Saturday, January 23, 2016

The DMZ as a linguistic divide

I've posted frequently over the years on the role of Korea's demilitarized zone (DMZ) as a growing digital divide (read those posts here) and this post expands upon those musings to underscore the manner in which the DMZ today also functions as a cultural and linguistic divide between the two Koreas.  As reported by Public Radio International (PRI), preferred patterns of language usage in North versus South Korea have drifted apart over more than half a century of national division.
These days, South Korean researchers are trying to help recent arrivals from the North bridge the language gap "&...with a new smartphone app called Univoca, short for "unification vocabulary." It allows users to type in or snap a photo of an unknown word and get a North Korean translation. There’s also a section that gives practical language advice, like how to order a pizza — or an explanation of some dating terminology."
As reported by MailOnline, "Developed by Seoul's top advertising firm, Cheil Worldwide, the app offers translations of 3,600 key words culled from South Korean high school textbooks as well as everyday slang expressions.
Tapping in the Hangeul for "ice cream" brings up the word oh-reum-boseung-yi (literally "coated ice"), as ice cream is known in North Korea.
Created as a part of the company's social outreach programme, the free app has been downloaded more than 1,500 times since its launch in mid-March, said Choi Jae-Young, the Cheil manager in charge of the project.
"We were looking for ways to help socially marginalised people suffering from communication problems... and realised young North Korean defectors have this big language barrier when studying at school," Choi told AFP.
A group of North Korean defectors, including student volunteers and professionals like former school teachers, helped in the task of identifying -- and translating -- common South Korean words that may perplex the young refugees."

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