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New bill proposed to promote use of Korean language on outdoor signs, menu boards

July 11, 2023 - 14:40 By Choi Jae-hee
These two photos show the same street in Seoul's Myeong-dong in the late 1980s (left) and now (right), illustrating a notable general shift in the main language used on outdoor signs from Korean to English. (Lee Sang-sub/ The Korea Herald)

Amid growing concerns about the rampant use of foreign languages on local stores' outdoor signs or menu boards, a new bill to promote the use of the Korean alphabet has been proposed in the National Assembly.

A total of 10 legislators, led by Rep. Cho Myung-hee of the ruling People Power Party, submitted a revision bill to the Framework Act on Korean Language on Monday.

The bill seeks to allow the state and local governments to advise business operators to write their outdoor shop signs or menu boards in Korean or, when a foreign language is used, show the corresponding Korean letters in brackets.

The legislative move comes in response to increasing complaints regarding signage that is exclusively written in foreign alphabets, which puts the elderly and others who are unfamiliar with those languages at a disadvantage in their everyday lives.

In many Seoul streets, signs of restaurants and cafes written only in Roman letters are easy to find.

Currently, the Management of Outdoor Advertisements Act stipulates that local businesses should write their outdoor shop signs using Hangeul. But violations of that rule go unpunished, in particular as there is no mention of menu boards.

"Recently, there has been an increase in indiscriminate usage of foreign languages in cafes and restaurants. I will do my best to spread a healthy language culture," Cho said.