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BUSAN/PUSAN, South Korea — The signs and posters say Pusan International Film Festival, but the city government calls itself Busan. The festival’s PPP premarket stands for Pusan Promotion Plan, but BFC is the Busan Film Commission. What gives? Is it Busan or Pusan?
Blame the Internet for the confusion.
Over the years, several competing Romanization systems have sprung up to attempt at approximating the sounds of Korean into the letters of the Western alphabet.
For a long time, there was a common and government-endorsed system, which was reasonably accurate, but it involved a lot of apostrophes and linguistic squiggles everywhere.
Some people always disliked those accent marks, but more seriously, as Koreans flocked to the Internet in huge numbers at the end of the 1990s, they soon discovered that linguistic signs were a real headache with URLs.
So in 2000, the Korean government decided to change to a new system. Among the many changes, “k” became “g” (usually), “ch” because “j,” and “p” became “b.” Now, Kyunggi-to is Gyeonggido, Chunju is Jeonju and Pusan is Busan.
Many organizations and companies that were named before the change, however, decided to continue using their original names. Most things named since 2000 have used the new system.
Hence today, we have both “Busan” and “Pusan.”
But because we are covering the Pusan International Film Festival, we at The Hollywood Reporter have decided to use “Pusan” as much as possible.
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