Wednesday, December 19, 2007
What's in a Lee?
It was inevitable that in a country in which the surnames Lee, Kim and Park constitute two-thirds of the population that that a Lee became a president.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t dread the day.

The issue for a broadcaster is in the pronunciation.

The Lees of Korea have the same Chinese character as the Lees of China.

But while the Lees of China actually pronounce this Chinese character, Lee, Koreans pronounce this Chinese character, Yi.

So in Korean, while spelled, Lee Myung Bak, the president-elect is called Yi Myung Bak in Korean.

Now why the Lees simply didn’t spell their last names, Yi, is the question of the day.

Perhaps it was deference to their Chinese neighbors, who started the Chinese characters, after all.

Or they just didn’t bother.

So for generations, the Korean Lees allowed non-Koreans to spell their last names Lee, and call them Mr. Lee.

Some Lees tried to break free and actually spell their name Yi or Eee, but they were the exception, not the rule.

But now one of them has gone and become president.

So what now, does Lee Myung Bak go the route of most other Lees in the country and lead a double life? Or does he come out and declare himself a Yi?

We’ll see.

From CNN Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae
Sohn Jie-ae,

very good and funny one from you yeaterday i was wathing your live report i felt your last name is also Lee .... now that ex Hundyi boss is the President that too Lee i think its boom time for Lees ... good one

sudheer mopperthy
I would understand if he went either way. But I hope he uses the correct pronunciation of Yi. A persons identity is unique and it is part of where we are from and how we were raised. The name is less important than the person, but as someone with an oft mispronounced surname, I can understand wanting to be called by Your name, not someones idea of said that name.
...Yi, Lee...what difference does it make? You think he leads a double life because of the issue "Lee" vs. "Yi"? I think you need to find a better topic to write on. I was hoping for something more informative especially from a CNN correspondent.
since when has spelling dictated pronunciation?
It seems there is a lot of Korean names that have gone about the wrong spelling, even "Kim" is not close to its true Korean counterpart. I think people have just gotten lazy. As well, people just jump on the band-wagon of other Koreans, feeling they need to identify to the rest of their clan.

For example, my father had no idea how to spell our surname when he immigrated to the states. And as a result, I must live with the wrong surname. I plead for him to correct its spelling, but he sighs at all the documents that would need change, and just forgets about it.
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