Chinese actors’ names in Korean

Besides Korean movies, I have watched movies hailing from other places in Asia. One of my favorites is the Cantonese movie Infernal Affairs from 2002. However, when talking about actors with Koreans (or Chinese and Japanese), confusion never seems to be far away.

It turns out that much of it is due to how actors’ names are read in different parts of Asia given that Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean will associate different sounds with the same Chinese characters and therefore also pronounce an actor’s name differently depending on the nationality of the person you ask. These are of course never like their Western names…
It is very logical when it comes to language learning that a Chinese character will of course be pronounced differently in Korean, but it can somehow take a while in conversation before we realise we are talking about the same person.

There always seems to be that element of “who are these people???” in our conversations.

Here are four actors who we talked about today. Their Western names and the Korean counterparts:

Tony Leung: 양조위

Andy Lau: 유덕화

Takeshi Kaneshiro: 금성무.
This guy must be the Taiwanese/Japanese version of Jason Bourne if judging by how many ways his name can be read and how people always seem to have a different preference for what to call him.

Zhang Ziyi: 장자이.
Very close to the original Chinese, but sometimes the phonetically closer 장쯔이 is used.

Are there any actors whose names you ‘re-learned’ through your Korean studies?


4 thoughts on “Chinese actors’ names in Korean

  1. musicalarts98

    Actually it’s just that they read hanja differently. The Cantonese people are southern Chinese and Mandarin is consider as Northern, but that two dialects are Han language and Korean is called the Joseon language. So they just pronounce it diffidently, it’s something like how the Americans and the Britains pronounce differently.

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      It makes sense 🙂 Yesterday was just the first time I really thought about that aspect of hanja, that it will of course mean that their names also “vary” from place to place 🙂 but it explains a lot of confusion 😀


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