It’s tough attempting to reinvent yourself and switch careers. It’s even harder when you’ve worked in the same field for 25 years and are knocking on the door of 50. How about attempting to achieve this in just a few weeks, with no idea what your new career is going to be? Well, that ain’t no picnic either.

With no clear career plan ahead of me, I started browsing Craigslist and Facebook for jobs. While browsing Facebook, I saw an ad for a new Korean beer that immediately infuriated me. Not because it was an ad for beer (I love beer) but because of the English name assigned to the beer. The beer in question, ‘한맥’ (literally Korean beer), was Romanized as Hanmac.

I picture of a bottle of Hanmac Korean beer 한맥 (would an English copywriter have chosen that spelling?)
Korean lager, HANMAC

Hanguel is one of the easiest alphabets in the world to learn, but the Romanization of Korean—not so much

Rules for Romanizing Korean are murky at best and are constantly being revised. In my first lessons with new university students, I told them they could spell their names any way they wanted. My only rule was that they had to follow proper capitalization rules. 

Seeing Hanmac, I immediately knew the second syllable would be mispronounced as mack. In actuality, it’s closer to meck. I was also confident the spelling they settled on didn’t conform to any of the conventional English spellings. I went to the Korean Romanization Converter, hosted by Pusan National University.” Apropos of nothing, 부산 is now officially Romanized as Busan.

Here are the acceptable Romanizations for the Korean word 한맥, according to the three most accepted Romanization methods. Notice that there is not one single example of it being Romanized as Hanmac? The most exasperating thing about this is that it didn’t have to happen. If anyone had taken the time to ask any native English speaker (never mind a native English-speaking copywriter), this mistake could’ve been avoided. A native speaker would’ve pointed out that calling the product Hanmac would be problematic. It would result in the brand’s name being mispronounced as “Hanmack” for eternity. I’m no marketing guru, but I’m pretty sure you should try to represent the pronunciation of your product to the best of your ability. If anyone had bothered to ask, even without consulting this site for Romanization, I would’ve suggested: 

I chart showing acceptable Romanizations of the 한맥 as Han Maek  orHanmaek
① Revised Romanization of Korean ② McCune-Reischauer Romanization ③ Yale Romanization

Hanmaek / Hanmec / Hanmech / Hanmeck / Hanmec / Hanmek

I’m partial to the first one, but any of these would’ve been better than what they went with.

Copyrighter? Copywriter? Which one is right? How do you write it? I’m so confused.

Stewing over this, I started wondering how I could turn this into a career. Pulling myself away from distractions on my newsfeed, I clicked on Facebook Jobs. The first post I saw read, in part:

Our company bridges the communication gap between Korea and the world. We create English copy for Korea’s biggest and most high profile companies…

It continued:

In This Role, You Will:

  • Conceptualize and create copy according to the client’s brief
  • Communicate with our bilingual AE about client briefs and attend meetings
  • Proofread and edit all work

We’re looking for a person who’s a:

  • Perfectionist. Are your proofreading skills meticulous enough to find one Arial character in a sea of Times New Roman?

Aside from having no practical experience as a copywriter, that description sounded exactly like what I wanted to do. They even mentioned applicants had to be dog lovers, as they had a golden retriever in the office. He’s listed as their Chief Happiness Officer on their website. How great is that?

I’d heard the term copywriter before but really didn’t know what the job entailed. Now I had a name for my new career path—or at least a direction to explore. Armed with this new knowledge, I delved into the world of copywriting. 

Reliable and professional copywriter, ready for work—Oh, you want to see my portfolio?

It was quickly apparent that the job ad I’d seen was more of a copy editor/copywriter position. Interestingly, they’ve since changed the wording of their ad to remove references to editing and proofreading. I guess there were too many unqualified applicants like myself.

The problem I encountered with that job application, and subsequent ones, was that I didn’t have a portfolio. I’m taking steps to remedy that, including starting this blog. I should be adding two fairly large projects to my portfolio within a week or two.

I’m 100% certain there is a need for this service in Korea and that I can fill this role with some time and hard work.

As the old Chinese proverb goes,

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

These first two blog posts (read part 1 here) outlining my discovery of copywriting are my first steps on my journey to becoming a copywriter.

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5 thoughts on “How not to give your product a dumb English name—ask a native-speaking copywriter!

  1. That’s awesome man!
    I’m happy for you. Also, this is a service that really needs to be used, especially in tourism areas (museums).
    By the way, didn’t the Korean government codify Korean Romanization (year 2000)? Anyways, now I am hungry for a Hanmac, gonna head to McDonalds. ttyl

    1. Yeah, getting in the some government agencies would be very helpful – for myself and them! And yes, you’re correct, the last major change to Romanization was in 2000 (Revised Romanization of Korean). Before that, there was modified version of McCune–Reischauer used from 1984 to 2000. However, we can see examples of several different methods still in use today.
      As for Hanmaek – as it SHOULD be called 😉 …It was okay. My wife didn’t like it, but I was neither impressed or disappointed.

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