An office worker in his 30s said, "When I order coffee, I wonder whether I'm in Korea or America, hearing all the words that are used mixing English and Korean." One Internet portal even posted advice on how to avoid humiliation in coffee shops. "Just ask for 'original' coffee if the shop worker keeps using strange words," one advice reads. At Starbucks in Korea, milk is the only item written in Korean on a menu listing around 50 different drinks.
Stress levels began rising in the mid-1990s when so-called "family" restaurant chains began to pop up in Korea. T.G.I. Friday's, Bennigans, Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants featured menus in English, or words created by mixing Korean and English. The trend continues to this day: all nine restaurant and bakery chains operated by CJ Food Ville with their 1,400 outlets have foreign names.
The bakery chain is called "Tous les Jours," the coffee chain "A Twosome Place," while an ice cream chain is called "Cold Stone Creamery." Even a CJ chain that sells the Korean dish bibimbap is called "Café Sobahn." Its menu too is full of foreign words.
The problem gets worse when it comes to children's snacks. According to a study by a newspaper last year, 54.6 percent of 449 different snacks in production had names that included foreign words. Only 31.2 percent of the snacks had purely Korean names.
In the US I think customers are, at least at first, simlarly confused and annoyed by all the Italian you find at Starbucks. A lot of the drink names at coffee shops derive from Italian, so in Korea it's not actually "all the words that are used mixing English and Korean."
I posted a similar article earlier in the year. From the Korea Times:
Many Koreans have read names such as ``Lac Vert'' (green lake) ``Ma Monde'' (my world) ``Near Skin Visible Deep Wrinkle…'' ``Teint Eclat'' (bright color) and many others on their cosmetic labels at home.
They make sense to people who understand English or French but many people here have been complaining that the names of the brands are too difficult for ordinary Koreans to understand.
``They could use such language if they were imported, but sometimes even original Korean brands have such names,'' 27-year-old office worker Lee Ji-hye said.
``Few can understand the real concept of the products, but the companies seemed not to mind at all. Do the manufacturers think having foreign names make them look classier and expensive?'' she asked.
I've always said that the amount of English and "English" used over here is ridiculous, but I go a different direction with it, and am contemplating using the topic for a future Herald piece when I flesh it out more. But first let's look at how the original Chosun Ilbo piece continues:
But children and teens who are loyal customers of the snacks do not look favorably upon the foreign names. Eight students at Doseong Elementary School in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province sent a letter in 2007 to the heads of confectioners asking them to use Korean names. The petition drew support from around 1,000 people after it was posted on an Internet portal. At about the same time, a survey of third- and fourth-graders in elementary school showed that 79 percent favored Korean names for snacks, saying they sounded more familiar and made it easier to determine what kind of snack it is.
Korean language experts say we may end up thinking that it is only natural for products to have foreign names. This perception becomes ingrained as we become adults and create stereotypes that favor foreign words and developing disdain for our own words.
And, according to that Korea Times article, some companies are taking action:
The Korean Society, a study group on Korean language, Daily Cosmetic and Kolmar Korea said they will hold a competition to pick the best all-Korean cosmetic names under the sponsorship of the government.
``The first stage will be looking out for the best Korean names. Then we will search for the best calligraphy to show them off,'' a spokesman said. The committee is running the Web site www.urimalhjp.kr for applicants until April 30. All applicants must write down Korean names ― regardless of the product ― and explanations and meanings.
I wish there were more Korean used in Korea as well, especially when native Korean words would do just fine. But the way I see it, advocating for more Korean is not simply about preserving Korean, but also protecting English.
The overuse of "English" in Korea has a lot of negative consequences. Like other things in Korea divorced from context---Christmas, rap, Western-style weddings---a lot of this "English" makes sense neither to English-speakers or to the Koreans who use it. Rather, it's simply applied for decoration, and by cheapening the original it renders our culture and language ridiculous. Moreover, having so many English words imported into Korean makes the learning of actual English that much more difficult considering how badly they get mispronounced.
It's really remarkable how much "English" is used in Korean, and I'm not sure why there is such a need to imitate rather than to develop more native words. Using more Korean would seem a victory for Koreans, even though they're the ones who imported all the crap in the first place, but I also think it would be a great development for native English speakers as well, who now often find their language appropriated in weird and confusing ways by people who don't understand what they're saying.