The Info List - McCune–Reischauer

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MCCUNE–REISCHAUER ROMANIZATION (/məˈkuːn ˈraɪʃaʊ.ər/ ) is one of the two most widely used Korean language
Korean language
romanization systems. A modified version of McCune–Reischauer
was the official romanization system in South Korea
South Korea
until 2000, when it was replaced by the Revised Romanization of Korean
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.


* 1 Characteristics and criticism

* 2 Guide

* 2.1 Vowels * 2.2 Consonants

* 2.3 Examples

* 2.3.1 Exceptions that do not exactly follow pronunciation

* 3 North Korean variant * 4 South Korean variant * 5 Other systems * 6 See also * 7 Footnotes * 8 External links


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 뒤차기 → twich'agi, which consists of the syllables twi, ch'a and gi). The apostrophe is also used to mark transcriptions of ㄴㄱ (n'g) as opposed to ㅇㅇ (ng): 잔금 → chan'gŭm vs. 장음 → changŭm).

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 어 and 으 in a way that is easily recognizable. Also, it misrepresents the unaspirated consonants the way that they 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
South Korea
and international geographic and cartographic conventions generally continue to use either the McCune–Reischauer
or the Yale system. Also, North Korea
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.


HANGUL ㅏ ㅐ ㅑ ㅒ ㅓ ㅔ ㅕ ㅖ ㅗ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅛ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅠ ㅡ ㅢ ㅣ

ROMANIZATION a ae ya yae ŏ e* yŏ ye o wa wae oe yo u wŏ we wi yu ŭ ŭi i

* ㅔ is written as ë after ㅏ and ㅗ. This is to distinguish ㅐ (ae) from ㅏ에 (aë), and ㅚ (oe) and ㅗ에 (oë). The combinations ㅏ에 (aë) and ㅗ에 (oë) very rarely occur except in sentences when a noun is followed by a postposition, as, for example, 회사에서 hoesaësŏ (at a company) and 차고에 ch'agoë (in a garage). * The Korean surnames 이/리(李) and 이(異) are transcribed as Yi not I (e.g. 이순신 as Yi Sunsin)


HANGUL ㄱ ㄲ ㄴ ㄷ ㄸ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅃ ㅅ ㅆ ㅇ ㅈ ㅉ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ

ROMANIZATION INITIAL k kk n t tt r m p pp s ss – ch tch ch' k' t' p' h

FINAL k k n t – l m p – t t ng t – t k t p –

* The consonant digraphs (ㄳ, ㄵ, ㄶ, ㄺ, ㄻ, ㄼ, ㄽ, ㄾ, ㄿ, ㅀ, ㅄ) exist only as finals and are transcribed by their actual pronunciation.


ㅇ1 ㄱ k ㄴ n ㄷ t ㄹ (r) ㅁ m ㅂ p ㅅ2 s ㅈ ch ㅊ ch' ㅋ k' ㅌ t' ㅍ p' ㅎ h

Final consonant ㄱ K g kk ngn kt ngn(S)/ngr(N) ngm kp ks kch kch' kk' kt' kp' kh

ㄴ N n n'g nn nd ll/nn nm nb ns nj nch' nk' nt' np' nh

ㄷ T d tk nn tt nn(S)/ll(N) nm tp ss tch tch' tk' tt' tp' th

ㄹ L r lg ll/nn ld3 ll lm lb ls lj3 lch' lk' lt' lp' rh

ㅁ M m mg mn md mn(S)/mr(N) mm mb ms mj mch' mk' mt' mp' mh

ㅂ P b pk mn pt mn(S)/mr(N) mm pp ps pch pch' pk' pt' pp' ph

ㅇ NG ng ngg ngn ngd ngn(S)/ngr(N) ngm ngb ngs ngj ngch' ngk' ngt' ngp' ngh

* ㅇ is an initial consonant before a vowel to indicate the absence of sound. * 쉬 is romanized shwi. * In Sino-Korean words, lt and lch respectively.

For ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, and ㅈ, 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.


* Voiceless/voiced consonants

* 가구 KaGu * 등대 TŭngDae * 반복 PanBok * 주장 CHuJang

* Of course, the initial consonant ㅇ is disregarded in romanization, since it is only used in order to indicate the absence of sound.

* 국어 (pronounced 구거) kuGŏ (not kuKŏ) * 믿음 (pronounced 미듬) miDŭm (not miTŭm) * 법인 (pronounced 버빈) pŏBin (not pŏPin) * 필요 (pronounced 피료) p'iRyo (not p'iLyo)

* r vs. l

* r

* Between two vowels: 가로 kaRo, 필요 p'iRyo * Before initial ㅎ h: 발해 PaRhae , 실험 siRhŏm

* l

* Before a consonant (except before initial ㅎ h), or at the end of a word: 날개 naLgae, 구별 kubyŏL, 결말 kyŏLmaL * ㄹㄹ is written ll: 빨리 ppaLLi, 저절로 chŏjŏLLo

* Consonant assimilations

* 연락 (pronounced 열락) yŏLLak * 독립 (pronounced 동닙) toNGNip * 법률 (pronounced 범뉼) pŏMNyul * 않다 (pronounced 안타) anT\'a * 맞히다 (pronounced 마치다) maCH\'ida

* Palatalizations

* 미닫이 (pronounced 미다지) midaJi * 같이 (pronounced 가치) kaCH\'i * 굳히다 (pronounced 구치다) kuCH\'ida

Exceptions That Do Not Exactly Follow Pronunciation

* The sequences -ㄱㅎ-, -ㄷㅎ- (only when palatalization does not occur)/-ㅅㅎ-, -ㅂㅎ- are written kh, th, ph respectively, even though they are pronounced the same as ㅋ (k'), ㅌ (t'), ㅍ (p').

* 속히 soKHi (pronounced 소키) * 못하다 moTHada (pronounced 모타다) * 곱하기 koPHagi (pronounced 고파기)

* When a plain consonant (ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, or ㅈ) becomes a tensed consonant (ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, or ㅉ) in the middle of a word, it is written k, t, p, s, or ch respectively, even though it is pronounced the same as ㄲ (kk), ㄸ (tt), ㅃ (pp), ㅆ (ss), or ㅉ (tch).

* 태권도 (pronounced 태꿘도) t'aeKwŏndo * 손등 (pronounced 손뜽) sonTŭng * 문법 (pronounced 문뻡) munPŏp * 국수 (pronounced 국쑤) kukSu * 한자 (漢字, pronounced 한짜) hanCHa


In North Korea
North Korea
's variant of McCune–Reischauer, aspirated consonants are not represented by an apostrophe but are instead by adding an "h". For example, 평안 is written as Phyŏngan. The original system would have it written as P'yŏngan.


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:

* 시 was written as shi instead of the original system's si. When ㅅ is followed by ㅣ, it is realized as the sound (similar to the English sound (sh as in show)) instead of the normal sound. The original system deploys sh only in the combination 쉬, as shwi. * ㅝ was written as wo instead of the original system's wŏ in this variant. Because the diphthong w (ㅗ or ㅜ as a semivowel ) + o (ㅗ) does not exist in Korean phonology, the South Korean government omitted a breve in wŏ. * Hyphens were used to distinguish between ㄴㄱ and ㅇㅇ, between ㅏ에 and ㅐ, and between ㅗ에 and ㅚ in this variant system, instead of the apostrophes and ë in the original version. Therefore, apostrophes were used only for aspiration marks and ë was not used in the South Korean system. * When ㄹ is followed by ㅎ, the ㄹ was written as l in the South Korean variant. Under the original McCune-Reischauer system, it is written as r. * Assimilation-induced aspiration by an initial ㅎ is indicated. ㄱㅎ is written as kh in the original McCune-Reischauer system and as k' in the South Korean variant.

The following table illustrates the differences above.


시장 sijang shijang market

쉽다 shwipta swipta easy

소원 sowŏn sowon wish, hope

전기 chŏn'gi chŏn-gi electricity

상어 sangŏ sang-ŏ shark

회사에서 hoesaësŏ hoesa-esŏ at a company

차고에 ch'agoë ch'ago-e in a garage

발해 Parhae Palhae Balhae

직할시 chikhalsi chik'alshi directly governed city

못하다 mothada mot'ada to be poor at

곱하기 kophagi kop'agi multiplication


A third system, the Yale Romanization
system, which is a transliteration system, exists but is used only in academic literature, especially in linguistics.

The Kontsevich system
Kontsevich system
, based on the earlier Kholodovich system , is used for transliterating Korean into the Cyrillic script