Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Death of a President

Today, Kim Dae-jung (pronounced joong), 김대중, died at 85. He was president of the Republic of Korea from 1995 to 2000. He is the second South Korean president to die in the past three months. Roh Moo-hyun, 노무현, died in May after jumping from a mountain. Roh was president for the five years after Kim.

I first heard about the news of Kim's death from one of the Korean teachers who told me about his passing. Around 4:50, she told me during one of the breaks that Kim Dae-jung* had died and that he had had pneumonia. Later, when I went home, I took the subway and at the exit near my house, there was a stack of eight-page newspapers that was a special edition published after his death. On the front page, there was a large picture that took up over 3/4 of the page. The rest of it had some ads and quite a bit of information about his life. I picked up a similar paper after Roh Moo-hyun had died as well. It was interesting to me that people would be informed that way because although I never lived in a big city to know, I don't think that the death of a president would be announced by special newspaper anymore. Perhaps it is a holdover from the days when South Korea was not as technologically advanced as it is now, as most Koreans have access to the Internet (high-speed no less) and virtually everybody has a cell phone.

*Until today, I was did not know how to pronounce the second syllable to his name. I thought it was jung with a short u sound, but instead it is an oo sound. Jung is a possible spelling for the family name 정, which can be pronounced with a short u sound, a short o sound, or like 'jong' as in Kim Jong-Il (김정일). When Roh Moo-hyun died, I was not familiar with the family name 'Roh,' but when I saw his name in Hangeul (노무현), I knew the family name Noh. I find that although I read slower in Korean than in English, it easier to read Korean in Hangeul than it is with Roman letters due to different romanization methods and the lack of clear syllables.


Debbie said...

I am just so impressed you can read it at all -- those letters are difficult for me to see individually at all. Nice job on learning the local language when they don't seem to expect you to (ie, at the movies).

Baek Jae-min said...

Hey 조세핀! You have a very cool blog and I enjoyed reading it! I too was a little confused about Gim Dae-jung's name because "jung" is often the (incorrect) Romanization of 정 as well. This is why I think it's so important that we always follow Revised Romanization. The government spent a ton of time and money to create and popularize it and I think it's a good standard. I hope you'll help me spread the word. I teach adults so I always mention it in class. The most important/tricky thing (as in your post "Death of a President") is that ㅓ is eo and ㅕ is yeo and ㅜ is u. If everybody followed this, life would be a little easier for stupid foreigners like me. Cheers from PNU!