I am currently watching this Korean drama, A Korean Odyssey (화유기), on Netflix. I found the Hanja of the movie title: 和遊記.

Other than English, I also speak Chinese as a first language, so I mostly know 西遊記 and mythical/fantastic creatures in Chinese. Aside from Putonghua, the national spoken language of China, I have some knowledge of my hometown dialect and some knowledge of sound shifts in the Chinese language.

I once learned Hangul, simply because I was interested in the linguistic side, and to some extent, I learned some basic Korean words.

With knowledge of the Chinese language, sound shifts of the Chinese language, Chinese folklore, Journey to the West in Chinese, Hangul, and some basic Korean words, I could parse some dialogue at a very superficial level, like "Thank you" and "Hello" in Korean and maybe some loanwords and some topic-comment structure.

In this TV series, I am wondering how the names are derived.

和遊記 - This is probably a creative name. 遊記 has the Hangul 유기, likely derived from the Middle Chinese pronunciation. But I am aware that South Koreans nowadays may take the Pinyin's pronunciation and put that into Hangul. The movie title in Hangul seems to take the Hangul pronunciation of the Hanja.

The character names also resemble the original character names in Chinese; it is an adaptation, after all.

But I am wondering if there is some kind of old Korean Hangul version of 西遊記, that native Koreans pull from. But, the main problem with reading an alphabetic language is that an alphabetic language loses a lot of semantic information, focusing on sounds. It'll be best to read 西遊記 in Hanja, not in Hangul, and understand Chinese grammar. One big difference between Chinese and Korean is that Chinese is SVO, while Korean is SOV.

My other conjecture is that ancient Koreans were well-read in Chinese literature, and Middle Chinese pronunciations of the Hanja became fixed in the Korean language.

Modern Koreans probably cannot read the original 西遊記, because the original 西遊記 was written in 漢字, and most modern Koreans may be educated 漢字 but lose knowledge of it due to prolong disuse. In addition, the grammar in the original source would be another obstacle for most Koreans, while most modern Chinese people can read it with relative ease, like Shakespeare's works to English speakers.

My question is also connected with how native Koreans actually familiarize themselves with the story. Do they read the story in some kind of modern Korean translation written in Hangul, the original story in Hangul, or the original story in Hanja? If they were reading the story in the original Hanja, then do they pronounce everything in traditional Sino-Korean reading?

2 Answers 2


You have a lot of questions, but I'm focusing on the one in the title.

Obviously the TV show takes its motif from the Ancient Chinese literature. As you conjectured, it is a twist of 西游記. I think most educated Korean would easily guess where they took the title from. The English title, A Korean Odyssey is also a twist of the Stephen Chow (周星馳) movie series, A Chinese Odyssey.[1]

Although they say 和遊記 as the show's official Chinese title, the producers planted a more elaborate wordplay here. Quoting from the producers' note,

고대소설 서유기를 모티브로 퇴폐적 악동요괴 손오공과 고상한 젠틀요괴 우마왕이 어두운 세상에서 빛을 찾아가는 여정을 그린 절대낭만 퇴마극이다.

낯선 장르에 대한 접근성을 높이기 위해 영화, 소설, 애니메이션, 예능 등을 통하여 익숙한 서유기의 캐릭터를 활용하고자 한다.

악귀가 창궐하는 어두운 세상에서 빛을 찾아가는 여정 華遊記이며 두사람 간에 고통스러울 정도로 지독한 사랑이 꽃피는 여정 花遊記이기도 하다.

판타지극이 주는 볼 재미 호러 퇴마극이 주는 긴장감 캐릭터 코미디가 주는 웃음 그리고 로맨스가 주는 설레임까지 더하여

모두가 더불어 두근두근 함께 가는 여정, 和遊記이기를 바란다.

So 화유기 is not only 和遊記, but also 華遊記 and 花遊記. [2] As 遊記 roughly means "a record of a journey", the producers intended "a record of a journey of harmony/for light/of flower" from 화유기(和遊記/華遊記/花遊記).

Sidenote: 遊 was /jɨu/ 記 /kɨ/ in Middle Chinese. So 和遊記 would be /ɦuɑ.jɨu.kɨ/ in MC. Compare to 화유기 /hwa.ju.gi/ in Modern Korean and héyóujì /xɤ́.jə́u.tɕì/ in Modern Standard Chinese.

[1] Stephen Chow is arguably one of the most popular and well known Chinese/Hong Kong actors of his generation in Korea, probably just next to Jackie Chan.

[2] Although 華, 花, 和 are pronounced differently in Modern Standard Chinese as huá, huā, and hé (pinyin) respectively, they each derive from Middle Chinese /ɦˠua/, /hˠua/, and /ɦuɑ/, which all became 화 /hwa/ in Modern Korean.


Most of Korean can't read 漢文(the sentence written in 漢字) naturally. We know some of 漢字, but only characters because many Korean words are from 漢字. I think many young Korean know only a few 漢字, and they are much more familiar with English. So we can understand the story but in Hangul, not in original Hanja.

There are some 西遊記 books translated in Korean and the characters like Sun Wukong(손오공) in 西遊記 are familiar to Korean.

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