I write a lot about Taekwondo. At the time I’m writing this blog post, I have written nine books on the subject. I write a lot about the terminology used in Taekwondo, even if that’s not the main subject of the book or post. If I use a Korean word in the text, I will give the han-geul, hanja, and romanisation for the word in-line. I do this because a lot of authors mis-romanise Korean words, sometimes to the extent where you can’t be sure what word they mean. Korean is the proper language of Taekwondo, even though probably more of the art’s practitioners are not Korean and do not speak conversational Korean. When authors mis-romanise han-geul, the reader can’t be sure what the correct Korean is, and what the correct pronunciation is, and this leads to a degradation of knowledge among Taekwondo practitioners. By including the han-geul directly in the text, the reader never has to look it up, and can be sure that the romanisation presented is correct.
However, adding the han-geul, hanja, romanisation, and translation for most of the terms I use into the text is quite difficult to do right – it’s a lot of information and if it’s not presented well and consistently, then it’s confusing. Here are the conventions I use for adding Korean into what I write, and why I use them.
Let’s say I want to put the word dojang into a sentence. I put the han-geul, 도장, first, because Korean is the proper language of Taekwondo, and so should come before anything else. If the han-geul has a writing in hanja, which for dojang is 道場, that will come immediately after the han-geul, separated by a space. I think it’s important to write the hanja because if it’s not there then the reader may have to look it up, which is time-consuming and not straight-forward for the average reader. After that I will write the romanisation. I use the Revised Romanisation of Korean. The main reason I use this romanisation system is because it’s what I’ve always used, and I want to be consistent with what I’ve already written. I actually think that the McCune-Reischauer system is better at representing the pronunciation of Korean. I will sometimes include the McCune-Reischauer Romanisation of the word in parentheses () if I think it’s useful. The romanisation I always put in italic text – which is why I always put Taekwondo in italics.
So for dojang, I would normally write this in the text as: 도장 道場 dojang
If I’ve already written the han-geul and hanja for a word in the book or post that I’m writing, I won’t include it a second time if I write the word again (the exception being for lists of movements of forms).
These conventions give the reader a lot of information, make it very easy for the reader to find out the han-geul for a given word, make it easier for people whose first language is not English to interpret what I write, and reinforce Korean as the proper language of Taekwondo.