I made the name ‘首爾’, the Chinese name of Seoul, Capital of South Korea, in 1994. On January 19, 2005, the mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak announced that he finally decided to give Seoul a Chinese name, ‘首爾’. He asked the Chinese to call Seoul ‘首爾[Shouer]’ instead of ‘漢城[Hanseong]’ which was the name of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty.
The naming principles that I considered when I named Seoul are as follows: First, the pronunciation of Seoul’s Chinese name should be close to the sound of Korean ‘서울’(Seoul). Second, it must conform to Chinese principles of naming foreign places. It must bring the Chinese people a clear image of the foreign capital. Third, its image should be bright and beautiful, and its meaning should have a philosophy to respect human values. Fourth, the number of Chinese letters and strokes should be small. Fifth, it should have a historical background. Sixth, the external shape of letters should have a beautiful structure. Seventh, it should not contain any letters or pronunciation that make Chinese people misunderstand or conjure up negative images.
I hoped to create Seoul’s Chinese name containing images and meanings of bright, beautiful and pursuing political ideals to respect human values.
In ancient Chinese word ‘首’, it has the following meanings: Head, Leader, Beginning, Main points, Road, First, Best, Give birth to, Face to and Lower one’s head to show respect. ‘爾’, this word has the following meanings: You, Luxuriant flower, Beautiful, Morning sun shines through the window, A lot of and Be full of.
By combining ‘首’ and ‘爾’, I tried to create new images and meanings of ‘首爾’. These are as follows: First, the foremost city that sets good examples for other cities to emulate. Second, the city where the sun shines brightly through the window early in the morning. Third, the city where early spring comes, thus, the first luxuriant flowers bloom. Fourth, the city like a merciful mother who gives you unique value and new life. Fifth, the city that reveals your true worth. Sixth, people are at their best, hence the city full of the best people.
One’s name contains the family’s hope for one’s valuable life and bright future. How much more the Chinese name of Seoul -- ‘首爾’, the capital of South Korea!