Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Korean Name

I knew it was only a matter of time before someone asked if they could give me a Korean name. After countless itterations of my English name (from Si-co-teh to Suh-ca-tchi), I could tell the Koreans were getting a little tired of trying to figure out my name. And lo and behold--at lunch this week my principal finally said enough was enough.

"He needs a Korean name," he said to Mr. Kim. "Tell him to give me a few days and I'll come up with a Korean name for him."

And so Mr. Kim told me the situation, and I was ecstatic. I've actually been waiting for someone to do this. The Koreans are always asking for English names, so I wanted some reciprocation in this process. Apparently, though, "a few days" actually meant 1o minutes, because before lunch was over I was named. He tapped Mr. Kim and immediately started to explain what he was thinking.

And so I was born...again:


Or, for those who don't have extensive training in reading Korean written language, Seo Han-il (pronounced Suh Hon-il). Now, I was just happy because it had Han in it, and I see myself as a young Han Solo. But then I was told the reasoning behind my new name.

서: West, as in Western man.
한: Korea, or a korean person.
일: Lit. the number 1.

So to string it all together, I am Western Korean Man Number 1! There was even a ceremony yesterday to legitimize the thing, during which I was given a Certificate of Appreciation for being a dedicated teacher and co-worker. The principal explained that I was the "best foreign teacher in Andong." Whether that's true or not (I tend to think not), it was great to be the topic of conversation for the day.

Now I am referred to daily as 서생님, Seo sangnim or Seo Teacher, the formal manner in which teachers are addressed in Korea.

I've also been going around introducing myself to my colleagues in Korean and telling them that it's nice to meet them. They know I'm just kidding around, but maybe this really is a good way to reboot the year- to start over and dedicate myself even further to this school and its staff and students.

Maybe this can be the Semester of 서.

(Note: If the Korean language in this post comes up as boxes and numbers, you need to install the proper language pack to see it. Each browser has a different way to do that, so ask your resident tech nerd how if you're interested.)


  1. Wonderful!! I'm telling everyone that my daughter is dating Western Korean Man #1... and I'm happy to say that the language came up as Hangeoul, not boxes :-)
    ~ Linda

  2. I'm disrespectful to dirt! Can you see I am serious! Get out of my way, all of you! This is no place for loafers.

    Join me or die.

    Can you do any less? For lucky best wash, use Western Korean Man Number 1!! He will banish dirt to the land of wind and ghosts!

  3. I originally named you and probably put less thoughtfulness into the decision. I just liked the name, Scott. Thank your principal for giving you a grown up name you deserve. (Korean characters came up correctly on my school laptop.)

  4. That's such a great story. I'm sure if anyone else has a korean name, the story of its formation is unmatched. I also can't believe you got a certificate- so cool!

  5. Scott the story in the Crete Paper was great. I told my friends about my famous son. Keep up the good work and international good will. Dad