11/04/2014, 00.00
KOREA
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Korea, a joint dictionary to bring Pyongyang and Seoul closer together

After 25 years of work the first joint dictionary that unifies the idioms and technical terms of the two nations is in the final stages. As a result of six decades of separation, today the same word means "lady" in the South and "slaves of feudal society" in the North. A group of South Korean linguists is in Pyongyang to help in the revision of the text.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After 25 years of great effort and some misunderstandings, the compilation of a Joint dictionary unifying language spoken by North and South Korea seems to have entered the final stage. A group of South Korean linguists and professors is currently in Pyongyang for the first readings of the text, which they believe "could make a significant contribution" to the peace process. However, the project will not be completed before 2019.

Han Young-a, project director for the southern side, explains: "The work is very important. The growing divergence in the use of the Korean language in the two sides of the border is becoming a major barrier to any possible reunification. The problem is even more marked in the professional language: nowadays, an architect from the North and one from the South would not be able to build a house together".

After the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), a period when Korean was banned from schools, the transitional government gave strong impetus to literacy and the return of classic literature. But the civil war broke out in 1950, blocking the combined efforts and created two rather distinct currents based on propaganda. After six decades, the poisonous fruit of that choice still exist: today, a word like "agassi", common on both sides of the border, in the South means "lady" in the North it means "slave to feudal society."

According to Han, similar differences are found in "at least one third of the words that you hear in the streets of Seoul and Pyongyang, and about two-thirds of those used in the business world and in official reports. Basic communication is still possible but if we do not act soon the division will be unbridgeable".

The goal of researchers is to get at least 330 thousand joint entries: Currently they have found 55 thousand words with concrete definitions. After "several years" of technical difficulties and interrupted work, says Han, the road "seems to be clear. For 2019 we should be able to publish the dictionary".

 

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