avoid Jeju...they eat horses there.

  3. People adopt various nicknames or cognomina throughout their lives for various reasons. When I started learning Spanish in middle school I was assigned a Spanish-language name almost at once. There is nothing inherently wicked about assigning English-language names or nicknames to learners of English as part of the teaching process. There is nothing inherently wrong with a visitor to Korea wanting a nickname that can be written in Chinese graphs, whether for the fun of it or as a courtesy to Korean hosts who can't pronounce the visitor's name. Nor do I feel a need to pass judgment helter-skelter on speakers of other languages who adopt English-language names. A hypothetical individual born in the far East, speaking, say, Cantonese as a first language, might (or might not) be glad to take an English name for himself because, while his given name was assigned according to family tradition, his English-language name is one he took for himself. People have all kinds of reasons for adopting new names and aliases, and I see no cause to find fault with anyone who does so before I even know what the reasons are.