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Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

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Romanization in Cataloging of Korean Materials

SungKyung Kim MLIS
Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center , 3303 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA,
90010 E-mail:
Published online: 02 Oct 2008.

To cite this article: SungKyung Kim MLIS (2006) Romanization in Cataloging of Korean Materials, Cataloging & Classification
Quarterly, 43:2, 53-76, DOI: 10.1300/J104v43n02_05

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in Cataloging of Korean Materials
SungKyung Kim
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ABSTRACT. This paper analyzes cataloging rules for Korean materi-

als focusing on the McCune-Reischauer (MR)1 system, the Korean
romanization scheme currently used in the United States. This system
has been used for a long time in many Western countries, and was offi-
cially adopted by the Library of Congress (LC) for use in the cataloging
of Korean language materials. Considering users’ information-seeking
behavior and searching abilities, however, the MR system has many
drawbacks for increasing users’ ability to retrieve information. This
paper analyzes bibliographic records in academic libraries, the LC, and
the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) to identify the issues
and problems of the MR system. A user survey conducted demonstrates
that the MR system is not a user-customized tool based on users’ searching
ability. Several solutions are suggested to overcome the limitations of the
MR system. doi:10.1300/J104v43n02_05 [Article copies available for a fee
from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail ad-
dress: <> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.
com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]

KEYWORDS. Cataloging, Korean Romanization, McCune-Reischauer

system, CJK, information retrieval

SungKyung Kim, MLIS, is Librarian, Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center, 3303

Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (E-mail:
Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, Vol. 43(2) 2006
Available online at
© 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1300/J104v43n02_05 53


Cataloging System

Cataloging helps users to search, identify, select, and evaluate library

resources. When creating cataloging standards, the important points to
consider are users’ “accessibility” and “searching ability” in retrieving
the materials. To enhance the accessibility, it is necessary to match us-
ers’ search queries and catalogers’ descriptors as closely as possible.
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In the library and information science field, there are three types of
languages: writers’ language in their works, librarians’ language in in-
dexing terms and descriptors to describe the works, and users’ language
in searching for the works within catalog systems. Since the indexing
terms and descriptors are used as access points and metadata by which
users are able to retrieve information, the librarians’ language signifi-
cantly affects the rate of precision and recall in retrieving. Therefore, li-
braries and library associations should have cataloging practices that
create accurate bibliographical records using the librarians’ controlled
Furthermore, in order to help users retrieve relevant information as
often as possible, libraries should consider users’ ability to create search
terms when setting cataloging standards. The users’ searching ability
can be recognized through their information-seeking behavior, search-
ing skill, and information needs. Many library and information scien-
tists have demonstrated that the users’ information-seeking behavior
including cognitive abilities is related to the quality of search results.
Thus, it is obvious that catalogers need to consider users’ searching
ability when assigning descriptors and deciding on cataloging terms in
bibliographical records. Diagram 1 shows the searching process in an
online catalog.

East Asian Language Materials and Cataloging Rules

As global information technology has developed, greater and greater

quantities of textual information are being exchanged internationally.
An increasing number of works written in various languages and in var-
ious alphabets and writing systems are being circulated worldwide. Our
social environment has become ever more culturally diverse, broadly
mixing a variety of ethnic groups with different social, cultural, and lin-
guistic traditions. Reflecting both the development of information tech-
SungKyung Kim 55


Information Retrieval and Cataloging System

Finding Out About (FOA)*

Writer’s a Topic User’s
language language

Input queries

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Match queries to
Descriptors indexing and
cataloging terms

information of
Cataloguer’s FOA the topic

Result of search

Evaluate the

Satisfy Not Satisfy

Search Search
termination termination

Diagram created by Sungkyung Kim.

*Finding Out About (FOA) is “the process of actively seeking out information relevant to a topic of interest” (Belew,
Richard K. “Finding Out About,” 2000. p. xx).

nology and trends in the social environment, libraries have increased

their foreign language collections.
In response to the increase in foreign language materials, the Library
of Congress (LC) and other cataloging organizations in the U.S. have
developed cataloging standards for them. In particular, establishing
standards for materials in non-Roman alphabets is a longstanding and
complicated issue.
In 1957, Preliminary Rules and Manual for Cataloging Chinese,
Japanese and Korean Materials2 was published following the need for

standardization of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) materials. In

1958, the LC began to catalog and classify its CJK materials, and most
East Asian libraries adopted LC’s classification and cataloging rules for
East Asian language materials. In 1967, the Anglo-American Catalog-
ing Rules (AACR1) was published with a consolidation of the catalog-
ing rules, and in 1978 AACR2 was published with some revision.
In 1979, the LC, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and
RLG started creating machine-readable bibliographic records for East
Asian materials. In 1987, OCLC initiated the CJK (Chinese, Japanese,
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and Korean) Cataloging Project. In addition, the Technical Processing

Committee of the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL) contributed
to the AACR2 workbook for East Asian publications in order to update
and expand the standards for the East Asian library community. One of
CEAL’s projects, begun in 1996, is to create solid and effective stan-
dards for CJK bibliographic records. With native East-Asian speaking
catalogers, many academic organizations and private associations have
been affiliated with CEAL to assist with the CJK project.


Despite many years of strenuous effort, cataloging systems for East
Asian materials, which are written with non-Roman alphabets, still
have many issues and problems. I have carried out a cataloging project
for Korean materials and corrected inaccurate bibliographic records in
the catalog at a special library. Since the library is part of an organiza-
tion that serves many Korean patrons and it contracts with other public
libraries serving large Korean populations through inter-library loan,
the organization wants to develop diverse Korean collections. While
working on the cataloging project, I was faced with many difficulties as
a cataloger, and found several searching problems relevant to user-cen-
tered cataloging practices.
In the cataloging of East Asian language materials, romanization is
the largest and most complex issue. Romanization is “the process of
writing or transliterating a non-Latin character into a Latin character.”3
Through the use of romanization schemes, CJK materials can be de-
scribed in Western cataloging systems, and users can access those mate-
rials by using romanized search terms. In other words, romanization
allows catalogers to create bibliographical records for non-Roman lan-
guage materials in systems that only support the Roman alphabet. In ad-
SungKyung Kim 57

dition, it provides users with access to information which is written in

non-Roman alphabets.
However, it is not obvious that the romanization scheme for Korean
adopted by the LC and used in libraries is an effective tool to increase
users’ ability to search for or to retrieve information. In this paper, I
identify the issues and problems of the LC’s Korean romanization
scheme and to address several solutions to overcome these issues.

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For this study, I explore practical cataloging rules and guidelines in

depth, focusing on the Korean romanization schemes in ALA-LC
Romanization Tables4 and Korean Librarianship Outside of Korea: a
practical guide and manual.5 Korean Librarianship explains romanization
schemes and strategies and was written by several members of the
CEAL Committee on Korean Materials and Association for Asian Stud-
In addition, I analyze and compare bibliographic records in the librar-
ies of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Uni-
versity of Southern California (USC), as well as the records in LC, and
the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN)–the bibliographic
utility of the Research Libraries Group (RLG). Because UCLA and
USC serve the largest Korean community in the U.S. and manage huge
Korean language collections, these libraries have highly developed cat-
aloging practices for Korean collections.
A user survey was developed to evaluate the effectiveness of current
cataloging practices. The main objective of the survey is to assess and
examine users’ searching ability and accessibility in retrieving biblio-
graphic records with romanized descriptors. The target population is
graduate students at USC who are not studying Library and Information
Science or linguistics and who usually use the catalog in the libraries.
Using the survey, it is possible to observe the users’ information-seek-
ing behavior and searching skills in finding Korean materials described
with the romanization schemes, and finally to compare their behavior
and skills to the current cataloging practices.

East Asian and Western scholars have designed unique schemes to
romanize the non-Roman alphabets of East Asian languages. Libraries

in Western countries have used those schemes to create bibliographical

records in catalogs. It is complex work to create a transliterating or
romanizing standard because the pronunciation and morphology of East
Asian languages are extremely different from languages that use the
Roman alphabet.
Chinese has two dominant romanization schemes: the Wade-Giles6
and Pinyin7 systems. Wade-Giles had been used as a standard to
romanize Chinese for a long time, but, in 1958, Pinyin was adopted as
an official romanization system in the People’s Republic of China.
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Many studies were done with Wade-Giles and Pinyin, and LC adopted
the Pinyin system after verifying its efficiency.
The Hepburn system8 has been used to romanize Japanese. It is an
easy system to use, but in 1983, some changes were made by the LC
when a problem was encountered. When defects were found in using
the Japanese Hepburn romanization system, the system was revised and
modified through trial and error.
There are several variant romanization schemes for Korean: the
Yale system,9 South Korean Ministry of Education system,10 and the
McCune-Reischauer (MR) system. MR, the system used by LC, was
devised by G. M. McCune and E. O. Reischauer in consultation with
Korean linguists, and first published through the Korean Branch of the
Royal Asiatic Society in 1939. Since the MR system was first designed,
it has been widely used for historical, literary, political, and military
purposes and in the general presentation of Korean proper names in a
romanized form. It is based on Korean phonetic structures, or sounds of
speech. The system is a comprehensible guide which combines “scien-
tific accuracy and practical simplicity,”11 and standardizes modern pro-
nunciation of Korean for those unfamiliar with the language.


Despite the advantages mentioned above, MR has limitations and

difficulties due to the inconsistency and ambiguity of its application.
Harrison refers to this ambiguity when he writes that MR “is extremely
difficult to use due in part to the many sound changes that take place in
the Korean language. . . A common surname has the following rendi-
tions: Lee, Li, Ree, Rhee, Yee, and Yi. Even more confusing is Dok Rip
Shin Moon (title of an old newspaper) which is the same as Tongnip
sinmun.”12 As he mentions, according to the MR system, the common
SungKyung Kim 59

surname “1” should be romanized as “Yi,” but “Lee,” “Li,” “Ree,”

“Rhee,” and “Yee” are also used to transcribe the surname since indi-
viduals have different preferences for romanizing the same letters. In
addition, there may be significantly different pronunciations for the
same letter, depending on which letters precede or follow it, as in the
newspaper title he mentions, where the original title Dok Rip Shin Moon
is based on the Korean spelling, while the MR version is based on the
The MR system throws catalogers and users into much confusion.
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Native Korean speakers, in particular, have more difficulty than others

in understanding the MR system, because it was devised for non-native
First, as Park mentions,13 because the Korean language has a rich
morphophonemic complexity, there are various pronunciations for the
same letter. In many Korean words, letters have different pronuncia-
tions depending on the letters that precede or follow them. Morphe-
mic-based transliteration systems, such as the Yale system, always
transliterate each Korean letter in the same way, regardless of its pro-
nunciation. MR is a phonemic-based transcription system, however,
which may transcribe Korean letters differently in different words, ac-
cording to their pronunciation. Thus, when romanizing Korean charac-
ters, it is essential for users to distinguish between morphemic-based
transliterating and phonetic-based romanization. This may be confusing
for users selecting terms to search in a catalog.
For example, “2” (old) is transliterated as “yet” in both phonetic-based
transcription and morphemic-based transliteration systems. If “2” is
attached as a prefix to other words, however, its pronunciation changes
from “yet” to “yen,” as shown in Table 1. In the MR system, “2” should
be romanized as either “yet” or “yen,” depending on its relationship to
the word that follows it.
Second, users are uncertain about how to romanize personal names.
Korean people usually romanize their surnames following the most
popular romanized spelling, and their given names according to per-
sonal preference. For example, ninety-five percent of all people with the
surname “1” write their surnames as “Lee.” Yet according to the MR
system, “1” should be romanized as “Yi.” Many Korean people with
the surname “3” write that name as “Park,” but it should be “Pak” in
the MR system. Information cannot be retrieved if a user inputs “Lee,
XX” or “Park, XX” instead of “Yi, XX” or “Pak, XX” as an author
search in a catalog that romanized using the MR system. Similarly, in


Word Phonetic type (MR system) Morphemic type

(leaf) namunnip namutnip
(old tale) yenniyagi yetiyagi
(waste of labor) h cnnil h c til

the MR system, a person’s given name should be transcribed according

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to the system’s rules, and not in the way that he or she prefers to spell his
or her name. Despite the rigidity of these rules, looking through the
RLIN and LC authority files and bibliographic records, it can be seen
that even catalogers make mistakes when romanizing Korean names.
Many records in RLIN and LC have inaccurately spelled names. Tables
2.1 and 2.2 show some mistakes in the bibliographic records of the LC
and UCLA, both of which use the MR system.
In Table 2.1, the author’s name, Lee, Duhyun, should be romanized
as “Yi, Tu-hyon,” according to the MR system. In the UCLA catalog,
however, the user can find three items under “Yi, Tu-hyon,” and four-
teen entries can be found under “Lee, Duhyun.” The authorized form of
this name in the LC/NACO Name Authority File (NAF) is also “Lee,
Duhyun, 1924-.” These results show that the MR system is inconsis-
tently applied when catalogers create bibliographic records using
AACR2 22.3C2 (Persons entered under surname), an alternative rule
which allows the author’s preferred usage in place of rigid transcription.
This rule says, “Choose the Romanized form of name that has become
well-established in English language reference sources for a person en-
tered under surname whose name is in a language written in a nonroman
Another matter in transcribing a person’s name is the use of hyphens
between the first and second syllable of a given name. Although there
are a few exceptions, Korean names typically have three syllables: one
syllable for surname and two syllables for the given name. Because
many Koreans have the same surname–for example, one-fifth of all Ko-
reans have the surname “Kim,”–given name is an important element in
retrieving precise information in a catalog search. The two syllables of
the given name are traditionally regarded as a single word in Korean.
Some people use a hyphen between the first and second syllables to dis-
tinguish the syllables, but this practice is not common. Therefore, often
no material is retrieved when a hyphen is included in the middle of a
SungKyung Kim 61


UCLA Record
100 1_ |6 880-01 |a Lee, Duhyun, |d 1924-
245 10 |6 880-02 |a HanGguk sin‘guk sa yHn‘gu / |c Lee Duhyun [chH.
UCLA Record
100 1_ |a Lee, Duhyun, |d 1924-
245 10 |6 880-01 |a HanGguk musok kwa yHnhIi / |c Yi Tu-hyJn chH.
UCLA Record
100 1_ |6 880-01 |a Yi, Tu-hyJn.
245 10 |6 880-02 |a HanGguk sinGgIksa yHnGgu, |c Yi Tu-hyJn chH.
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LC Control Number: n 81082785

HEADING: Lee, Duhyun, 1924-
100 10 |a Lee, Duhyun, |d 1924-
400 10 |a Yi, Tu-hyon, |d 1924-
400 10 |a Lee, Du Hyun, |d 1924-
400 10 |a Lee, Duhyon, |d 1924-
400 10 |a Ri, Togen, |d 1924-
400 10 |a Yi, Uimin, |d 1924-
400 10 |a Yi, Ui-min, |d 1924-


100 1_ |6 880-01 |a Park, Chung Hee, |d 1917-1979.
245 10 |6 880-02 |a Kukka wa hyHngmyHng kwa na, |c Pak ChJng-hui chH.
LC Authority Record
Control Number: n 79058355
HEADING: Park, Chung Hee, 1917-1979.
100 10 |a Park, Chung Hee, |d 1917-1979.
400 10 |a P`u, Cheng-hsi, |d 1917-1979
400 10 |a Pak, Chong-hui, |d 1917-1979
400 10 |a Pak, Jung Hi, |d 1917-1979
400 10 |w nnaa |a Pak, Chong-hui, |d 1917-
510 10 |a Korea (South). |b President (1963-1979 : Park)

given name. For instance, to find publications written by Pak, Kyong-ni,

the hyphen should be omitted from the search query, and in fact, it is
necessary to include a space between the two syllables of the first name
to increase recall.
Third, the MR system also has the problem of transliterating proper
nouns such as geographical names (Table 3). Most people spell the cap-
ital of South Korea as “Seoul,” but under the MR system, it should be
written as “Soul.” The bibliographic records in the UCLA and LC cata-
loging systems use both “Seoul” and “Soul” for materials published in
the South Korean capital. In the UCLA catalog, a search for “soul” re-

turns 10,000 results, and a search for “seoul,” returns 2,458 (as retrieved
in April 2005). Since the spelling “Seoul” is more popular for most peo-
ple than “Soul” as romanized according to the MR system, a cataloger
may be confused in deciding which romanized spelling should be used.
Thus, both catalogers and users may be confused by the MR system
when romanizing well-known proper nouns.
Fourth, the MR system is an inconsistent scheme for bibliographic
records because Korean has several local dialects, and there are unique
pronunciations in each local dialect. In other words, phonetic-based
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romanization in bibliographic records might be different according to

different catalogers.
Fifth, catalogers should correspond exactly to the MR system when
romanizing English loanwords back into English. Table 4 shows exam-
ples of such words and their “correct” forms according to the MR sys-
tem. Few users would recognize that “Pet’unam” means “Vietnam.” In
these cases, catalogers should reconsider the AACR2 rule and local li-
brary practices.
Sixth, diacritics, such as breves (the symbols in o and u) and apostro-
phes (ch’, k’, t’, p’) make it more difficult for users to find and retrieve
catalog records. For instance, many records retrieved from the UCLA,
USC, LC, and RLIN catalogs display characters incorrectly. If there is
no proper language supporting software, characters with diacritics can-
not be displayed properly. When users see a bibliographic record with
characters displayed incorrectly, it is difficult for them to understand the
record. Table 5 shows some examples. It is difficult to recognize the
words when some of the characters do not display correctly. In addition,
if users input search terms correctly with diacritics, no information is re-
trieved. When searching for information, users should exclude diacritics.
A romanization scheme designed without diacritics would be a more ef-
fective scheme.
Seventh, in the MR system, voiced and voiceless consonants must be
distinguished. When the consonants “4,” “5,” “6,” or “7” occur at


UCLA Record
260 __ |a Seoul : |b Korean Culture & Arts Foundation, |c 1985.
UCLA Record
260 __ |a Seoul, Korea : |b NAMAN Pub. House, |c 1994.
UCLA Record
260 __ |6 880-03 |a SJul : |b Isak Ch‘ulp‘ansa, |c 1985.
SungKyung Kim 63


Word Romanized by MR system Spelling of English form

(according to ALA-LC guidelines)
(color) k’alla color
(design) dijain design
(zero) chero zero
(Vietnam) Pet’unam Vietnam

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RLIN Record
100 1· ‡aPak, KyJng-ni,‡d1926-
245 10 ‡aT'oji :‡bPak KyJng-ni taeha sosJl.
260 ·· ‡aSJul
UCLA Record
245 10 |6 880-02 |a T‘oji : |b Pak KyHng-ni taeha sosHl.
260 __ |6 880-03 |a SHul : |b Nanam Ch‘ulp‘an, |c 2002.
USC Record
100:|6880-01|aPak, Ky*ong-ni,|d1926-|?UNAUTHORIZED
245:10: |6880-02|aT'oji :|bPak Ky*ong-ni taeha sos*ol.
260: |6880-03|aS*oul T'ukpy*olsi :|bSams*ong Ch'ulp'ansa,|c1988.

the beginning of a word, they are voiceless, and are romanized as “k,”
“ch,” “t,” or “p” respectively. When they occur between vowel sounds
in the middle of a word, however, they are voiced, and are romanized as
“g,” “j,” “d,” and “b.” It is hard for Korean users to distinguish between
the voiced sounds and voiceless sounds, and many Korean speakers
tend to use the voiced romanizations (“g,” “j,” “d,” and “b”) for both
voiced and voiceless sounds.
Finally, word division is also a problem in using the MR romanizing
scheme. According to ALA-LC Romanization Tables, space should be
used to separate each word or lexical unit (including noun particles)
from all other words or lexical units. But this rule is contrary to Korean
conventional practice which always joins particles to the nouns they
modify, and often omits spaces between nouns. For instance, the title
“89:;<” (“The old man and the sea”) should be written as “Noin
kwa pada” (“noin” = “the old man”; “kwa” = “and”) according to the
ALA-LC rule. Yet Koreans usually write the title as “Noinkwa pada,”
with no space between Noin and kwa. The principle of word division
may create a heavy burden for Korean users in their searching processes

as it is not natural. LC and other libraries have created many faulty bib-
liographical records, due to incoherent and arbitrary word division.
As shown above, the MR system has created many problems and dif-
ficulties for romanizing Korean in library catalogs. In bibliographic rec-
ords, the most significant issue is to help users to access accurate
information with simple methods, reflecting user’s information needs
and seeking behavior. From this viewpoint, the MR romanization scheme
is not satisfactorily effective in retrieving and providing access to infor-
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In February 2005, I observed Korean users’ romanization skills and

information-seeking behaviors while participating in a class on the
USC’s romanization scheme conducted by the USC East Asian Library.
This class is held once a month for graduate students from Korea. Be-
fore the class, I asked twelve students to answer a survey describing
their seeking behavior, thereby examining difficulties and problems
with the romanization scheme. By observing the students’ behavior, it
was possible to discover how many users were able to find appropriate
information based on the MR system.
The questionnaire (see Appendix) asks about seven difficulties that
are typical of this romanization scheme. The first question examines
how students romanize search terms which have different phonetic
sounds and morphemic structures. “21>?” (old tale) is romanized as
“yenniyagi” based on its pronunciation (phonetic sound). Moreover,
ALA-LC Romanization Tables transcribe “21>?” as “yenniyagi.”15
However, as Table 6.1 shows, no student romanized “21>?” as
“yenniyagi,” and 50% of students romanized the term as “yetiyagi”
based on the word’s morphemic structure.
The second question explored how students romanize the common
Korean surnames “1” and “3.” More than 90% of the students use
“Lee” and “Park” repectively, although they should be transliterated as
“Yi” and “Pak” according to the MR system (Tables 6.2-1 and 6.2-2).
Table 6.3 shows the students’ romanization skills in retrieving mate-
rials with titles that include English loanwords. For instance, to search
for titles with “@A9” (design), the term should be romanized as
“dijain” according to the ALA-LC rules for transcribing English loan-
words. Only 17% of the students romanized it as “dijain,” and almost
SungKyung Kim 65

60% romanized it using the English spelling “design.” This points out
that the use of the original spellings for words borrowed from English is
more usual for Korean users than romanizing the Korean spelling.
Table 6.4 also shows the students’ romanization of widely used
proper nouns. In the MR system, the capital of South Korea, “Seoul”
should be romanized as “Soul.” In the survey, no student wrote “Soul”
(or even “Soul”), yet 90% of the students romanized the city’s name as
the commonly used “Seoul.”
Tables 7.2-1, 7.2-2, and 7.2-3 show that not a single student could re-
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trieve the publications when searching the names of a few of the most
famous authors in Korea.
Moreover, the students could not distinguish between voiced sounds
and voiceless sounds. When the character “6” or “5” is put at the be-
ginning of a word, it should be romanized as “t” and “ch” respectively.
However, Tables 6.5 and 6.6 show that many more students used “d” or
“j.” I asked the students individually whether they knew the difference
between voiced and voiceless sounds. According to their answers, they
knew the theoretical difference, but generally could not tell the sounds
apart or apply the distinction practically.
Table 7.5-1 shows the students’ skills in word division. None of the
students gave the correct word division.
Tables 7.2-1, 7.2-2, and 7.2-3 indicate the students’ understanding of
hyphens. No students included the hyphens between the first and sec-
ond syllables of the three authors’ given names.
Overall, through the questionnaire and interviews with Korean users,
the MR system was not found to be very effective in romanizing search
terms, because terms romanized using MR rarely matched the users’ in-
tuitive spellings. In the questionnaire, the simplest search query and the
highest retrieval result was “T’oji (BC; “The Land”), one of the best-
selling books in Korea. Even in this case, only 25% of the students gave
the correct approximation “Toji.” Users cannot be knowledgeable in cor-
rectly using MR or successfully retrieving materials using romanized
search terms until they take a specialized class on the romanization


The results of analyzing information-seeking behaviors show that the

MR system and ALA-LC rules are not comprehensive or user-friendly


Type of problems Number of answers Percentage (%)

6.1. Difference between the phonetic yenniyagi 0 0.00%
sounds and morphemic types
yetiyagi 6 50.00%
yekiyagi 1 8.33%
etiyagi 1 8.33%
yesyiyagi 1 8.33%
yekeeygi 1 8.33%
No answer 2 16.67%
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Total 12 100.00% *

6.2-1. Difference among describing Pak 0 0.00%

popular last names
Park 11 91.66%
Bak 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.0%*

6.2-2. Difference among describing Yi 1 8.33%

popular last names
Lee 11 91.66%
Total 12 100.00%

6.3. Difference among describing dijain 2 16.67%

words originated from English
design 7 58.33%
dizain 2 16.67%
disain 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%

6.4. Difference among proper nouns: Soul 0 0.00%

geographical names
Seoul 10 83.33%
seowool 1 8.33%
No answer 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%*

6.5. Difference to romanize “5” ch 2 16.67%

j 9 75.00%
No answer 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%

6.6. Difference to romanize “6” t 2 16.67%

d 5 41.67%
No answer 5 41.67%
Total 12 100.00%*

*Possible error exists within plus or minus 0.01 percent. It was rounded up to the tenth place to make 100%.
SungKyung Kim 67

TABLE 7. Frequency of Successful Retrieving

7.1. When using one word in title

7.1-1. “Yenniyagi” ( = old tale): one word in the title

Search term Number Percentage Successful

of answers (%) Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term yenniyagi 0 0.00% 0.00%
yetiyagi 6 50.00%
yekiyagi 1 8.33%
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etiyagi 1 8.33%
yesyiyagi 1 8.33%
non-romanizing 2 16.67%
yekeeygi 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%*

7.1-2. Dijain ( = Design): one word in title

Search term Number Percentage Successful

of answers (%) Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term dijain 2 16.67% 16.67%
design 7 58.33%
dizain 2 16.67%
disain 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%

7.2. When searching by author name

7.2-1. Yi, Mun-yJl ( ): as an author’s name

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Yi, Mun-Yol 0 0.00% 0.00%
Yi, Moonyel 2 16.67%
Lee, Mun youl 2 16.67%
Lee, Moon yol 1 8.33%
Lee, Moon 1 8.33%
Lee, Moon yeul 1 8.33%
Lee, Moon yeol 2 16.67%
Lee, Moon yul 1 8.33%
Lee, Moon yeoul 1 8.33%
Lee, Mun 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%*

TABLE 7 (continued)
7.2-2. Pak, ChJng-hKi ( ): as an author’s name

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Pak, Chong-Hee 0 0.00% 0.00%
Park, Jung hee 7 58.34%
Park, Jeong Hee 1 8.33%
Park, Chong hee 1 8.33%
Bak, Jung hee 1 8.33%
Park, Chung hee 1 8.33%
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No answer 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%*

7.2-3. Pak, KyJng-ni ( ): as an author’s name

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Pak, Kyong-ni 0 0.00% 0.00%
Park, Kyung lee 1 8.33%
Park, Kyoon rhee 1 8.33%
Park, Kyong ri 1 8.33%
Park, Kyung 1 8.33%
Park, Kyung ri 1 8.33%
Bak, Kyung lee 1 8.33%
Park, Kyeong ri 1 8.33%
Park, Kyeong lee 1 8.33%
Park, Kyeng ri 1 8.33%
Park, Gyung lee 1 8.33%
Park, Kyung li 1 8.33%
no answer 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%**

7.3. Searching by title

7.3-1. uri to hal su itta ( = we can do it): as a title

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Uri do hal su itta 0 0.00% 0.00%
Woorido halsoo ikda 1 8.33%
Urido halsu itda 1 8.33%
Woorido halsu issda 1 8.33%
We can do it 3 25.00%
Urido halsu yitta 1 8.33%
Urido halsu ita 1 8.33%
Urido halsuida 1 8.33%
Wurido halsu itda 1 8.33%
No answer 2 16.67%
Total 12 100.00%***
SungKyung Kim 69

7.3-2. T’oji ( = Land): as a title

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Toji 3 25.00% 25.00%
Togee 1 8.33%
Toggi 1 8.33%
Earth 1 8.33%
Togi 3 25.00%
Tojee 1 8.33%
No answer 2 16.67%
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12 100.00%*

7.4. Searching by publisher

7.4-1. SJul Daehakkyo ( =Seoul University): as a publisher

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Soul Taehakkyo 0 0.00% 0.00%
Seoul Dahakkyo 4 33.34%
Seoul University 2 16.66%
Seoul National University 4 33.34%
Seowool Daehakkyo 1 8.33%
no answer 1 8.33%
Total 12 100.00%

7.4-2. Unhyaengnamu ( = ginkgo tree): as a publisher

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged term Unhyaengnamu 0 0.00% 0.00%
Eunhaengnamoo 1 8.33%
Eunhangnamu 4 33.34%
Eunhaengnamu 2 16.67%
Unhangnamu 1 8.33%
No answer 4 33.33%
Total 12 100.00%

7.5. Word division

7.5-1. Uri to hal su itta ( = we can do it): word division

Search term Number Percentage (%) Successful

of answers Retrieval (%)
Cataloged Uri do hal su itta (4 spaces) 0 0.00% 0.00%
2 spaces 12 100.00%
Total 12 100.00%

*Possible error exists within plus or minus 0.01 percent. It was rounded up to the tenth place to make 100%.
**Possible error exists within plus or minus 0.04 percent. It was rounded up to the tenth place to make 100%.
***Possible error exists within plus or minus 0.02 percent. It was rounded up to the tenth place to make 100%.

romanization tools for retrieving appropriate information based on a

user’s knowledge.
Even though it is necessary to find solutions to overcome the difficul-
ties and limitations of the MR romanization system, it is difficult to
identify a perfect solution in the short term. Strong concerns should be
addressed and consistent efforts should be made by libraries and related
organizations to eliminate the drawbacks that result from using this sys-
tem for library cataloging. In the process of designing a new or revised
romanization scheme or making the current system more useful, it is es-
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sential to reflect on users’ searching abilities and behaviors in accessing

information. The following methods would help improve users’ search-
ing abilities and accessibility.
First, providing instructional programs for users on the romanizing
scheme is a good strategy to complement the current use of MR in li-
brary catalogs. One example is how the class conducted by the East
Asian Library at USC improves users’ romanization skills. The head li-
brarian provides Korean graduate students with instruction on the MR
system and catalog searching. By comparing the students’ understanding
of searching before and after the class, I discovered that the students’
knowledge of and skills using the MR system substantially improved.
After the class, the participants demonstrated their success in searching
for and retrieving Korean-language materials. The East Asian Library
plans to provide the class continuously and to advertise it to Korean
graduate students and other students interested in Korean studies or the
Korean languages. This class is a good model and demonstrates that in-
struction can improve users’ romanization and searching skills and, as a
result, increase users’ ability to retrieve Korean materials.
Second, as the South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT)
proposed in 2000,16 it is crucial to have a more effective and compre-
hensive Korean romanization scheme than the MR system. After con-
sidering the disadvantages of the MR system, the MCT developed a
new romanization system that eliminates some of the former system’s
drawbacks. The MCT system was adopted in 2000 as the official
romanization system in South Korea–replacing the MR system. It is
used in signage, the mass media, official documents, and increasingly in
non-governmental publications and communications.
The new system does not employ special diacritics such as breves
and apostrophes, eliminating confusion when users search for informa-
tion and view the results. The new scheme also reduces some confusion
created by the distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants.
SungKyung Kim 71

The single letters “g,” “j,” “d,” and “b” are used to romanize “4,” “5,”
“6,” and “7” respectively, regardless of whether the sounds they rep-
resent are voiced or unvoiced.
Unlike the MR system, the single letters “g,” “j,” “d,” and “b” are used
to romanize “4,” “5,” “6” and “7” at the beginning of a word or be-
tween vowel sounds, regardless of whether the sounds they represent are
voiced or unvoiced. The MCT system is not a morphemic-based translit-
eration system. However, like the MR system, the new system still treats
consonants differently in situations where their sounds change percepti-
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bly. Table 8 compares the MR system and the new romanization system.
While the MCT recognizes the difficulties in requiring surnames to
conform to the new system, it is continuously working for standardizing
the romanization of surnames. The scholars who developed the MCT
system understood that adoption of the new system would cause much
confusion in the short term, and that it would take considerable time for
the system to be recognized around the world. Were the transition to be
delayed for fear of causing more confusion, however, the costs of prob-
lems engendered by the old system and the costs of redressing those
problems would become larger and larger, thus burdening future gener-
ations of Korean speakers.
The change in Chinese romanization had similar problems. Before
the late 20th century, the most widespread romanization scheme was
the Wade-Giles system, which was adopted by LC to romanize Chi-
nese-language materials. Yet in 1958, the government of the People’s
Republic of China approved Pinyin as a romanization system for Man-
darin,17 since the Wade-Giles system has phonetically redundant sylla-
bles. Wade-Giles cannot render the national standard pronunciation of
Mandarin with complete accuracy. On the other hand, the Pinyin system
is a well-structured and consistent romanization scheme in which Man-
darin phonemes and syllables can be relatively accurately presented.
Pinyin is also superior when used in online retrieval. Several research-
ers have reported that library users prefer the Pinyin system over the
Wade-Giles system. Such research encouraged LC to change its Chi-
nese-language records from Wade-Giles to Pinyin, and in 1997, LC de-
cided to adopt the Pinyin system. Although there were many difficulties
and much confusion, the adoption of the Pinyin system contributed to
improving bibliographic access.
Today, the South Korean government encourages many Western
countries to follow the MCT system that was introduced in 2000. Con-
sidering the previous example of Pinyin, LC and other libraries in the

TABLE 8. Comparison Table of McCune-Reischauer and Revised Romanization


Consonants Vowels

McCune-Reischauer Revised McCune- Revised

Position Initial* Medial** Final*** Initial*/ Final***

k g k g k a a

kk kk k kk k ae ae
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n n n n n ya ya

t d t d t yae yae

tt tt t tt t H eo

r r l r l e e

m m m m m yH yeo

p b p b p ye ye

pp pp p pp p o o

s s t s t wa wa

ss ss t ss t wae wae

— ng§ ng ng§ ng oe oe

ch j t j t yo yo

tch tch t jj t u u

ch' ch' t ch t wH wo

k' k' k k k we we

t' t' t t t wi wi

p' p' p p p yu yu

h h h h h I eu

Ii ui

i i

*At the beginning of a word or immediately following most consonant sounds.

**In the middle of a word, between two vowel sounds.
***At the end of a word, or immediately preceding most consonant sounds.
§ Not shown when at the beginning of a syllable.
Adapted from Stefan Ewing, “Comparing Romanizations,” 21st-Century Seonbi. Available online at (accessed March 20, 2006).
SungKyung Kim 73

United States should consider switching from the MR system to the new
romanization system that matches the official system in use in South
Third, as Tillett mentions,18 it is necessary to create more precise and
consistent authority control as well as access control, which can be
shared internationally. The authorized forms represent various forms of
names and titles and are used to create uniform access points to facilitate
retrieval in library catalogs. Each country has different expectations for
these access points. Libraries need to provide headings that reflect us-
ers’ conventions in their local communities and countries. As shown
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above, RLIN and LC do not create or provide precise and consistent

bibliographic and authority records for Korean materials. But if infor-
mation in the authority records is clearly organized, an entity for a per-
son or titles can present various names. Once a clear indication of the
authorized forms for names and titles is provided and shared interna-
tionally, libraries can increase users’ accessibility for foreign language
materials. Internationally shared authority files can provide consistent
bibliographic entities for libraries and users.
Fourth, Unicode19 can solve the problems of the current romanization
scheme. Unicode is “a standard to encode universal characters used in
the various written scripts of the world’s languages.”20 According to
Tull, Unicode is the best system to allow users searching for non-Ro-
man-alphabet library materials to find them in their familiar, recogniz-
able vernacular writing systems.
In the card catalog era, libraries provided headings in the Roman al-
phabet as well as “descriptive elements in their original script when-
ever possible”21 for those users who did not understand romanization
schemes. But from the 1970s to the early 1980s, titles were cataloged in
MARC format using only romanization. In 1983 and 1984, RLG and
OCLC began creating vernacular headings in addition to romanized
ones for CJK materials,22 and using CJK cataloging software to build
bibliographic databases with CJK vernacular headings.23 After RLG
and OCLC introduced CJK cataloging software, libraries began using it
and once some technical problems were resolved, it became possible
again for users to search CJK materials in the vernacular languages.
Since then, OCLC has implemented Unicode so that WorldCat users
can much more effectively search for useful information using their ver-
nacular languages. Although Unicode was developed as a universal
character set focusing on “universality” and “unification,” its imple-
mentation is not yet widespread in library catalog software. Three older
schemes are still used, which can encode many but not all characters.
These include the American Standard Code for Information Inter-

change (ASCII), Chinese Character Code for Information Exchange

(CCCII), and East Asian Character Code (EACC).
Unicode can help libraries with materials in many different languages,
including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Users want to be able to see ti-
tles and authors in native scripts in library catalogs. They also want to
search for materials in this same manner. If patrons can use their vernacu-
lar languages to search library catalogs, they can retrieve precise informa-
tion much more conveniently. Now, UCLA and other libraries use
Unicode for the benefit of such patrons, and more libraries will likely
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adopt Unicode in the future. Many users, however, may not yet know
about their libraries’ multi-language service. It is undoubtedly necessary
to inform users that they can search by using their vernacular languages.
Finally, the pattern of searching I observed would warrant and support
a change in the transcription rules. Words adopted from Roman alphabet
languages into non-Roman script should use their original spellings,
rather than being re-transliterated from the non-Roman languages.
Thus far, I have examined the history, characteristics, and use of
romanization schemes for non-Roman-alphabet materials, with a focus
on Korean romanization. The use of the MR system in library catalogs
has many drawbacks, considering users’ searching ability and accessi-
bility. To retrieve materials more precisely according to user needs, I
have introduced several methods being discussed currently. It is neces-
sary for librarians at LC and elsewhere to maintain a continuous dialog
on the effective cataloging of and rules for Korean-language materials.
By observing users’ seeking behaviors and searching skills, I can con-
clude that there should be further studies on the topic of designing and
developing alternatives for the future.
Received: January, 2006
Revised: May, 2006
Accepted: May, 2006

1. Royal Asiatic Society-Korea Branch, “The Romanization of Korean According
to the McCune-Reischauer System,” Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal
Asiatic Society 38 (1961): 119-128.
2. Susie Cheng et al., Final Report on Pinyin Conversion (Washington: Pinyin Li-
aison Group, Council on East Asian Libraries, 2000). Available online at http://cealctp.
3. Laura Tull and Dona Straley, “Unicode: support for multiple languages at the
Ohio State University libraries,” Library Hi Tech 21, no. 4 (2003): 442.
SungKyung Kim 75

4. Randall K. Barry, ed., “Korean,” ALA-LC Romanization Tables: Transliter-

ation Schemes for Non-Roman Scripts (Washington: Library of Congress Catalog-
ing Distribution Service, 1997). Available online at
5. Joy Kim, ed., Korean Librarianship Outside of Korea: A Practical Guide and
Manual (Seoul: Asian Culture Press, 2002).
6. Randall K. Barry, ed., “Chinese,” ALA-LC Romanization Tables: Transliter-
ation Schemes for Non-Roman Scripts (Washington: Library of Congress Catalog-
ing Distribution Service, 2000). Available online at
7. Jiajian Hu, “Transactional Analysis: Problems in Cataloging Chinese Names,”
Illinois Libraries 82, no. 4 (Fall 2000): 251-260.
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8. Randall K. Barry, ed., “Japanese,” ALA-LC Romanization Tables: Translit-

eration Schemes for Non-Roman Scripts (Washington: Library of Congress Cata-
loging Distribution Service, 1997). Available online at
9. Young-Key Kim-Renaud, The Korean Alphabet: Its History and Structure (Ho-
nolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997).
10. Eui-Jae Ri, Amendments to Korean Romanization: still controversial but the
new one should be easy to use (Seoul; Institute for Globalization of Korean, 2000).
11. G. M. McCune and E. O. Reischauer, “The Romanization of the Korean Lan-
guage: based upon its Phonetic Structure,” Transactions of the Korea Branch of the
Royal Asiatic Society 24 (1939): 7.
12. Scott Edward Harrison, Guide to processing Chinese, Japanese and Korean se-
rials, 2nd Rev., enl. ed. (s.n.: s.l., 1994), 6.
13. Jung Ran Park, “Information Retrieval of Korean Materials Using the CJK Bib-
liographic System: Issues and Problems,” Annual report of Korean Studies in Australia
14. American Library Association et al., Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules 2
(Chicago: American Library Association, 2002), 22-12.
15. Randall K. Barry, ed., ALA-LC Romanization Tables, 99.
16. Ministry of Culture and Tourism (South Korea), The Revised Romanization of
Korean (Seoul: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2000). Available online at http://
17. Online Computer Library Center, “Pinyin Conversion Project,” Technical Bul-
letin 240 (Aug. 2000).
18. Barbara B. Tillett, “International Shared Resource Records for Controlled Ac-
cess,” ALCTS Newsletter Online. (Based on presentations on April 29, 1997 at the Hel-
sinki University Library).
19. Laura Tull, “Library Systems and Unicode: a Review of the Current State of De-
velopment,” Information Technology and Libraries 21, no. 4 (2002): 181-185.
20. Laura Tull (2002): 181.
21. James Edward Agenbroad, “Nonromanization: Prospects for Improving Auto-
mated Cataloging of Items in Other Writing Systems” (Paper presented at Cataloging
Forum for Library of Congress, Washington, 1992), 2.
22. James E. Agenbroad, “Nonroman Headings and References Proposal” (Paper pre-
sented for ALCTS/CCS Committee on Cataloging, American Library Association, 1999).
23. Thomas H. Lee, “The Development of CJK Bibliographic Databases in North Amer-
ica and East Asia,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 8, no. 3/4 (1988): 111-126.



Survey for the Project of “Cataloguing System for Korean Collections: focusing on romanization”

Kim, Sungkyung
Department of Information Studies at UCLA

Which search terms do you use when you want to search in the USC online catalog?
Please romanize the words in “ ” (Question 1-6).

1. “ ” (old tale) in title

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2. Fiction written by “ ”

3. Publications published by “ ”

4. Title is “ ”

5. “ ,”(title) , (author), ,(publisher), 1999

( Romanizing .)

First way of searching:

Second way of searching:
Third way of searching:

( Romanizing .)

First way of searching:

Second way of searching:

7. ?
(How do you search for Korean fiction?)

Thank you.