ALA-LC Romanization Guidelines

The United States Library of Congress and the American Library Association developed additional rules to cover issues that the M-R system does not address.   The ALA-LC Romanization Guidelines break down into four major categories: Romanization, Word Division, Capitalization, and Punctuation. (The guidelines can be downloaded from the Downloads page.)  These rules--especially the ones regarding Word Division-- are fairly complicated and have many exceptions.  While it is not practical to explain or summarize them, some of the more important rules can be noted here.  Most examples are taken from the ALA-LC Romanization Guidelines.


Romanization follows the McCune-Reischauer system.
Pronunciation takes precedence over (1) spelling and (2) romanization rules.

  • 좋은 --> choǔn  rather than chon

  • 평가 --> p'yŏngka  rather than  p'yŏngga

Word Division

Each word, including particles, should be separated from other words.

  • 초원의 꿈을 그대에게 --> ch'owŏǔi  kkum   ǔl   kǔdae  ege

A compound word is assumed to be a combination of binary words. Write any binary component of a compound as a single word, when possible.

  • 토지개량조합 -->  t'oji   kaeryang   chohap

A given name is to be hyphenated in two characters; only the first letter of the first syllable should be capitalized.

  • 이 광수 --> Yi  Kwang-su



Each separately-written word of a corporate name

  • 노동 기준 조사국 --> Nodong  Kijun  Chosaguk

Each separately-written word of a geographic name

  • 서울 특별시 --> Sŏul   T'ǔkpyŏlsi

First word of a publication title

  • 현대 국제법 --> Hyŏndae  kukchepŏp


A center point ( · ) is generally transcribed as a comma.
Brackets (  ), when used in lieu of quotation marks, are transcribed as quotation marks.

  • 시와 해방동인 시집 --> "Si  wa  haebang" tongin  sijip


What the Guidelines Do Not Cover

Notable for their absence in the ALA-LC guidelines are rules on italicization. While the decision to italicize a romanized Korean word should be ultimately guided by the commonly-accepted writing or citation style in one's own field, some general points can be still made.

  • Italicize the titles of books and periodicals. (Enclose the titles of articles in quotation marks, however, as long as doing so is consistent with the bibliographic style one is using.)

  • Italicize Korean words for emphasis.  (Avoid italicizing full sentences or passages, however.)

Italicize unfamiliar romanized Korean word or words. (Avoid italicizing familiar Korean words.)


(1) To be more accurate, o and u sound like and in Italian.  As in the Hepburn system for Japanese and the Wade-Giles system for Chinese, the vowels, o and u included, are pronounced as in Italian.  This creates confusion for English speakers, but not necessarily for Koreans, who typically associate o with ㅗ and u with ㅜ.     
(2) The consonants, on the other hand, are pronounced as in English.    

Posted by antipode

댓글을 달아 주세요