North-South Korean Dictionary
North Korea has featured in the news a lot in the past few weeks, mainly showing the 65th anniversary celebrations of the ruling Workers’ Party.
I was interested to find out that a North-South dictionary of the Korean language has been in production for a number of years now. The “Big Dictionary of the Korean People’s Language” was approved in 2004 and was over half completed by the end of last year. It was slated to be finished in 2013, but the project has come across some issues.
Ko Un, the poet who chairs the project, came out this week to draw attention to its impending demise. He told one local paper that since the Cheonan sinking even discussions about expenses have been suspended. Consequently, the two sides have been unable to exchange first drafts, the writing has stopped, and researchers in the South are now looking for other work. (Source: Korea Times)
The two countries have been separated for so long that their common language has divided also.
Small differences are already apparent which can lead to misunderstanding. A toilet in South Korea, for example, is the equivalent of a “powder room.” In the North, it’s a “hygiene room.” President Lee’s surname in the South is pronounced as the letter “e.” In the North, it would be “ree.” The North has adopted Russian words and the South had adopted many more English words. The dictionary would aim to capture the language as it evolves in these different directions.
It must be fascinating for each side to discover the similarities and differences in their languages. Hopefully the compilers of the dictionary can continue on to complete their work.