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?
From CNN Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae
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