When Koreans come to an English speaking country they often choose an English name for themselves. This is usually because many Korean names are too hard for native English speakers to pronounce. They may choose something that is similar sounding to their Korean name, or use the initials from their Korean name (I’ve known a GD), or they may just pick any name they randomly like.
I’ve found that Korean guy names tend to be much harder than Korean girls names to pronounce. I know too many guys with names like Sung-hyeon, Sung-yong, Sung-eun, Sung-hyuks. Confusing right? The ‘hy’ sound in particular is difficult.
A lot of Korean girl names are easy enough and I don’t think they always need to adopt an English name, especially when they tend to pick the same few names. I’ve known so many Ellies, Ellas, Irenes, Eileens… That gets confusing too! But I can understand the desire to pick a new name when going to a new country, perhaps it can be seen as an opportunity to reinvent yourself.
So what is my husband’s English name? Well… it’s Hugh. And this is how he chose it:
Yup, that’s how. He named himself after Hugh Grant. He actually uses the name ‘Hugh’ with other Koreans as well. His Korean name is a bit country sounding and Koreans will often comment on it. It is ‘Sun-hong’. But actually should be spelled like “Soon-hong” as that’s how you pronounce it properly. But, when my husband first made his passport he couldn’t speak English and if he wrote “Soon-hong” it didn’t fit on one line, but “Sun-hong” did. And that’s how he got stuck with the wrong spelling in English.
Choosing the English name ‘Hugh’ didn’t stop Korean people from making comments about his name either. Hugh Grant is not exactly the coolest actor and people laugh at him for copying that name. Especially Korean girls because they don’t think he looks like a romantic comedy actor. So often this happens:
So what do I call him? Neither of those names usually. An interesting thing about Korean culture is how much you can avoid actually saying someone’s name. You end up having many names/titles, not only both a Korean and English name, but for example, with my husband: younger guys will call him Hyung or Hyung-nim and younger females can call him Oppa. Technically he can also be called Ajusshi now – but don’t call him that! It makes it sound like he is old! Anyway, I usually use Korean pet names like ‘Jagi-ah’ but we don’t use ‘Yeo-bo’ yet because that feels a bit weird and young people don’t use it as much these days. And I use ‘Oppa’ when I want something or want him to do something.
So if YOU could choose a new name for yourself, what would you choose?