Hangeul and hanja in domain names
By Chris J Dillon, on 17 June 2015
King Sejong stands in the middle of Sejong St in front of the Sejong Cultural Center in Seoul. Obviously a key historical figure, then. He was behind the creation of the Korean “hangeul” script in the mid-15th Century. It was done scientifically, so that many consonants were pictures of where they are articulated and are systematically related to similar consonants. So ㄱ, g is related to ㅋ, k with the additional dash and to ㄲ, kk by duplication. ㄲ, incidentally, represents a tense k sound which may be unique to the Korean language. The vowels are a system of dots and dashes, and so ㅣ is i and ㅏ is a.
I was in Seoul for the ICANN Variant Issues Project meeting on the Chinese, Japanese and Korean Label Generation Rules (i.e. which characters should be allowed in Top Level labels). China made huge progress early on and Japan has caught up. Korea has not used Chinese characters, “hanja”, much for several decades but is keen to be able to use them for business reasons – .現代 “Hyundai” would be a lot more widely understood in East Asia than the hangeul way of writing it: .현대.
Just before the meeting I had decided to read through the proposed Japanese table and found various things I shan’t trouble you with – I learnt at an early age that linguists’ ideas of “interesting” don’t necessarily correspond with those of non-linguists’. Then I found something of rather greater interest: 卍 and the reverse form. Currently there is no mechanism to stop the use of the reverse form in a domain name. However, it has been referred for a policy decision. The solution may be that it is removed from the table, or an evaluation panel takes on this sort of role.
If you speak or are learning Korean and are based at UCL, I’d love to hear from you.