Lifestyle & Belief

South Korean athlete names a pain for journalists


South Korea's silver medallists celebrate on the podium with Canada's gold medallists during the medal ceremony at the end of the Men's 5000 m relay short-track final.


Robyn Beck

South Korea said Friday it would unify the spelling of athletes' names in English for the London Olympics this year in an effort to end confusion among foreign journalists and fans.

Reuters reported that the plan would be a more stringent enforcement of a system created in 2000 in which Koreans are required to use their family name before their given names, in accordance with the National Institute of the Korean Language.

Currently, there are only about 250 Korean family names with the three most common (Kim, Lee, and Park) accounting for nearly half of the population.

Despite the system established in 2000, some South Korean athletes refused to adapt to the new rules during international competitions, causing foreign journalists to become confused.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, reported Reuters, baseball player Kim Hyun-soo wore "H S Kim" on his uniform, in contrast to swimmer Park Tae-hwan, who chose to reverse his name writing "Park T.H." on the back of his tracksuit.

Park would now have to include his last name first and then either his first initials or his full name spelled out, reported the Telegraph.

Too add further confusion, the name "Park" is pronounced "Pak" in Korean as the "r" sound is not used.