As I understand it, 동경 and 북경 are the Korean pronunciations of the 한국어 forms of 'Tokyo' and 'Beijing'. However, the transliterations from English - 도쿄 and 베이징 - seem more common.

My question: are 동경 and 북경 commonly understood to mean 'Tokyo' and 'Beijing'?

Sub questions:

  • Are '동경' and '북경' older versions that are falling out of use?
  • If '도쿄' and '베이징' are more common, why have these versions caught on, given that '동경' and '북경' have a clearer semantic connection to the underlying characters?
  • A generation ago, 동경 and 북경 were more common. Probably no one'd heard of 마오쩌둥 (Mao) though everyone knew 모택동. As for the reason I believe it is part of the stupid attempt to mimic the pronunciation in the original language. You see this in rendering English words too, e.g. 'Tom' as 탐 rather than 톰. While hardly coming closer to how the thing sounds, 버내너 obscures the consistency of vowel in the original script.
    – Catomic
    Jan 16, 2017 at 3:37
  • Applying the same principle of mimicry to importing words into English, we should get 'geshtalt' psychology, 'clishais', 'Platon' etc.
    – Catomic
    Jan 16, 2017 at 3:53
  • @Catomic interesting that they were more common in the past - if you have any info about the change in frequency of usage that's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for in an answer. I always supposed transliterations such as '탐' for 'Tom' came from Koreans being more widely exposed to American pronunciation (while my native pronunciation in the UK would be more like '텀'), but I can't think of any objective reason why 톰 would be better..? Jan 16, 2017 at 8:30
  • Unfortunately I am not aware of a Google nGram type service for Korean. As for exposure to American pronunciation, I am afraid you need more than that to go to 탐; the same, incomprehensible thing that causes Korean singers to break out in 오 베이비.
    – Catomic
    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:14
  • 1
    The problem is that the vowel systems of the two languages don't match at all, so there's going to be confusion anyway. "all/torn/tone" become 올/톤/톤, even though they have three distinct vowels. Given that ㅗ is already used for these three sounds, transcribing Tom as 탐 doesn't seem too bad, IMHO.
    – jick
    Jan 16, 2017 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


북경(北京) and 동경(東京) are originated from Chinese.

베이징 is translated based on the Mandarin pronunciation, while 도쿄 follows the Japanese one. Korean tends not to use hanja names for places, that's why 베이징 and 도쿄 are more common.

북경 and 동경 are still used, it is only that they are not that common.

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