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Expert Comments

Posted November. 13, 2000 10:35,   



1. Contents

The past fortnight has seen a noticeable improvement in the content of English Donga.com. The number of articles in each category has increased as has the breadth of coverage. This is particularly noticeable in the area of education. Though there have been few major controversies in education since English Donga.com was launched, coverage of educational issues has been lacking. In the last week, however, several important articles on education have appeared. The article (November 8, 2000) on protests by teachers provided valuable background information on the current turmoil. The article (November 9, 2000) on inbreeding in Korean universities also provided useful background information on the higher education system. Finally, the caption (November 10, 2000) on the popularity of good luck charms for the upcoming university entrance examination was interesting, but it would have been more interesting if had been an full-fledged article on the types of good-luck charms and the importance of the test. This would have helped readers who are not familiar with Korea gain greater insight into the "zeal for educational" that is such a topic of discussion in Korea.

The increase in articles on education seems to be part of a broader increase in articles that deal with social issues in English Donga.com. A good example of this is the article (November 9, 2000) on the growing gap in the quality of life in Seoul between the area north of the Han River (Kangbuk) and the area south of the river (Kangnam). Though part of the "Culture" section, the article on the most popular fiction writers in Korea (October 31, 2000) also provided readers with a look at how literature is received in society at large. Together, these and other socially oriented articles help readers learn about current social and cultural trends in Korea.

2. Language

Though there are few egregious errors in English Donga.com, use of the definite and indefinite articles remains a problem. In the article on the division between Kangbuk and Kangnam, the use of the indefinite article in the following sentence is unnatural: "Rep. Cho Yang-Ho, ¡¦ , called for a countermeasure." It is highly unlikely that a politician would call for "a countermeasure" to address a complex social issue. A single measure would normally be referred to by a specific term, such as "tax incentive." If the politician is calling on the government to develop a number of policies to address the issue, then the plural form "countermeasures" (without the any article) or simply "measures" should be used. Misuse of articles rarely renders a sentence incomprehensible, but it greatly affects how readers view quality control in English Donga.com.

The same article contained a major mistake in vocabulary. In American English, the assumed standard for English Donga.com, the appropriate translation of the suffix "-gu" administrative unit is "ward." The use of the word "district" is inappropriate because it implies an area of the city that has a particular character, instead of an administrative unit. In the case of Tokyo, which has 23 wards, the names of districts, such as Ginza and Roppongi, differ from the wards in which they are located. The situation is similar in Seoul: Myong-dong, Taehang-no, and Insa-dong are districts, whereas Tongdaemun-gu and Soch'o-gu are wards. One way around this, however, is to simply use the suffix "-gu" after each proper name and leave it at that. The word "district" should be reserved for areas of the city that have a particular character. Larger areas of the city such as Kangbuk and Kangnam should be referred to as "areas."

Romanization in the article follows two systems. Kangbuk follows the 1983 Ministry of Education system that was overturned this year, whereas Dongdaemun follows the new system (it would be Tongdaemun in the old system). I renew my call to follow the 1983 Ministry of Education system that remains the standard for other English-language media in Korea. Establishing consistent terms for and romanization of administrative units, government organizations, and Korea-specific cultural terms is important for the future development of English Donga.com.

3. Design

In the first article in this series, I noted several problems with the design of Donga.com and the foreign-language sites. In the past fortnight, the main Korean Donga.com has undergone several design changes that have improved the appearance of the page. The use of a white background and a subtle green bar, instead of the heavy black bar, at the top makes the Korean Donga.com much more attractive. I hope that, over time, the new color scheme will be applied to English Donga.com and the other foreign-language sites. To build on the positive changes in the color scheme, designers should consider changing the odd orange Marilyn Monroe logo, as I noted in the previous article.

English Donga.com would greatly benefit from a more complete search function in the site. Most search functions are based on the principle that all the major search engines are based on: the keyword. The current search does not allow for keywords or combinations of keywords. Search by date is a feature of many advanced search functions, but it should be the defining principle of a search function. Perhaps the search function from Korean Donga.com can be adapted for use in English Donga.com and the other foreign-language sites.

Related to this, English Donga.com lacks link to a major search engine that searches the entire Web. If English Donga.com wants to develop into a semi-portal for English news in Korea, including a link to at least one major foreign and one domestic search engine is important. My favorite foreign search engine is Google, but AltaVista is also a good choice. For domestic search engines, I recommend Naver or Fireball, but Google and AltaVista also have excellent Korean-language versions. A good example of the use of a search engine Google in The Washington Post website (http://www.washingtonpost.com).

Finally, there is a minor technical problem with the links in English Donga.com. Browsers and browser settings vary, but most links either change color or become underlined when the mouse rolls over them. Some browsers are set to have all links permanently underlined. In the case of English Donga.com, the links neither change color nor become underlined when the mouse rolls over them. Instead, only the small hand (in Explorer 5.01) appears. This does not necessarily make it more difficult to find links in English Donga.com, but it does mean that the site does not follow the de facto standard user interface on the Web. In The Washington Post's website, active links become underlined, whereas in CNN.com active, they change color. The use of consistent design and user interface throughout the site makes it more attractive and user friendly.