SOUTH KOREA….Roh Moo-hyun is the new president of South Korea. But according the Economist, “Roh” is pronounced “no.”
This is peculiar, isn’t it? If his name is pronounced “no,” why would the standard transliteration into English produce “Roh”?
Elsewhere in their survey of South Korea, we get this:
Most South Koreans believe that North Korea’s nuclear weapons, if they were ever deployed, might be launched at Japan or America’s west coast, or perhaps sold to another country or a terrorist network, but would never be used on the North’s ethnic cousins just across the border.
They may be right: the North has so much artillery pointing at the South that it could easily flatten Seoul with conventional weapons. But it is still disturbing that young South Koreans should consider the prospect of a North Korean nuclear weapon launched at Sapporo or Seattle, or smuggled into Sydney, to be somebody else’s problem.
Yes it is.
UPDATE: I’m paraphrasing extremely broadly here, but the consensus of the commenters about the pronunciation of “Roh” seems to be that in Korean the initial sound of his name is something that doesn’t exist in English but that sounds like an R, or an L, or maybe even an N, sort of, or maybe a combination of all three. And in any case, whoever created the transliteration scheme might not have had English speakers in mind, or might not have had any other suitable letters left after creating the rest of the scheme, or ? well, who knows, really? In other words, the hell with it: just go ahead and pronounce it “Roh.”