Monday, August 13, 2007

Signs like this just make no sense

Over at Marmot's Hole, there was a brief mention (and protracted comments) of an article in the Korea Times last week about making Korea's signage 'foreigner-friendly.'
Romanization of Korean words, especially names of places, also differs from organization to organization. Here's a tidbit:

For example, the state-run Korail's Web site says Kyoungsang-do, while the government orthography is Gyeongsang-do. Koreans know the two refer to the same region, but it can be a huge difference to foreigners.

Jung-gu ward office's Web site introduces tourist attractions in the district. If you click ``Myungdong,'' you cannot find information about Myungdong but will find that of ``Myeongdong'' instead.

``It is sad that Korea plans huge projects to attract more visitors but neglects small and detailed things that are really important in providing foreigners with a convenient stay in Korea. Koreans rarely ask foreigners what they want,'' an American who has taught English here for five years said on condition of anonymity.

Sad indeed! Even sadder may be the reason that the foreigner chose to remain anonymous; but that's a different story.

It's not the government that has the problem. They have been at least 'trying' to make the signage consistent on the roads and in the government agencies. It is the individual businesses and peripheral tourist facilities that try to make signs without consulting someone who actually knows a thing or two about English. Then the come up with beauties like the above. It might as well read "Welcome to &#$@#(%"


Jon Allen said...

The Korail's website doesn't let you book anything in English anymore. used to be at least useable in English. Now it only does Korean.
Switch to English and all you get is a few pages about how wonderful korail and the ktx is , and there's a korail pass you can buy if you are a tourist.

All their emails bounce if you try and email them!

Aaron said...

My wife, who is Korean, commented the other day about how pointless it is to have those Japanese and English links on the KoRail website if a foreigner can't book online anyway, as you need a Korean ID number to do so. Bloody useless site, that's for sure. Fortunately, I have a bloody useful wife who can book for me.

Fencerider said...

I have experienced the problem with the Korean Rail site. And it really would be nice if someone could make a fuss about it. Aaron, perhaps your 'bloody useful wife' (and I say that with the utmost respect and admiration) could make an angry phonecall to the head office at KoRail and lay down some bloody useful asschewing.

Also, it was commented on another site, I think Marmot's, that ultimately, most Koreans of importance do not care what foreigners think.

Aaron said...

As it happens, The Wife tried to make an angry call to the KoRail number listed on the website regarding a booking issue the other day. Ring, ring, answer. Finally just put off booking until the next day and got what she needed.

A real bang-up operation they're running over there, eh?

Fencerider said...

Have her try the Korean numbers listed on the Korean site or even call the local train station and ask for the number of the main customer service center in Seoul.

Max said...

LOL. Even if you read Korean, you're still left mumbling "Spa Belly? WTF? Ohhh... Spa VALLEY."

Hangul needs a "V". And more.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was just on a number train websites from the US and not one let me book in Korean!! This is despite there being more Koreans living in the US than there is US citizens residing in Korea.

Either learn the language, put up with it, or go home. But for Christ's sake stop bloody whining about it. It's a different country with a different language. Even when it tries to accomodate, you still bitch. Typical Yank.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess you said that because you are either : Korean or having a Korean wife, or being that Korean wife yourself.

I am from Thailand, and from third party perspective, I think Korail Website should have English online reservation if it needs to attract foreign toursts (=foreign exchange income).

In Thailand, all websites relating to travel/tourism business MUST have ENLISH LANGUAGE website. Bookable online or not is another matter( given that Thailand is a developing country). That's international practice and that's what make THAILAND become one of the most favorite Asian Tourist destinations in the world. Still, we are not as developed as Korea, but visitors from around the world find that Thailand is very easy for foreigner to travel around and enjoy the Cheap-and-Cheerful, easy-going lifestyle.

Do we really need to go all the way learning Korean until reaching fluency just to travel to Korea for a few days? I don't get that at all.

I can understand why in USA, what you find are only English language websites - That's because English is International Language that you MUST learn in order to communicate efficient in today's world. Not Korean, nor Thai or Malay, etc.

Don't be too self-centered and inward-looking.