U.S. President Barack Obama will receive a special gift when he visits Seoul this week to attend the summit of the Group of 20 major economies: a Korean name.
A pro-U.S. organization named the Korea-U.S. Alliance Friendship Society said Wednesday it would confer the Korean name "Oh Han-ma" on the U.S. president on the occasion of his visit to South Korea.
"It is our sincere hope that the conferment of the Korean name to U.S. President Barack Obama will further solidify the alliance with South Korea, forged by blood during the Korean War," said Suh Jin-sup, head of the Seoul-based society, in a statement.
The family name "Oh," meaning a country in Chinese character, is derived from the Korean pronunciation of the letter "O" in the name "Obama," Suh said. The name "Han-ma" is a combination of two Chinese characters with "Han" meaning Korea and "Ma" standing for horse, which Sun says is a symbol of the U.S. In South Korea, the family name comes first.
Put together, the Korean name for Obama reflects hope that leaders of South Korea and the U.S. will make major efforts "by running at full speed like a horse" to try and rescue the world economy from the worst crisis in decades, according to Suh's explanation.
Suh said his society plans to send a plaque containing the description of the name to the U.S. military headquarters in Seoul on Thursday.
Obama was slated to arrive in South Korea on Wednesday to join the G-20 summit on Thursday and Friday, where spats over foreign exchange rates and economic imbalance in the world economy are set to dominate the talks.
The society has a history of conferring Korean names to some U.S. officials in a show of friendship and goodwill.
Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was given the Korean name "Han Hi-sook," which highlights her "clear vision and political insight" in Chinese characters.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap News)