Saturday, December 29, 2007

Did Asahi Find a New Way to Be Nice to China?

読売 胡錦濤国家主席   盧武鉉(ノ・ムヒョン)大統領
朝日 胡錦濤(フー・チンタオ)国家主席  盧武鉉(ノ・ムヒョン)大統領
毎日 胡錦濤国家主席   盧武鉉(ノムヒョン)大統領
産経 胡錦濤国家主席   盧武鉉大統領 but 李明博(イ・ミョンバク)

For those of you who can’t read Japanese, I’ve written the names of Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, with their titles, as they appear in Yomiuri, Asahi, Mainichi, and Sankei. For President Roh, all four dailies give an approximation of the Korean pronunciation in katakana, the alternative Japanese alphabet*, in parentheses. However, Asahi is the only one that does so for President Hu with an approximation of the Chinese pronunciation.

If memory serves me correctly, the three dailies in agreement are following the government policy of reciprocity**. All three nations use kanji***, but pronounce them differently. South Korea and Japan agreed to recognize the pronunciation in the respective original languages of the kanji-rendered names, while no such agreement was made between Japan and China. Thus, Chinese names are spelled out in kana, if necessary, according to the Japanese pronunciation of the kaniji, while the Chinese read Japanese names as if they were regular Chinese names. There are no doubt historical and practical reasons for this state of affairs, but it is my understanding that this is where things stand.

Asahi, I believe not too many years ago, broke ranks on China. I’m sure that if 2 Channeru had been around at the time, its denizens would have given it anonymous hell for it.

* Sankei, in the limited archives available free of charge, does not provide the phonetic pronunciation for President Roh, but does do so for President-elect Lee Myung-bak. This is most likely attributable to an assumption on the part of Sankei that the reader is familiar with the proper pronunciation of Mr. Roh’s name, though I’ll reserve judgment on that until I know how the South Korean media actually treats Japanese names. Mainichi gives a slightly different rendering, which Asahi also uses inconsistently; but this is trivial.

** If you look around the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, you will see that MOFA does the same.

*** North Korea has virtually eliminated kanji over the years. South Korea has, more recently, also discouraged their use, but has not gone as far as the North.


Janne Morén said...

I'm mostly surprised to hear there are ranks to break when it comes to spelling and pronunciation. My experience with Japanese so far has been that both spelling and readings - of names, especially - are a matter of personal preference to a greater degree than I am used to from indo-european languages.

Jun Okumura said...


I've replied to your comment in the subsequent post.