Why 순대 (Sundae) is the Worst Romanized Korean Word


This was one of the first things that confused me when I first came to Korea. I just started learning hangul and couldn’t remember all of the letters and sounds yet.

Sometimes I would see signs that said “sundae” thinking they served ice cream as a dessert or something. So one time I went into a restaurant, ordered my dinner, and afterward asked for a “SEON-dae” as in the ice cream. The lady had no idea what I was talking about, and after frustration because of my lack of Korean skills, I just left dumbfounded and craving an ice cream sundae.

Then at school one day, I was telling students some of my favorite desserts, and I wrote “sundae” on the board. They kept calling it “SOON-dae” and I kept asking them why they were calling it that and I was getting very annoyed about it haha.

They then showed me pictures and it was one of the first Korean words I can remember learning. Just one of the many interesting experiences as a noob here in Korea. I think they should change the romanization to soondae as many Koreans who have “순”in their name also write it out as “Soon”.

I’m not a big fan of the dish, but will eat it when presented with it for school at lunch.

This was long before I met Hyo, as I’m sure she would’ve pointed out my mistake immediately.

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  • Monica
    Aug 14,2014 at 12:13 am

    I saw this word first on Global We Got Married when Key was talking about it and I also thought it was a Sundae, so when they were pronouncing it with that “oo” sound, I thought, oh, maybe Korean’s romanized it but pronounce it weird. I agree that more u’s in romanization should be written as oo. Makes for too many weird misunderstandings haha

  • kanariya
    Jul 18,2014 at 4:03 pm

    Thats why I dont like the fact that there is no uniform romanisation system like Japanese has when it comes to Korean~ ㅜ in fact should be romanised as “u”, but the english speaking world is so used to romanising ㅜ as “oo” (which annoys me as hell XD) and most people end up thinking u = ㅓ, i think its focused waaaaay too much on the english type of pronounciation, which leads to this kind of confusion…

    • Patrick07
      Jul 31,2015 at 5:12 am

      Japanese is easy to learn to spanish speakers and korean is easy to learn to english speakers

  • Molly
    Jul 13,2014 at 4:55 pm

    Why would you get angry at someone for pronouncing a word differently than you do? To-may-toe .. To-mah-toe ..

    • Jul 14,2014 at 4:16 am

      I don’t think it was the pronunciation so much as the expectation. Imagine expecting a delicious, sweet, ice-cream sundae, and instead getting pig’s intestines stuffed with some noodles and pig’s blood. I’m not saying that soondae is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s the expectation that ended up being disappointing…at least from what I understood from the post ^^ And it’s not the pronunciation, it’s how it’s been romanized that’s the issue I think ^^

  • Jul 12,2014 at 7:23 am

    ㅋㅋ The funny thing is that I saw the word and in my head I said: “soondae”…even though I am a native English speaker…maybe I am listening to too much Korean 😉

    • Dominic 'Dom' Dinkins
      Jul 12,2014 at 2:56 pm

      Haha nice. That’s when you know you are getting yourself immersed in the language 🙂

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