This article was originally posted in 2018, re-published today with minor revisions.
Reading Korean is a bit challenging especially if we’re dealing with romanized names. Romanization especially in Korean can be difficult and at times misleading if not erroneous. So here’s a list of the most commonly misread Korean names in the entertainment industry and how you should actually pronounce them the correct way.
READ ALSO: The Problems of Korean Romanization
1. Seventeen’s Wonwoo
Another classic case. It is very likely that you or your friends have pronounced his name as “Won-wu” but unfortunately, dear friends, that is now how you pronounce his name. In fact, you cannot write “wu” in Hangeul! If you look at Wonwoo’s name in Hangeul, it is actually 원우 or “Weon-u.” Weon is usually romanized as “Won” since the pronunciation is quite similar anyway. But for names that end in “우” or “u.” for some reason, Koreans romanize it with a W in the beginning. So, is this pronounced as “Won-ooh”? Well, not exactly. There is a rule in Korean pronunciation that the consonant following a single standing vowel is attached to the latter so in this case, the actual pronunciation of the name is “Wo-nu.”
The same rule about “woo” applies to similar names like INFINITE’s Dongwoo, Wanna One’s Seongwoo, ASTRO’s Eunwoo, and even Super Junior’s Ryeowook.
2. The Choi’s
This is one of the most common surnames in Korea and there are a lot of idols who have this surname: Girls’ Generation’s CHOI Sooyoung, Seventeen’s CHOI Hansol (Vernon), SHINee’s CHOI Minho, and Super Junior’s CHOI Siwon, and IOI’s CHOI Yoojung. Given the letters, it is common to pronounce—or mispronounce—it as “Choy.” Perhaps in some American Chinese or Filipino Chinese, yes that is the correct way to read it but in Korean, it isn’t.
The proper way to pronounce the surname is “Chweh.” The reason why it is romanized as “oi” is because the vowels that make the “weh” (ㅚ) sound are “o” (ㅗ) and “i” (ㅣ). Got it?
3. Actress Song Hye Kyo
Have you heard a lot of people read this beautiful and phenomenal actress’ name as “Song High Kyo” because if yes, you better correct them right away. Her name is read as the letters are pronounced: Song as in the musical composition, Hye as in “yeah” with an H in the beginning, and Kyo as in Kyoto except that the K is somewhere between a K and a G.
4. EXO’s Baekhyun
This one’s a bit tricky because we got two rules to discuss in this name.
Many times have we heard people pronounce his name as “Bake-hyoon” which is not surprising given that the letter A followed by an E would normally give the long A sound. However, in Korean, that is not the case. The “ae” in Korean is actually just one vowel (ㅐ) and is pronounced as “e” as in elephant. In fact, the distinction between the actual Korean “e” (ㅔ) and “ae” is almost difficult to point. Nevertheless, this means that the first syllable of this amazing vocalist’s name should be pronounced as “bek.” The same applies to other names with “ae” like NCT’s Jaehyun, TWICE’s Chaeyoung, and SHINee’s Taemin.
Now we go to the “Hyun” part. It is likely that you have been pronouncing this as “hyoon” which, again, is understandable. But then, again, in Korean that is not how it is. It is actually pronounced as “hyong” with your lips unrounded for the “o” sound. It is easier for you to hear it than for us to describe it so here’s a video to differentiate “eo” from “o.”
The same rule applies to all other names with “yu” in them like EXO’s Kyeongsoo, and female artist Hyeona.
Going back, applying the pronunciation rules, Baekhyun’s name is pronounced as “Bek-hyeon.” Got it?
5. Super Junior’s Eunhyuk
This is another double whammy. ELFs would know that the name is the idol’s stage name and his real name is Hyukjae which should be pronounced as “Hyeok-je.” But the stage name sounds a lot more difficult to read right? Okay fret not.
The actual pronunciation is like a short “oon” except that it’s not exactly that. It’s difficult to describe it in words but we found a video to help you get the pronunciation right:
If you still can’t get it right, try to pronounce “oon” but with your lips stretched as if you’re making a long “e” sound. The same rule applies to GFRIEND’s Eunha, and actress Yoon Eun Hye (again, this is “h-yeah” not “high”).
6. GOT7’s Jaebum
The name of GOT7’s leader is not pronounced as “Jay-boom.” Going back to the rule discussed in Baekhyun’s name, the “ae” is pronounced as “e” so the “jae” is pronounced as “je.” The “bum” part is another tricky part. The “u” in the “bum” is actually pronounced as “beom.” If you aren’t sure how to read it, go back to the explanation for EXO’s Baekhyun’s name above.
7. BTS’ Jungkook
Have you heard your ARMY friends pronounce the maknae’s name as “Joong-kook”? Not surprising given the romanization of his name. But the actual way to read it is “Jeong-gook.” Another “eo,” right?
8. SEVENTEEN’s Junhui
Although his Chinese and Korean names are romanized the same way, their pronunciations are quite different. For the purpose of this article, we will only talk about the Korean one.
There are so many people who pronounce his name as “Jun-huy” and believe it or not, that sounds funny. To read the “hui” part of his name, we have to look at how it is written in Hangeul: 준휘. The first syllable, 준 is easy to read. It is simply “jun.” The second one is a bit tricky. 휘 is read as “hwi.” Imagine the English word “we” with an H in the beginning. That is how it should sound like. The reason it is romanized as “hui” is because of its vowel composition. In 휘, there are three characters—one consonant, ㅎ (h), and two vowels to form the “wi” sound, ㅜ (u) and ㅣ (i). It should be noted, however, that most of the time, you won’t hear Koreans pronounce the “w” in “hwi.” In a fast-paced normal conversation, the “w” actually disappears so people end up pronouncing “hwi” as “he” (as in the English male pronoun). So to sound a lot more natural, just read Junhui’s name as “Jun-He.”
The same rule applies to other names with “hwi” in them. Another example is Wanna One’s Daehwi.
9. Actor Seo Kang Joon
This is another commonly mispronounced name, especially the “Seo” part. Again, as repeatedly mentioned above, “eo” is a single vowel with a distinct sound on its own (see explanation for EXO’s Baekhyun’s name for reference). This means that you cannot read the name as “Se-yo.” The same rule applies to all other names with “eo” in it like BTS’ Hoseok (J-Hope) and Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun.